Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Steve Mariucci made an appearance recently on the podcast of NFL.com contributor Dave Dameshek, and got an intriguing question. Dameshek set up a hypothetical where Mariucci has two weeks to prepare for a game against an unknown opponent, and has to choose between Bill Belichick and Bill Walsh.
Technically Mariucci did not give a specific answer, but he opened by saying he was biased toward Coach Walsh. I’ll take that as him choosing Walsh over Belichick.
Walsh was team president when Mariucci was the 49ers head coach, and in the interview above (or here) Mooch talks about how Walsh told him he retired too soon. It’s a regularly told story about how Walsh grew to regret his decision to walk away after Super Bowl 23. He was emotional after the game when asked if that was it, and he later said he should have taken a month off to unwind rather than make the decision right then.
Deciding on the greatest coach of all time is not an easy proposition. Bill Belichick and his five Lombardi trophies will get plenty of coverage, but comparing across eras and deciding on if total Super Bowls victories is the answer or not makes this a difficult topic.
There is no guarantee the 49ers win Super Bowl 24 or any other Super Bowls when Walsh retired, but it’s at least in the discussion. George Seifert didn’t fumble the ball against the Giants in the NFC title game, and there were plenty of other issues that kept them from moving past the Cowboys until 1994. Nonetheless, it’s a fun hypothetical to think of whether or not Walsh would have been the difference some of those years.
This is not meant as disrespect to George Seifert, who was a great coach in his own right. However, Walsh will always be the GOAT for 49ers fans, and it is fun to ponder just how many Lombardi Trophies he might have finished with if he chose to stick around a little longer.