Monday, February 9, 2009

The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty. Chapters 1-10.

I'm 142 pages into The Genius, a book about Bill Walsh and his coaching legacy.  As a quick recap of his time with the 49ers, he coached from 1979-1988, winning the Super Bowl in 1981, 1984, and his final season 1988.  

A very impressive record.  Thats as many as Bill Belichick, the most successful coach of the current era.  Its a very fun read and exciting for me because I don't know very much about the Forty Niners history.  I remember watching games but very little about what was actually happening.  

The owner of the 49ers at the time was Eddie DeBartolo, who gave Bill Walsh free rein to both coach and be the GM.  This was unprecedented at the time.  The 49ers were performing horribly and had little to no success in any aspect of the game.  Bill Walsh won the Super Bowl in three years after taking over a team that was 2-14.  

The big question is how.  How did he do this?  What did he do differently?  The first trend I've picked up on is his willingness to trust his own judgement.  The corrolary is that his judgement is correct; it does you no good to trust your judgement if you are wrong.  But he also picked up on several inefficencies in the NFL at that time.  He anticipated the success of the "West-Coast Offense" whereby the offense throws lots of short, quick passes underneath the defense and generates significant yards after the catch.  

He was also an excellent judge of talent and was willing to continually cycle through talent to find good players.  

I was not surprised when I found this quote:  "We created an atmosphere in meetings in which a scout or coach was able to express himself completely.  If he overstated or understated in any category, he could change his opinion without being criticized.  We were interested only in results.  They could change their mind without being ridiculed.  Everyone was expected to participate."  This is a common trend among winners.  The simple fact is that one person simply can't be right all the time or know all the important information.  The problem occurs when people don't resolve conflicting views or share information.  Communication is key.

They also stressed positive reinforcement and communication from coaches to players about proper technique.  Bill Walsh stressed technique and would get upset at the assistants during practice if the players weren't displaying proper technique.  That creates a dynamic where the players want to do well because they don't want their assistant coach to be berated by the head coach.

This covers the first ten chapters of the book.  I will cover more later.  Enjoy!

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