The legendary Bill Walsh, the NFL's coach of the year in 1981 and 1984, spent 10 seasons on sidelines of the San Francisco 49ers en route to building a 102-63-1 career record. Walsh, who won three Super Bowls and perfected the ingenious offensive schemes that later became known as the West Coast offense during a Hall of Fame career, leaves behind a legion of coaching disciples who went on to lead their own teams and form a coaching tree with innumerable branches.
Reaction to the passing of Walsh from around the NFL:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell:
"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."
Bengals president Mike Brown
"Bill's record speaks for itself. He was the top coach in the NFL during his time in San Francisco. During his eight 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."
Ravens head coach Brian Billick:
"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."
Hall of Fame head coach Don Shula:
"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."
Eagles Chairman Jeffrey Lurie:
"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."
Falcons president and general manager Rich Mckay:
"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."
49ers co-owners John and Denise York:
"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. 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. "
49ers head coach Mike Nolan:
"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. "
USC head coach Pete Carroll:
"Everyone who loves football will miss one of the game's great icons. He was an extraordinary mentor to so many coaches who are still in the game today. We all owe him greatly for his kindness and gifts. From the time I was a young college coach up to the present day, I've always been a great admirer of Bill and I've felt lucky to be a friend of his. All my thoughts are with his family. We will miss him dearly."
The Oakland Raiders:
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Bill Walsh. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Geri, two children, Craig and Elizabeth. He was a giant among giants and an innovator whose Commitment to Excellence was unparalleled. Bill began his legendary pro coaching career with The Oakland Raiders as offensive backs coach in 1966 and went on to achieve greatness in the coaching ranks, both at the college and professional level. Bill will be sorely missed. "
Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren:
"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."
Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan:
"He's a great teacher. I never had the opportunity to actually coach for him, but I was around him a lot. I had a chance to talk to him about a number of different things. I just consider him a good friend. When we played the Raiders, I had a chance to talk to him for about 15 to 20 minutes, and over the last couple of weeks he's been going through a very tough time. He knew it was just a matter of time. Today is a really sad day. 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."
Bucaneers quarterback Jeff Garcia:
""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." "
Redskins owner Dan Snyder:
"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."
Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs:
"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."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick:
"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."
Hall of Fame defensive back Ronnie Lott:
"What really made Bill special is that he understood that the game was bigger than him. His genius was not centered around Xs and Os; it was centered around his ability to create a platform that made the game inclusive to others. He will forever be cemented with the likes of George Halas, Paul Brown and Vince Lombardi as the best ever."
Lions CEO and president Matt Millen:
"If you want to look at what embodied Bill Walsh, it was Joe Montana. He didn't make any mistakes. He knew where everything was; he wasted very, very little of anything. He always took what was there and ultimately won."
Colts head coach Tony Dungy:
"I played for him for one year, and I learned a lot. But more important was that he was so supportive of me and my career and African-American coaches. It's one of those things that really touches you."
Giants president John Mara:
"Bill Walsh was one of the greatest coaches in the history of this game. I am not sure that anyone has had as much influence on the way the game has been played over the past 25 years as Bill Walsh. His record on the field was matched only by his brilliance in developing other successful NFL and college coaches."
"He was one of our fiercest rivals, and we had some very memorable games in the '80s. He was an innovative guy who brought his philosophy to the NFL, and he integrated the right people into it and allowed it to flourish. He is one of the very few people who really helped make the NFL what it is today, and his coaching tree is evidence of that."
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry jones:
"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."
Giants head coach Tom Coughlin:
"Coaches my age, we all studied Bill Walsh as we were coming up in this business. We talked to the people who worked with him to try to find out why he did what he did and how he went about his business. Intellectually, he just seemed to be way ahead of everybody else."
Titans head coach Jeff Fisher:
"Very few of us will leave legacies like he left in this game. He brought professionalism to the sport from ownership all the way down to the security people at the front door of the building. He taught people to treat people with respect. What he wanted people to know is that everybody meant something."