Reaction to the death of former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh

Jul 31, 2007 - 6:05 PM The following are reactions on the death of Hall Famer and former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh, who died Monday after a battle with leukemia:

Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner - "His Hall of Fame coaching accomplishments speak for themselves, but the essence of Bill Walsh was that he was an extraordinary teacher. If you gave him a blackboard and a piece of chalk, he would become a whirlwind of wisdom. He taught all of us not only about football but also about life and how it takes teamwork for any of us to succeed as individuals. He helped the league on many important initiatives, from improving opportunities for minorities in coaching and the front office to our executive training and international development programs. Bill Walsh was a mentor to me and many others. He revolutionized the game with his 'West Coast Offense' and will always be remembered as one of the most influential people in NFL history."

Don Shula, former Miami Dolphins coach - "In the recent or modern history of the NFL, no coach has been more influential and innovative than Bill Walsh. That includes his coaching on the field and his thoughts and action on how franchises can work together to win championships. His influence is especially seen on the offensive side of the ball. We should call what many teams currently run exactly what it is - the 'Walshian Offense.' His mark on the NFL is also seen by the 'Walsh Tree.' He doesn't get enough credit for the work he did behind the scenes to advance his assistants. He was tireless in promoting his fellow coaches. Like others, I could never repay him for how he helped me. The best we can all do to salute Coach Walsh is to do the same for our fellow coaches.

"I was sorry to learn about the passing of Coach Bill Walsh. He was an outstanding coach and was a special friend.

"He was a great competitor and was one of the most innovative coaches in the game. The offensive philosophy that he installed in those great 49er teams more than 25 years ago will remain his legacy and is still very much a part of the NFL to this day."

"My wife, Mary Anne, and I were very saddened when we heard the news and we know we join football fans around the country who feel a deep sense of loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Geri, and their family."

Mike Brown, President, Cincinnati Bengals - "Bill's record speaks for itself. He was the top coach in the NFL during his time in San Francisco. During his six years on our coaching staff (1968-75), he brought imagination and ideas to the game. He was a tremendous part of our staff, and we were lucky to have him. He set a mark on the game that is admired by everyone, and he will be greatly missed."

Brian Billick, Baltimore Ravens coach - "In the recent or modern history of the NFL, no coach has been more influential and innovative than Bill Walsh. That includes his coaching on the field and his thoughts and action on how franchises can work together to win championships. His influence is especially seen on the offensive side of the ball. We should call what many teams currently run exactly what it is - the 'Walshian Offense.' His mark on the NFL is also seen by the 'Walsh Tree.' He doesn't get enough credit for the work he did behind the scenes to advance his assistants. He was tireless in promoting his fellow coaches. Like others, I could never repay him for how he helped me. The best we can all do to salute Coach Walsh is to do the same for our fellow coaches."

Jeffrey Lurie, Chairman, Philadelphia Eagles - "Bill Walsh embodied everything that so many of us love about the game of football - his intellect, his aggressive and brilliant game strategies, quarterback development, risk taking, and franchise-building ideas. And the way he coolly executed them is deservedly legendary. His passion for the game was contagious. All of us who had the fortune to spend significant time with Bill and sought his willing guidance will surely cherish every moment spent with this very special man."

Rich McKay, President and General Manager, Atlanta Falcons -"All of us who are fans of the game owe a huge debt of gratitude to Bill Walsh. Many have contributed to the game, but few impacted it to the extent that Bill did. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Walsh's family."

"There is not a player at the 49ers or a player in the NFL today that was not touched by the contributions of the legendary Bill Walsh. Without a doubt, Bill Walsh is clearly one of the greatest coaches in NFL history. His achievements during his 10 years as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers are virtually unparalleled in professional sports."

Denise and John York, San Francisco 49ers owners - "While he will go down in history as one of the greatest and most innovative football minds of all time, we also will always cherish the close connection we had between our families that developed over the past three decades of our lives. It is with great sadness that we offer our condolences and prayers to Geri and the Walsh family."

"Outside of his family and faith, there was nothing he loved more than the 49ers. Even after he left the organization he still kept up with the team and offered his support."

