NFL Network aired "Bill Walsh: A Football Life" Friday evening, and will be re-broadcasting Sunday at 7 p.m. PT. The documentary featured a lot of things San Francisco 49ers fans already knew about Bill Walsh, but also a few things that some might not have known.
One thing that some folks knew was that Cincinnati Bengals head coach Paul Brown was an impediment to Walsh getting hired around the NFL. Walsh was an offensive assistant in Cincinnati from1968 to 1975, and that was where he first started really generating the West Coast offense. Cincinnati had a quarterback that had solid accuracy and mobility, but lacked the big arm to make deeper throws. Walsh worked with Brown to modify the offense to fit those limitations.
Walsh had some opportunities for head coaching jobs, but Paul Brown gave him less than stellar reviews when those teams were interviewing him. Additionally, Brown passed over Walsh for another coach when Brown retired. Walsh has said he was not sure why that happened, but it did. He acknowledged it happening to other assistants as well, but he felt it was most blatant in his case.
I knew most of that, but one thing I learned with the documentary was that Walsh had a strong shot at the Green Bay Packers job. Brown scuttled that opportunity, but imagine how history might have changed had Walsh gotten that job or the Los Angeles Rams job? Everything worked out for the best, but it's always interesting to consider the potential of alternate history.
Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the 49ers first Super Bowl victory. They beat the Bengals 26-21 in Super Bowl XVI. Seven years later they would beat the Bengals again, this time for their third Lombardi Trophy. Walsh would have enjoyed any Super Bowl win, but I have to think he took a little extra pleasure in beating the Bengals twice on the biggest stage.