It’s a name that should send shivers down a San Francisco 49ers fan’s spine — good shivers. Bill Walsh represents an era of 49ers football that around 29 of the 32 NFL franchises could never even dream of having. It’s a name to be treated with reverence and respect for 49ers fans and fans of football in general.
Or maybe you’ve heard it used as a marketing tool far too many times in recent years for it to give you goosebumps. Maybe somebody who draws a particular ire in your heart uses the legendary coach’s name as a way to buy some cheap PR where it’s sorely needed, but extremely undeserved.
It’s a name that was once one that wasn’t hated and feared here at Niners Nation. Back when Jed was just stepping up into his role, there was so much talk about Eddie Debartolo Jr., the former 49ers owner. Eddie was grooming Jed to be the perfect football executive. Eddie was the cheap PR at that time, and many here — myself included — bought directly into it. Jed was going to come in, executive guns blazing and turn the 49ers back into the great organization his uncle made them.
Fast forward to years later and Jed has done nothing good save for hiring a highly successful coach he ended up firing for completely nebulous reasons. Nobody who will talk can accurately describe Jed’s full shortcomings and wrongdoings since he took over, but a pattern of being difficult to work with, stubborn and controlling has developed enough over the years to be accepted as par for the course.
Remember — folks were excited about hiring Mike Singletary, and when the 49ers moved on, many were optimistic that Jed simply made a bad hire and that things would get better. They did get better, but only for a little while.
So what’s the connection between the two names above? Bill Walsh and Jed York. The connection is that Jed can’t seem to stop talking about Bill Walsh, and he’s doing it for cheap PR currency where, again, it’s undeserved.
There was a lot of talk about Walsh when Singletary was hired. There was even more talk of Walsh when Jim Harbaugh was hired. Walsh mentored Harbaugh, there was the Stanford connection, and this was intimately important to the 49ers organization. Jed talked and talked and talked about Walsh.
They even had the gall to suggest that Harbaugh would be running a west-coast offense, despite him not running one at Stanford and despite the 49ers not having the personnel for one. They got a lot of mileage talking about the west-coast offense, which of course they did not run. They tried to be a power-running team, as everyone predicted.
In 2014, after Harbaugh was fired for reasons that still completely baffle the mind, York was asked what he’s looking for in his next head coach. In record time, Jed mentioned Walsh. He said he wanted to find a teacher, a coach who would hopefully build out the 49ers organization as a legendary franchise once more all on his own.
He legitimately said that he wanted the next hire to have a massive coaching tree, like Walsh, when it was all said and done. He’d be a teacher the likes of which are rarely ever found in the NFL and he, Jed York, would find this teacher and help elevate him to glory.
“I want a teacher. I think what made Bill Walsh so successful was that he was a great teacher, whether that was players or whether that was other coaches. And you look at his successful coaching tree. I think if you look in the 49ers Hall of Fame down the road, I want to say as of 2012 or 2013, 29 of the 32 coaches in the NFL had either a direct or indirect relationship with Bill. That’s what made this organization so successful,” York said.
This was in response to a direct question about what the 49ers were looking for after Harbaugh, who apparently was not a teacher despite mentoring directly under Walsh, as Jed was so quick to point out when he was hired. He continued:
“You’re able to transition from one three-time-winning Super Bowl head coach to another two-time Super-Bowl-winning head coach and there were many other tentacles beyond that. What I want to make sure that we have is somebody that understands that level of teaching. Understands how to get more out of less and continue to build an organization that wins both on and off the field.”
Jed York hired Jim [site decorum] Tomsula two weeks later.
When Chip Kelly was hired, there wasn’t a ton of talk about Walsh, to be fair. But there was talk about the 49ers loving Kelly because he brought a unique style to his offense — he was an innovator. You know who else was an innovator? Bill Walsh. Gosh, the connection is just too good to avoid!
After firing Chip Kelly, Jed was asked how he can be trusted and why candidates would want to come to the 49ers. He mentioned the hiring of Walsh in 1979, once again.
“People have felt like that before,” York said, via the MMQB, “and we were able to hire a coach of the year, and GM of the year. And we were able to win a championship.”
Well the issue with that, of course, is that Jed had nothing to do with the hiring of Bill Walsh. Jed had nothing to do with the 49ers’ success and the only success he’s been tied to, he’s also been responsible for gutting for no particularly good reason. Jed talked about the 49ers organization as though the Walsh hiring matters more than the fact that they have fired a very successful coach after he showed he was successful and two unsuccessful coaches after just one year at the helm in a row.
Fast forward to now, and the 49ers are set to hire Kyle Shanahan as their next head coach. So far, he hasn’t been compared to Bill Walsh but I’m sure it will be done. And now they have hired John Lynch, a former player and current broadcaster with no front office experience, as their general manager. Lynch apparently called Shanahan and offered his services and apparently that’s more than enough to earn the job in San Francisco.
But there is a lot to like about Lynch. He clearly knows football and it’s possible he can build a strong staff of experienced individuals around him. So what do the 49ers like about Lynch? What are they telling the media?
Well ... Lynch played for Bill Walsh, didn’t you know? And Jed is already out there, making sure the media is aware of the fact. From the San Jose Mercury News:
“Lynch, 45, won over the 49ers brass with his leadership and communication skills, as well as his link to former 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who coached Lynch at Stanford 25 years ago, CEO Jed York told this newspaper. “
Whatever Lynch does as a general manager — whatever Lynch accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish in his tenure as 49ers general manager — it will be very hard to attribute any of that to when Lynch worked under Walsh as a college football player.
But Jed got the media to call out that connection within an hour of the reports that Lynch would be general manager, so to him it’s a win. I just have to wonder at what point he’ll realize that continually referencing Walsh and his significance to the 49ers while the 49ers are a dumpster fire of an organization doesn’t actually help him, but is also in incredibly bad taste.