"Bill exemplified class, and all of us in sports should honor him by striving to perpetuate his standard of excellence."

Joe Montana, Hall of Fame quarterback - "This is just a tremendous loss for all of us, especially to the Bay Area because of what he meant to the 49ers. For me personally, outside of my dad, he was probably the most influential person in my life. I am going to miss him."

Jeff Garcia, former 49ers quarterback - "The life of a champion has physically come to an end, but the legacy of the man will live on forever. So many times Coach Walsh used boxing analogies, and in his own life he was a fighter all the way to the end."

"There are so many people that are thankful that their lives have been touched by the man who is Bill Walsh. I am one of them. He believed in me when not many others did; he was willing to put his reputation on the line in order to give me an opportunity. I always respected and appreciated that and never did I want to fail him. Several times I went to him at moments of change in my career and asked for and leaned on his advice. Even at a time of struggle in his own life, he made time for me. He gave me advice like a father would give to his son and I know that I am not the only one he did that for."

"He touched people's lives, he made people smile. He had an element of surprise about him you never knew what he was going to say but he had your attention. I love that man like so many others do and I will miss him."

"I thank you Bill for your guidance and belief in me, but more so than that, I thank you for your friendship. I love you and I thank you."

Mike Nolan, San Francisco 49ers coach - "Bill Walsh's legacy with the 49ers is well documented. The 49ers remained his team even after he left the organization. He dedicated his life to football and all 49ers fans, current and past, are forever grateful."

"I will miss my weekly talks with Bill each Monday following our games. He was always so supportive and always offered some thoughts to help me in any way he could."

"He was not only an outstanding coach but a tremendous role model for every one associated with the 49ers and our fans."

"Although I never worked for Bill, I always considered him a mentor during my 21 years in the NFL. He not only made a legendary impact on the game of football, but he was also instrumental in issues such as diversity in the NFL and in developing player assistance programs."

"My wife and I offer our heartfelt condolences to the Walsh family in honor of this great man."

Steve Young, Hall of Fame quarterback - "Bill was blessed with one of the greatest gifts you can have which is the ability to see the future potential of another human being. It just so happened that football was his expertise. He saw in me much more than I ever saw in myself well before I ever had a chance to understand it. That is the ultimate compliment to the word coach. There's nothing more a coach should be than to see the full potential of a player unfolded. I am eternally grateful to Bill Walsh."

Mike Holmgren, Seattle Seahawks coach - "For me personally, he gave me my chance to coach in the NFL. He took a chance on me. I was four years removed from high school and that usually doesn't work that way. He was hard on me and I was mad at him a fair amount as an assistant coach. Looking back on it now, he was my mentor and then later in the years he became my friend. I said this and I meant it, I always thought; when I was an assistant coach for him and he was working and having us do stuff that he looked at the game differently as a coach, he just looked at how to put everything together and how to do it differently. The minority intern program is in place because of Bill. He had a heart for minority coaches and he wanted to make sure they had a chance. Ty Willingham was our first minority coach in San Francisco years ago, the first year the program was in place. A lot of us worked for him and had a chance to go on and continue to coach in the league. We took a lot of what he did with us. I am glad I had a chance to visit with him recently."

"I always said that he was an artist and all the rest of us were blacksmiths pounding the anvil, while he was painting the picture. There is always more than one way to win games but that was how he chose to do it."

Ray Rhodes, Seattle Seahawks, special projects-defense coach - "He was very instrumental in my career from day one as a football player. He gave me my opportunity in coaching. I had the chance to play for him for a year and after that year he gave me my opportunity to coach in this league. From day one he molded my career and helped me out tremendously. When you talk about the things he would do for his coaches, not only did he show you the on-the-field part of the game but off-the-field part of the game as far as scouting, dealing with player contracts, just all aspects of football he was willing to share with all of his coaches. For a young coach like myself I can't say enough things about him. He pushed you, he pushed you to be the best person you could be, the best coach you could be. He always had people setting their goals and their standards high in every phase of what they did in football. He pushed me to the point to where, just like he pushed his players, in reference to be the best player you could be. You want to be the best defensive back coach in the league and you have to strive for that with hard work. You want to have the best group, you want to be known as the best guy coaching that position. He pushed each one of his coaches to the ultimate limit and he stayed on you about it. He was a mentor to me. I can't say enough good things he did for me and my family."

