Along with being the architect of the San Francisco 49ers dynasty of the 1980s, Bill Walsh revolutionized how football is played with the West Coast Offense.
Thus, any comparison to Walsh is a lofty one. Being compared to Walsh by one of the greatest safeties of all-time who happened to play for Walsh is a compliment to the nth degree. Such a compliment was handed out by the great Ronnie Lott recently as the Hall of Famer compared the 49ers' current coach -- Kyle Shanahan -- to the 49ers' greatest coach.
"To me, they're there," Lott said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio when speaking on San Francisco's status as a Super Bowl contender. "They're there on the offense and the reason I think that they're there on the offense is that, and I've said this is, Kyle is our version of Bill Walsh. I think he's one of the most innovative guys in pro football when it comes to offense."
Shanahan's offensive aptitude and schemes were crucial in the Atlanta Falcons advancing to the Super Bowl when he was offensive coordinator and once again pivotal in the 49ers' turnaround campaign last season in which they advanced to the Super Bowl and lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Chiefs.
Still, Shanahan has been a head coach just three seasons and has a sub-.500 record. Walsh, aside from the esteem he is looked upon with and his revolutionary ways, captained three Super Bowl runs for the Niners and is a Hall of Famer.
Then again, a closer look shows he had losing campaigns in each of his first two seasons just like Shanahan before a Super Bowl berth in his third season. But Walsh's Niners won that first Super Bowl trip, while Shanahan's squad is looking to get another chance and establish its status as an NFL heavyweight.
In that regard, Lott believes the 49ers are here to stay, though the NFC West waters are crowded with talented opposition.
"I like where they're at. I like what they're doing," said Lott, whose rookie season was the one in which Walsh and Co. advanced to and won the 49ers' first Super Bowl in 1981. "I love the way that they built it from the guys up front and now they're trying to hopefully be able to get the secondary even better.
"They got the ingredients. The questions is that you're in a division that you've got some talent. I remember when John Robinson was coaching the Rams. You're in a division where there were certain teams you've got to beat. Right now they're in a division where there's talent, there's a lot of talent. You've got the Rams who went to the Super Bowl. You got Seattle that's a very talented team and you got the Cardinals who are literally saying, 'We're coming after you guys.' That's where you gotta look at them and say they're competing and they've got to compete every week. But I gotta believe they're right there. They're right there because of what we saw last year."
Last year was further evidence of Shanahan's offensive prowess, but next year and many more to come will decide whether his name belongs alongside the greats of the NFL coaching game.