I just heard Steve Young, yes, OUR Steve Young, one of the greatest QBs in the history of NFL football, say exactly what I've been thinking and saying since I joined Ninersnation a few years ago. I call myself Since79, not because I was born in 1979, but because, in my mind, the 49ers were born in 1979, and I became a fan in 1979 -- the year Bill Walsh took over the team.
Obviously, Bill was brilliant and is one of the few men to truly change the game of football. But when you hear Steve Young talk you can really begin to understand why from an insider's perspective. First of all, his offensive schemes were genius, and constantly evolving. People call it the west coast offense, but what does that mean? Everyone knows there were multiple reads and options and outlet passes. But there were also other factors that don't get mentioned. The first 15 plays were called before the game. Most teams do that now. And then there was the pace of the plays being run. Short breaks in the huddle so that over the course of a drive the defense would get more and more confused and out of sync, if not outright exhausted. We're not talking "no huddle." But plays called in the huddle at a super quick tempo. Get to the line before the defense is out of their huddle and make them start screaming things at each other, rather than the offense screaming things at each other about the defensive formations.
Another thing Steve Young said was that, even though they would never admit it, the best teams in the league with the best QBs -- the Patriots, the Saints, The Colts, Green Bay, the Eagles -- all run offshoots of Bill Walsh schemes. And the bad teams don't! He said he's seen this while watching the games live, and is stunned when he sees, for instance, the Saints line up in the red zone at crunch time -- 3rd and goal in the 4th quarter -- and run the exact play he used to run when he was playing for Bill Walsh decades ago. And at other times see teams run small wrinkles in what would otherwise be known as "49er formations."
His main point -- and mine -- is that there IS a legacy -- a 49er legacy, a Bill Walsh legacy -- that is NOT just some long ago by-gone system that the game has passed by. It's one we should embrace today, looking for a new GM and HC. Someone has to know how Walsh devised his practices, and how he set the character and tone for the team, how he set the pace in the huddle, how he traveled and set the pacing for road games. Every detail that all the great teams to this day follow, according to Steve's interview today with Ted Robinson -- is OUR legacy, not theirs. And it's horrifyingly ironic that we're the ones that have abandoned it while the great teams of today embrace what we've abandoned.
Even in these Ninersnation posts, it's almost like some posters are irked by those of us who say let's get bak to who the Niners truly are -- the legacy Walsh left us. The responses are -- that's not how offesnes are run anymore. Or stop living in the past. Listen to the Steve Young interview. It's not the past, guys, it's NOW. It's still here! And nothing is stopping us, or Jed York, at this moment, from getting back to our leagcy and true character as a team. Great D, yes, but great offensive football at its core.
Finally, Young talks about his discussions with all the great coaches and GMs around the league, and they all say the same thing about how to build a great team from the botom up -- give me a great defense and an average quarterback vs a great quarterback and any defensive team, and I'll take the great QB every time. He sets the tone, he wins games by himself. A defense can run schemes and change things around from game to game to try to stop an offense as best as they can. But it's rare when someone can stop a great QB game after game, or year after year. The odds are they will play their best in the really big games when it counts. And get you to the Super Bowl, or at least within reach of it., even if the rest of the team isn't great.
Same with a truly great head coach. When it counts, you could count on Walsh to do something wild, something crazy at some point in the game. Everyone knew it, including the defense and opposing DC.And it would work more often than not. Sometimes change the game around.
Of course, at draft time, with the possible exception of Jimmy Johnson and Billichick, no one had as many great drafts as Bill Walsh. He could spot greatness somehow with tremendous consistency.
So, here is the question fo you, Ninersnation: Do we embrace our legacy as the 49ers? Do we try to bring back Bill Walsh's overall way of coaching and embrace it?
Jed York says no, we don't need to go back to the days of Bill Walsh to be great!!! He's looking at all sorts of legacies -- Bill Parcells is his latest "confidant." Before that, we tried to be the 1986 Chicago Bears with Singletary. Before that the Ravens under Nolan. Before that, Miami with Erickson. BUT HOW ABOUT REMEMBERING WHY WE BECAME GREAT?
We OBVIOUSLY can't run Walsh's version of the WCO today. But then again, Bill Walsh wouldn't run it either. It's evolved. The Eagles have evolved it. And the Patriots, and Green Bay, and lately the Saints. But why abandon it altogether?
Of course the game has changed in so many ways since then. Salary caps and free agency have changed a lot. But somehow Walsh always seemed to turn the rules into something that worked in his favor. And I have no doubt those who use his methods of coaching in the NFL today find the same advantages. Bellichick lets go of big salary guys not named Brady and collects draft picks like I used to collect baseball cards.
Back then, Walsh stole Fred Dean from San Diego and welcomed QB killers like Charles Haley, like the Eagles took a chance on Vick the dog-killer. It costs them nothing to see what they might have. Then they put Morningwehg on his ass day and night until he learned how to be a true QB. Whereas Seifert let go of Haley for pissing on Seifert's car, and his ego, and the Cowboys then go and pick Haley up for nothing, and he kills us for years and years and keeps us out of the Super Bowl countless times. Walsh would have never let Haley go in his prime, not even for pissing on his car. Walsh respected great players. He would tolerate their character. (Nolan and Singletary -- exactly the opposite.) And look at Bellichick with Randy Moss. Who used whom? Who got the better of that deal? Great coaches are ten times better than "good coaches." What they do isn't luck.
I'm not sure Baalke has the potential of a John McVay (who Walsh chose to be his GM, not visa versa). And I don't know if Harbaugh is a potential Bill Walsh, or a believer in his system of coaching.
But beyond that, rumor has it tonight that Harbaugh is going to Michigan. Not the 49ers!
And we must assume that Mike Holmgren is staying in Cleveland, either as GM or HC or both. Sadly for us.
If that's all true, then WHERE ARE WE?
If we want a true believer in the 49ers legacy -- not someone who necessarily coached under Walsh, but someone who at least understands how he coached in a general sense -- who would that person be?
Because I think it's now crystal clear we're not going to go anywhere but down the drain trying to emulate the '86 Bears or the Ravens or anyone else, except the progenitor of modern football. The irony is: HE WAS OUR GUY. He was the 49ers. We need to go back to our roots now, not someone else's.
If Harbaugh is not coming, WHO then?
(If you haven't listened to Steve Young's interview, you should do that first. I can't explain any of this as well as he did.)
PS: Young also said he would never want to be a HC or GM for anyone. So that's not a possible answer.