Jim Mora, Seattle Seahawks, assistant coach-secondary coach - "He not only had a great influence on the game but he had a great influence on many people in this league, myself being one of them. He will be truly missed by everybody."

Bruce DeHaven, Seattle Seahawks, special teams coach - "I had the opportunity to work with Coach Walsh for three years while I was in San Francisco when he was our general manager. It was a real honor for me to be associated with him. One of the really fine gentleman in the game. You know how innovative he was for the game but I found him to be a wonderful human being, very caring and just a real gentleman. He will be sorely missed by a lot of people."

Arthur Blank, Atlanta Falcons owner & CEO - "Everyone talks about trees in the NFL Bill Walsh grew a forest. My experience with Bill was in his post-coaching years, when he shifted his great talents and energy to a number of other NFL areas including education. The NFL program he helped develop at Stanford has strengthened the knowledge and skills of a wide variety of employees throughout the League. Everywhere around the League, when an individual was seeking credibility or counsel, they would turn to Bill Walsh. His contributions to the NFL are countless, and he will always be admired, revered and missed."

Bill Callahan, Nebraska coach - "I was deeply saddened to learn of Coach Walsh's passing. He had a profound impact on the game of football. He is truly one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game, and was a mentor to many who have followed him in this profession."

"Coach Walsh was incredibly creative and innovative, and he played a vital role in developing and modernizing the West Coast Offense as we know it today. A lot of the successes I have enjoyed in the profession can be attributed to Coach Walsh and his principles of coaching and leadership. His legacy will continue to prosper well into the future."

Mike Shanahan, Denver Broncos coach - "He was a great coach and a great teacher. He enjoyed teaching and it didn't matter what level it was. I don't care if he was teaching high school kids or quarterbacks three-to-five step drops, college kids, pro kids, he enjoyed it. He was very good at it, very smart. The best way to describe him is passionate about everything, and that's one of the reasons he was so successful."

"There's no question that he's a great innovator. He studied it. He worked at it. He tweaked around with a lot of different things and obviously, when you hear the West Coast offense, you're going back to Bill Walsh and he's the one the started it."

Daniel M. Snyder, Washington Redskins owner - "Bill Walsh was one of the first people I met after buying the Redskins in 1999. We spent time together at League events and he was generous with his guidance for a rookie owner. His legacy is on display every time an NFL team takes the field. My prayers are with his family at this sad time."

Joe Gibbs, Washington Redskins coach - "I was saddened to hear the news of Bill Walsh's passing today. My son (Coy Gibbs) had the opportunity to play under him at Stanford. His contributions to the NFL are well documented and his West Coast Offense remains prevalent throughout the League today. He was truly a pioneer for the game. He was a tremendous competitor and innovator and he leaves a legacy through all those who had the opportunity to learn from him. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Walsh family."

Bill Belichick, New England Patriots coach - "One of the greatest challenges of my career was coaching defense against Bill Walsh. He turned San Francisco's offense into the best in the league. Beyond being a great offensive coach, Bill mastered running an entire pro football organization. He figured out everything from the big picture down to the smallest detail and documented it in his book, Finding The Winning Edge, which was groundbreaking. It remains easily the most comprehensive and best modern day football book and is required reading for every coach. On a personal level, I am very fortunate to have developed a close friendship with Bill and my deepest condolences are with his family on this sad day."

Scott Linehan, St. Louis Rams coach - "I have met him a few times. He is an idol of every coach. He really impacted the game offensively and changed the game offensively. He changed people. There are a lot of people who will tell you that he was the greatest coach they ever played for and I'm talking about hall-of-famers that ever coached. His success is an obvious testament of that. It is a pretty sad day for football."

"We refer to a lot of play concepts that we have in our offense that are West Coast plays. That is Coach Walsh's offense. That is the ultimate compliment, I would think, that someone would refer to a specific play or an offense to you, especially one that was so successful and won so many championships. You see a lot of great offenses in this league that have the exact same terminology and use the exact same philosophy. He revolutionized the game in a lot of ways but his offensive mind was second to none."

