Tuesday, July 31, 2007


It was somehow appropriate that when I heard that Bill Walsh had died, I happened to be wearing my Cincinnati Bengals T-shirt. Walsh, the trunk of the most famous coaching family tree in football history, was himself just a branch of the Paul Brown tree. Walsh spent eight years as an assistant to Brown in Cincinnati, only to be denied the Bengals' head coaching job when Brown retired after the 1975 season. Walsh would later learn that Brown worked to prevent him from becoming an NFL head coach not only while he was in Cincinnati, but even after he left.

Walsh left Cincinnati and took a job on Tommy Prothro's staff at San Diego, then moved to Stanford for two years before being named coach of the San Francisco 49ers, whom he would lead to three Super Bowl titles -- including two over the Bengals.

Walsh's hiring in San Francisco kicked off a startling run of dominance is which the 49ers won 13 division titles in 17 seasons, reached the NFC Championship Game 10 times and won the Super Bowl five times. For Cincinnati, the same period was marked by steady decline that turned into a free-fall in 1991, after Paul Brown died and his idiot son Mike took over.

In recent years, it has been the 49ers who have fallen on hard times while the Bengals have been resurgent. Or so the conventional wisdom goes.

20067-9 8-8

Now, which team is improving?

There's little I could add about Walsh and his legacy that isn't being said a thousand times over. Suffice it to say that five Lombardi Trophies make for a far more impressive lobby display than two Lamar Hunt Trophies.

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