The San Francisco 49ers are inducting former head coach George Seifert into the franchise Hall of Fame this fall, and Tuesday, the 2-time Super Bowl winning head coach spoke with the media. Coach Seifert is not a loud, boisterous type, but rather has a great dry sense of humor.
My favorite part of the media session was Seifert's discussion of all the assistants who did well after leaving the 49ers. At one point he mentioned the offensive coordinators, including Mike Holmgren,Mike Shanahan, and Marc Trestman. He also got a question specific to Pete Carroll, who was the 49ers defensive coordinator in 1995 and 1996. Seifert reacted almost like a proud papa in talking about the coordinators.
So how do you feel being a native San Franciscan inducted as soon as they move to Santa Clara?
“Well, that’s neat. I’ll be involved with all three stadiums. Kezar as a fan and as a high school player myself playing games in Kezar, and then working and coaching at Candlestick. And then being fortunate enough to be inducted in the new stadium. So, it kind of goes one, two, three.”
You were here last when they were just groundbreaking the new stadium. Since then, obviously the franchise has done really well. What have you seen from the 49ers recently?
“Well, I am a big fan of [head] coach [Jim] Harbaugh and all that they’ve done. It’s miraculous to have won the number of games and championship games in the short period of time that he’s been a head coach here. And to turn the program around you might say and get it back to where we all believe it belongs is pretty darn exciting and amazing. So, the team and the coaches and the organization, I’d say it’s very, very special.”
How often have you been able to talk to Harbaugh?
“I shouldn’t say that often. But, I did have a chance to visit a little bit here. And we might talk once or twice a year. But, I usually go to one game a year. [49ers co-chairman] Dr. [John] York usually invites me to a game, which is a lot of fun. And then I sit with my dog Rusty and watch games at home, which I enjoy.”
What were your feelings when you found out?
“Well, I’m naturally excited. I think the neat thing is first off, to be representing such a great period of time and a great number of players and coaches and people that were involved in the organization. It was a special period in the history of the organization. And then obviously the fact that I grew up a San Francisco 49ers fan and to be in the Hall of Fame with players that were kind of my idol in a way, too, in R.C. Owens and on and on, Joe Perry. And then to be in the Hall of Fame with the fellows that I worked with as the coach, players and coaches. Coach [Bill] Walsh, and others that are in the Hall of Fame. So, yeah, it’s special.”
What do you miss most about the game?
“The interaction with all of the people, the players and the coaches. And then even the tension of it all sometimes. But, at the same time, I have to say I thoroughly enjoy and I realize there’s no way I can do it again. And I learned that the hard way.”
What do you do?
“Well, I enjoy having a martini with my wife. Walking my dog Rusty. Watching my grandchildren play sports and am involved in 4-H and going on trips with my buddies and [President of Devcon Construction, Inc.] Gary Filizetti and his buddies. And traveling around. And I do a lot of hunting and fishing. So, I love the outdoors.”
You’ve had a lot of great moments, all five Super Bowls, replacing legend Bill Walsh, winning the Super Bowl your first year as head coach, does any one stick out in your mind when you look at your coaching career?
“Well, certainly, had you been at the 49ers game in 1957 where there was such disappointment following the loss to Detroit that would enable the team to go onto the playoffs. And then to be with the team when we won our first Super Bowl, and actually beat Dallas that championship game. And then the mood of the city following that game as opposed to the game in 1957, that was special. And “The Catch” was great. The tackle was great, [former 49ers CB] Eric Wright’s tackle of [former Cowboys WR] Drew Pearson that saved my rear end was special.”
And then former 49ers DE Lawrence Pillers, which was a pretty good play, too.
“Well, and did you get the fumble at the end of the game and [former 49ers DT Jim] Stuckey recovered the fumble. And there were a number of moments. But, you know that tackle that Eric made is actually an illegal tackle now. It’s a horse collar I think they call it, or some such thing. But, I was a happy camper when I saw that.”
Following Bill Walsh, that had to be a lot of pressure on you.
“In many respects, obviously I’ve heard that often, when I worked for Bill as an assistant, that was pressure. But, I would not have wanted it any other way. I probably developed most as a coach during that period. And probably the most enjoyable period of my coaching career was coaching with Bill as an assistant. When I became the head coach, I was a part of the development of the way we operated. So, it was like a natural flow. And yeah, you sense the pressure, but it wasn’t any more than when I was an assistant coach.”
You’ve told the story about a game in Indianapolis when Jim Harbaugh was the quarterback. Will you relay that story again? It’s a pretty good one.
“It was, yeah. It was unfortunate we lost the game. And at the end of the game, Jim was instrumental in Indianapolis beating us at the end of the game. And obviously their team was elated and they all ran onto their sideline. And the one player in an Indianapolis uniform who ran towards our sideline was Jim Harbaugh with his arms outstretched kind of doing like an airplane buzzing us. Yeah, kind of stuck it into our ear. And I thought, there’s a special emotion there. And it’s carried over obviously to the way he coaches.”