Carl Petersen, Kansas City Chiefs president - "On behalf of the Kansas City Chiefs, the Hunt Family and especially those of us who knew Bill Walsh personally, our deepest condolences to the Walsh Family. The word great isn't used too often but I would personally say he was a great football coach and established himself in this league as one of its all-time greats."

"Moreover, he was a wonderful human being with a great sense of human and he had a great way with people. I got to know him even better when he became the general manager and president of the 49ers. We honored him several times at the 101 Banquet Kansas City's annual salute to pro football. But he will always be remembered without question for his philosophy and method of coaching which will have an impact on our league and our game for a long time to come."

Herm Edwards, Kansas City Chiefs coach - "The thing that I remember the most about Bill Walsh was he gave opportunities to players after their careers were over. His fellowship program preceded the NFL's. He was way ahead in giving young minority coaches an opportunity in our craft. When Tony Dungy got done playing Bill had him working in San Francisco. He was there for a year or so and he gave him one of his earliest opportunities to learn the profession. Coach Walsh was like that. He had great vision on what the league could become."

"Growing up on the West Coast I knew of Bill Walsh. When he was coaching in high school I was told he didn't have a whole lot of good athletes so what he did was he found a way to move the ball by throwing short passes. He considered them like runs. As he grew in the business and got great athletes this became known as the West Coast Offense."

"The thing you learned about his teams is they were very, very fast. How he practiced them is how they played. When you played the 49ers they always seemed as they were fresh. The offense was rhythmic and they were in and out of the huddle fast. They were always on the attack and his whole theory worked off a script and while everyone thinks his teams were passing teams they passed early and got the chains moving and a lead, but then they ran the football in the fourth quarter. They were a very balanced."

Lynn Stiles, Kansas City Chiefs vp of football operations - "He had a system and he believed in the system. The thing that he did was that he not only put in the system, believed in the system and coached the system, but on game day he was a master at utilizing the system. I think that his gameday demeanor and ability to adjust his offense, especially his quarterbacks, were an extension of Bill Walsh and his philosophy."

"Once somebody asked me a question about if Bill Walsh had as cool of a demeanor off the field as he did on the field and I said, 'absolutely.' Could you imagine having two men as calm, cool and collected in the head of battle when the game was on the line than Bill Walsh and QB Joe Montana? In the 1988 Super Bowl we had to go down the field with a little over three minutes to score and that's exactly how it was on the sideline."

"He had a great sense of humor, a very dry sense of humor. He had a way of making his points, he was a master of personnel, he wasn't afraid to use his personnel and he wasn't afraid to play young players. I think that personnel, the quality of coach and the ability to hire and surround himself with quality people were his hallmarks. He was always ahead of the game and on top of the game in every respect. He was my boss, my mentor and a good friend. I feel deeply for him, his family and the entire 49ers organization."

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans coach - "There's so much change in this league with coaches and guys moving around here and there, but the one thing that has been rock solid is his system, his terminology. The way he goes about moving the football, the way he goes about practice, and a lot of ways to me he is the inventor of practicing without pads, and practicing fast, and keeping your guys fresh, and teaching people how to do that. I know that's where I learned it. There are just so many things, and what he did for the minority coaching program is tremendous also."

"It has a great deal. In a lot of ways, I wasn't so much with him, but when I went to San Francisco, my first professional coaching job, everything that was happening in that organization was a direct reflection of him and it was just getting it from the next coach, which was Gorge Seifert."

(on whether there is anybody who has had more influence on the offense in the NFL than Bill Walsh...) "If there is, I can't think of it. I think he's influenced so many people, and those guys have become great offensive minds, and have great reputations now. But when you go back and take it all the way back, it just started with him."

Jerry Jones, Dallas Cowboys owner - "This is a tremendous loss for our league and the entire sport of football. Bill was an innovator, a motivator and ultimately one of the most dynamic coaches in NFL history. From my earliest days of involvement in the NFL, he was a friend who always had time to offer his counsel and advice. His leadership defined the 49ers as the Team of the 1980s, and his legacy will be as one of the best we have ever seen."

Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys coach - "Bill Walsh set a standard for a generation of NFL head coaches that was a cut above the rest. His offensive philosophies changed the game in the 1980s, and his influence helped so many of his assistant coaches move on to the next level. He was a wonderful contributor to this league, and his impact will be felt for years to come."

Steve Perry, Hall of Fame president-executive director - "We are deeply saddened to learn of Bill's death. Clearly, Bill left an indelible mark on the game of pro football. Long before he accomplished the great feat of turning San Francisco into a three-time Super Bowl champion, his offensive expertise helped change the game."

Marv Levy, Buffalo Bills general manager - "My friend, Bill Walsh, possessed all of the admirable qualities that a person might hope to find in an outstanding football coach."

"He was an innovative, optimistic, high principled and highly motivated master of the game. He was the consummate teacher of fundamentals, and of strategy and tactics." "He played by the rules, and he cared deeply about the players, the coaches, the fans, and the about the game itself."

"It was my great privilege to first know Bill when we coached together at the University of California (Berkeley) in the early 1960's. Over the years we remained friends, and I was deeply saddened to learn that he had passed away."

"His legacy will live on. Bill Walsh's name and his accomplishments will be remembered and revered so long as the great game of football is played."

Julian Peterson, Seattle Seahawks and former 49ers linebacker - (On Walsh believing in him as a rookie...) "He meant a lot to me. He drafted me back in 2000 and he told me I was going to be the key to the defense. From right then and there when he said that I just took that as motivation that he thought a lot about me. For him saying that and entrusting that much in to me, I just took it and ran with it and always had the mentality to stay on top of my game. I bought a chain with a key on it just to remind me I'm the key of the defense and to continue to work hard and be focused. I had one of the greatest coaches of all time saying I was going to be the key, that was big to me. Most coaches won't say that to a rookie. He showed that faith in me and I went out there and showed my talents. He said I knew you were going to pan out the way you are. That meant a lot to me."

(On Walsh's eye for talent...) "I know he was a big inspiration to Jeff Garcia. A lot of people didn't believe in Jeff Garcia and he brought him in the mix and said he was going to be a good West Coast quarterback. Look at Garcia now, a couple of Pro Bowls and you saw what he did last year. He knows talent and knows how to evaluate talent and get the best out of his players."

Dwaine Pee Wee Board, Seattle Seahawks defensive line coach - "I was with Bill Walsh for a long time, and to think that a lot of us had played for him and worked under him we knew that he cared for the people that worked under him. He changed a lot of lives for a lot of people. He gave a lot of people opportunities to succeed and he stood behind the people that worked under him, you could count on that. He's going to be missed. Over the years, I usually talked to him about once a month and he always had a last word of advice. He was like a dad to me. It's a shame he had leukemia and I wish there was a cure for it. Not only for Bill Walsh, but for a lot of people."

John Marshall, Seattle Seahawks, defensive coordinator - "Great, great football coach and football mind. Much, much better human being. He has helped so many young players, so many people in general in his professional lifetime. The world is a better place because of Bill Walsh being in it. I've coached against him and I've coached with him and he has helped me in my professional life and I couldn't think more of him. I admire the man and I admire what he stood for and I admire what he did."

Gil Haskell, Seattle Seahawks assistant coach-offensive coordinator - "He was an extremely fine coach, very detailed. He had a great eye for talent. You look at his teams and they always talked about offense but Ronnie Lott and those kids on defense were great players. I have nothing but respect for him. Later when I started working with Mike Holmgren, I got to know him and I even respected him more because he was very loyal to the guys that he coached. Quite a man, quite a man. He had a great life and was very successful."

Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars coach - "One sad note on Bill Walsh passing today. I know he's been battling health issues. He meant so much to the game. He was actually a Hayward High (Ca.) graduate like I was. I grew up in the Bay area there watching what he did in San Francisco and really have an appreciation for what meant to the NFL. One of the greats passed today, so that's a shame. Obviously we offer up from the Jaguars family to his family our heartfelt condolences.

