God bless Bill Walsh (1931-2007).
Walsh served as Head Coach for the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s. During that time, he led the 49ers...once the laughingstock of the NFL...to 3 Super Bowl championships. More than that, he is one of those rare people to have really changed the way football is played, by developing what is commonly known as the "West Coast Offense", a system which focuses on quick, short passes to move the ball down the field before a defense has time to react. His system has been adapted by many, many other coaches, and is used at every level of play. His disciples and their own apprentices have dominated NFL coaching positions for 20 years. He is also largely responsible for recognizing and developing Hall of Fame talent such as Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and Steve Young (my favorite Mormon). Walsh was himself inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993.
The passing of Walsh begs the question as to his place among the greats. While Chuck Noll, for instance, wasn't the great innovator that Walsh was, Noll won more Super Bowls in a shorter span of time, dominating his era like no coach since. Tom Landry and Don Shula had great success over long periods of time, but won fewer Super Bowls than Noll or Walsh. There are many other great names to consider, including Bill Belichick, Paul Brown, Joe Gibbs, George Halas, Vince Lombardi, and Bill Parcells, to name a few.
Perhaps in a future post, I'll sort this out. But, for now, I'm thanking God for the fun that Bill Walsh brought to this world, and I pray that, while I prefer a running game and "hard hitting defense" focus, the fun will continue.