Did you appreciate that?
“I don’t think I appreciated it then. As I look back at it now, it’s fun to talk about it. At that moment, I do say that I was in awe of it a little bit because it took a lot of, I’m sure there are a lot of terms to express what he did, I won’t mention them.”
What do you think about the new stadium?
“It’s overwhelming. The period of time that I was in this building, we’d walk outside and it was wide-open spaces. It was like being in Nevada. You look across an empty parking lot. But, now you walk outside the front door here and it’s like being in New York City. I just went through a little area with [Vice President of Football Affairs] Keena [Turner]. Keena gave me a little tour and it’s spectacular. It’s beyond anything I’ve been involved with. And you think of Candlestick, which I still have emotions for and Kezar Stadium and then to come to this. But, that’s progress.”
Do you have sentimentality for Candlestick?
“Well, in that I worked there as a coach. And I grew up as a kid fishing in the Bay right next to where the stadium was. That stadium wasn’t there when I was growing up. In fact, the field where the freeway is, that wasn’t there either. I don’t mean to be dating myself. Anyway, I thought that was special and certainly Kezar was. My high school was right across the street from Kezar Stadium and we played our games there in high school. So, they all have their meaning and then like I said, to be inducted now into this stadium, it’s special too.”
That first Super Bowl, all of us were like, there’s no way we’re going to be able to win this as a bunch of rookies. That must have been the most special group you’ve ever coached?
“It is. And I don’t think people realize how special that really was. And then also [former 49ers S Dwight Hicks] was working at a drugstore maybe a year or two before that. And Dwight was a free agent and John McVay brough him in. And then another thing that people don’t really talk about much is the fact that all of them were safeties in college. And [former 49ers CB] Ronnie Lott was a safety in college and he played corner on that team, and Eric Wright was a safety at Missouri. And obviously [former 49ers S] Carlton Williamson was a safety at Pittsburg. And here they come up and all three of them are rookies and win a Super Bowl. That’s fairly special.”
Will somebody present you?
“As far as who the fellows are who are going to present?”
“Yeah, well hopefully I’ll have that secondary there. That’s who I’m looking forward to having. Yeah, absolutely. They’re a meaningful group, along with Ray Rhodes, who was one of my favorites. I actually coached Ray my first year. Another thing that was neat was that it was only my second year coaching in the NFL when Ronnie and Eric and all these fellows came in. So, they were young in the league as well as I was young in the league. So, we were both able to develop together. And, they paid attention. So, that was good.”
Do you stay in touch with the game week to week as the season goes on?
“I watch the games, I follow the teams certainly.”
What’s changed? All the rules are so different and all that.
“Yeah, I can’t keep up with all the rules. I don’t know how the officials do. I thought it was difficult when I was coaching. It’s quite complex. But, it’s still a great sport and a great game and this is still my team. And I love following the recent success that they’ve had.”
Have you seen anything scheme wise that’s new or interesting that you’d say that’d be challenging to defend against?
“Yeah, I’m sure it all would. You see things that went on when I was coaching and obviously things that are different. But, I can’t say anything that jumps out. Obviously the style that is used now is different than we used. I can’t say so much defensively as offensively it’s different, two different offensive philosophies. But, it’s a winning philosophy and the players and coaches believe in it, and that’s the reason they’ve had the success they’ve had.”
When you’re watching maybe the NFC Championship game between the 49ers and the Seahawks, are you looking at it in the 49ers are your team, but then the Seahawks also have a pretty good defense? So, then does your defensive mind start watching that side of the ball more to see what they’re doing?
“I can’t say necessarily. [Seattle Seahawks head coach] Pete Carroll worked here as a coordinator. So, there’s a little attachment there. But, I realize the rivalry and where my heart is. And that brings up another thing I’m kind of proud of is that three of the offensive coordinators, all three, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, and Marc Trestman all became head coaches in the league and that’s pretty neat I think. And the fact that Ray Rhodes became a head coach who was a coordinator here and Pete Carroll became a head coach, and Bill McPherson could have been if that’s what he decided he wanted to do. We had some outstanding coaches.”
When’s the last time you talked to Pete Carroll?
“I haven’t talked to Pete in some time. When he went to USC I guess he realized I’d been a coach at Stanford and we didn’t interact that much. [Laughs] I still consider him a friend.”
It didn’t help when he went to the Seahawks obviously?
“I was happy for him. And there’s a certain amount of pride certainly in what he’s accomplished. He is obviously an outstanding coach.”
On the current 49ers defense:
“I was so intimately involved with the players I was involved with so I don’t know the makeup of all the fellows we have now. I know I did one of the games a couple years ago I was an honorary captain. And I walked out on the field for the coin toss. And just being next to those players and the ferocity of, it seemed like I was standing next to raging bulls with fire coming out of their nostrils. I was impressed by it. I was a little intimidated by it too. The defense has really impressed me to say the least. They’re tough.”