Tomorrow marks what would be Vince Lombardi's 100th birthday, and in recognition, the folks at ESPN decided to put together a list of the 20 greatest coaches in NFL history. The list has been counting down from 20, and the top coach will be listed tomorrow. The vote involved 22 ESPN personalities.
The number one spot will be revealed on Tuesday, but today, ESPN revealed Bill Walsh as No. 2 on their list. Vince Lombardi will get the number one spot. The top ten is as follows:
1. Vince Lombardi
2. Bill Walsh
3. Don Shula
4. George Halas
5. Chuck Noll
6. Paul Brown
7. Bill Belichick
8. Tom Landry
9. Joe Gibbs
10. Curly Lambeau
While many of us will view Bill Walsh as the greatest NFL coach in history, it is not particularly surprising that Lombardi will get the stop spot. I was a little surprised George Halas was not above Don Shula, but given that Halas's time was so long ago, I suppose I should not be entirely surprised.
I can't find most of the voting ballots, but a few people submitted their ballots publicly. Rick Reilly ranked Walsh No. 8, which I find amusing. His reasoning for this was simple: Joe Montana.
This will torque people off, having Walsh this low, but I answer with two words:Joe Montana. He won all three of his Super Bowls with Joe Montana. Still, a very smart guy. One of the smartest things he did? Quit just before Montana did.
I think there is an interesting discussion to be had about how Montana would have fared with another team to start his career. That being said, to knock Walsh down that far because of Montana seems a little off-base to me. Walsh created an offense that played to Montana's strengths, and helped turn a struggling 49ers franchise into the team of the '80s.
Bill Walsh's status in the NFL is where it's at primarily due to his creation of the West Coast offense. It was based on numerous philosophies he learned from Sid Gillman via Al Davis. Walsh was an assistant coach with the Raiders in 1966, where he learned many of the vertical philosophies of Gillman. Walsh moved on to the Cincinnati Bengals where he had a chance to further develop the ideas that would become the West Coast offense. While with the Bengals, he felt Paul Brown was preventing him from getting head coaching jobs, which led to him departing for a year in San Diego, two years with Stanford University and then the San Francisco 49ers.
Amidst this ESPN celebration of Bill Walsh's genius as a head coach, I was disappointed that nobody made reference to the minority coaching internship program he developed with the 49ers. Coach Walsh introduced the program in 1987, bringing in minority coaches to learn more about the ins and outs of coaching. The program has since codified across the NFL as the Bill Walsh NFL Minority Coaching Fellowship. We've heard plenty about the Bill Walsh coaching tree, and this further extends it given the number of coaches who have taken part in the fellowship over the years.