Terrell Owens, former San Francisco 49ers receiver - "When you talk about a Hall of Fame coach, a guy who's won Super Bowls, for me just to have the opportunity to speak with him and be around him on an every day basis when I was in San Francisco was definitely an honor."

Norv Turner, San Diego coach - "The last year and a half being at San Francisco was fun for me because I got to spend a lot of time with Bill and talk football with him. He was really interested in Alex Smith. He's just meant so much to this game. Not only the game of football, but there are so many people that he's touched, so many great players and coaches that he's had a big part of their careers."

James Lofton, San Diego wide receivers coach - "He was the first coach who gave me a chance. I wasn't a starter when he came there. When he came onto campus, he came out to the track and asked me why I wasn't a starter. I remember that summer he pulled out some tape of Isaac Curtis who was an All-Pro receiver with the Bengals. Coach Walsh had coached him in Cincinnati and he said, 'You're a lot like this guy. I think you could be just as good if not better than him.' Coach was really the first guy to have that kind of confidence in me. I had confidence in myself, but I'd never had another coach display it in me like he did."

"When I went on my head coaching interviews, he'd always call me before and then follow up afterwards to see how things had gone. He meant a lot to me and it's a tough day."

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California governor - "Maria and I join all Californians in mourning the passing of legendary football coach Bill Walsh and pay tribute to a man who devoted his life to excellence in California football. Bill spent his life teaching and mentoring athletes at the high school, college and professional level in California."

Dianne Feinstein, California US Senator - "He touched so many in the Bay Area. He led the 49ers to three Super Bowls. And he gave this City a shot in the arm in some of its darkest hours."

Gavin Newsom, San Francisco mayor - "His legacy will live on through the hundreds of NFL players and coaches he inspired, as well as millions of fans of the game. Although I am saddened by his passing, I would like to mark this day by remembering and honoring his great accomplishments and contributions to the sport of professional football and our city."

Don Kassing, San Jose State University president - "I visited Coach Walsh on Friday at his home, along with Tom Bowen, SJSU's athletic director. We are honored to call Bill Walsh one of our very own. He received his bachelor's and master's degrees from San Jose State. He played for two years on our football team and worked as a graduate assistant. And he was an extraordinarily loyal and supportive alumnus. As recently as the past few years, he served on two search committees - one for our athletic director and a second for our football coach - both of whom went on to take SJSU's football team to its first bowl game victory in nearly two decades. So I have come to rely on Bill's counsel, and I will miss him tremendously. My heartfelt condolences go out to all who knew and loved this great man".

Tyrone Willingham, Washington coach - "The World lost a great man in Bill Walsh. He had a tremendous impact on me, both personally and professionally. Coaches throughout all levels of football have lost an innovator and teacher who had a truly significant impact on the game. Very few people will be able to say they were able to change the course of history. Bill's development of the minority coaching program at the collegiate and professional levels literally changed the face of football. His sphere of influence was significantly greater than any coach of his time. He will truly be missed."

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants coach - "Yesterday was a very sad day in the National Football League. I talked to Dick Vermeil about Coach Walsh last spring, and knew that he wasn't doing very well. My relationship was a good one. It was simply respect for a guy who was a great football coach and accomplished the top of the game in our profession. I did not have the privilege of coaching against him, but when he was president of the 49ers I did coach against him. I got to see him pre-game, I got to talk to him when we were out there for a preseason game. He was a very unique guy. When I was a young coach, first time in the league, I went to the Senior Bowl. We are sitting around at night, in the lobby of the hotel with a lot of young coaches, and Bill Walsh would come downstairs with John McVay. They would go from table to table, maybe sit down for a few minutes and ask you who you were, what your background was. He was always very concerned and if you look at the people he has groomed through his system, younger coaches and people coming up in the game. He did a great job of introducing people to coaching. So I was always extremely respectful, not only of what he accomplished on the field, but the quality of the guy."

Coors Brewing Company - "Bill Walsh is a true NFL legend and made a tremendous positive impact on the game of football. We at Coors especially appreciated Bill's great sense of humor. Our condolences go out to his family and friends."

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!