Archive for the ‘Coaches’ Category

In February I talked with long-time 49ers reporter Kevin Lynch, now with the San Francisco Chronicle, about the 49ers’ dynasty, especially the 1988 49ers. The full interview is in the appendix to my e-book about the ’88 49ers. You can buy that e-book through Lulu.com here. In these excerpts, we talked about Bill Walsh and George Seifert:

Arne: Seifert was hired to replace Walsh very soon after that Super Bowl against the Bengals.
Kevin: He was flying to an interview in Cleveland, they caught him in Dallas waiting for his connecting flight. The record of coaches succeeding Super Bowl coaches is very poor, and Seifert doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves. His teams had something like a 75% winning percentage. One of the big reasons Seifert was successful right away was that he told the players they were the reason for the wins. He didn’t have the personality of Walsh, he was quieter, low-key, very humble. He always thought it was the players’ team. Seifert felt a lot of people were trying to undermine him as coach. Later on, in ’94, when Young was screaming at him on the sidelines during the Eagles game, he liked that. Seifert said it showed how much the team had developed, for Young to be so passionate about the team.

Arne: Walsh has that whole image of “The Genius,” but do you think he made some mistakes as a coach, had some weaknesses?
Kevin: He was often very, very unpopular. He had a huge ego. But as a coach he was pretty flawless. Mostly his style worked. That thing he’d say about trying to get rid of players before they hit their downside, it did work, usually. Of course it created a lot of insecurity. But with Montana in ’88, he was motivated, wanted to prove he could fill that starting role still. He’d won the two Super Bowls, but he still had motivation. The flaw in Walsh maybe was that he really believed his system was so good, he could throw in almost any player and it would work. He didn’t give the players their due. He could be distant. Toward the end of his life he really connected with the players, he reversed all that distance.


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Pariani came to the 49ers as a scouting assistant in 1990. He was a native son, born in San Francisco, then moving north to Kentfield and playing three sports at Marin Catholic High School. He was an offensive coaches assistant for the 49ers from 1991  through 1995, then went to Denver and won two Super Bowls there. He’s now with the Houston Texans, coaching their tight ends. Texans tight end Jeb Putzier said: “He’s kind of crazy, a little different. He’s a detail guy, dot the eye, cross the ‘t.’ That’s the type of guy he is. He’s kind of like if you’ve ever seen a chicken with its head cut off. He’s an intense guy once game day comes.”

Read more about Pariani here and here.

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Carl Jackson was a coach with the Iowa Hawkeyes for most of his career, including all of the ’80s and the first half of this decade, but he left Iowa for San Francisco in 1992 to serve as running backs coach. He left the 49ers after 1996 to go to Texas and coach Ricky Williams. Jackson went back to Iowa in 1999 and retired in early 2008. He’s a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, along with Guy McIntyre

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George Seifert

Seifert is a San Francisco native: he was an usher at Kezar Stadium in 1957 as a high school senior at Polytechnic, across the street from Kezar, and watched the 49ers lose in the playoffs that year, 31-27 to the Detroit Lions. Lynn Stiles, another former 49ers assistant coach, said: “It’s damn near a love affair George has with the 49ers. It goes way beyond working for a living.”

One day, Seifert looked out at Marina Boulevard and remembered: “My uncle owned a company that washed windows, and when I was in high school and college I’d work for him to make my extra money. I used to wash some of these windows right here on this street. It’s really funny because I’m afraid of heights, and the work scared the crap out of me. I remember times when I’d freeze on the platform.”

Seifert had a 108-35 record, for a .755 winning percentage, when he left the 49ers after 1996. His routines were legendary: he never walked on the 49ers helmet spray-painted on the turf of the team practice fields, he blew on each Certs he ate three times upon putting it in his mouth, and he did a shirtless lap around the 49er locker room before each game.

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Shanahan joined the 49ers as offensive coordinator at the end of January, 1992, to replace Mike Holmgren after Holmgen departed for Green Bay. Shanahan had been fired from positions as Raiders coach and, about 10 days previously, Broncos offensive coordinator. It’s an interesting coincidence that both Holmgren and Shanahan have departed, at least for the time being, from the NFL coaching ranks at almost exactly the same moment, nearly 17 years after they exchanged places for the 49ers. At the time, George Seifert said: “I’m very pleased that Mike was available to us. We had talked a couple of times prior to his official interview over the weekend. I had a pretty good idea about him before, and from the moment we began the interview Saturday I knew he was the right person for the job.”

Shanahan stayed with the 49ers through 1994 and the great offense the team had that year, then went to Denver, staying there through 2008. He took Gary Kubiak with him from San Francisco to Denver, as well as Bill Musgrave and Ed McCaffrey. Steve Young said of Shanahan: “If I can put Mike in a few words it’s ‘attention to detail.’ “

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Before he went to the New England Patriots or USC, Carroll was the 49ers’ defensive coordinator for 1995 and 1996. In August 1998, speaking before an exhibition game between the Patriots and 49ers, he said: “This game is of special interest to me. It’s personal because my family and friends will be there, going back to San Francisco, where I came from. It’s fun to play against those guys. I know all those players.”

Just after he took the Patriots job, Carroll said: “It’s one thing to talk about something like that [expecting to win the Super Bowl]. I lived through them the last two years with the 49ers. Championships are expected there every year. That’s what I liked about the job.”

He’d been passed over to replace George Seifert as 49ers head coach after Seifert resigned, despite having a defense that allowed the fewest yards in the NFL in 1995.

Carroll said about that: “Just as it was for George Seifert, because we both grew up around here, it would have been a special opportunity. But I understand their approach, and I agree with it.

“They wanted to get the offensive thing settled and secure. They had gone with a defensive coach [Seifert] for a long time, and that’s just the way it happened. There’s no bad blood at all. There is no ill will. These guys have been extraordinary to me, and they’ve treated me perfectly.”

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Bill Walsh

I figure that anyone who’s arrived here will already know some things about Coach Walsh, but here are some items that might be new. At one awards banquet in Rocklin, at the Rocklin Bar and Eatery, some time in the mid ’80s, Joe Montana, John Ayers and Randy Cross were eating fried chicken with cold beer when three strangers came into the bar. One of them was a biker with nightshade sunglasses and question mark sideburns. A second looked like a bearded mule skinner. The third was an old prospector with wire rims and shabby clothes. After a little bit, with the bar employees deciding who would throw them out, either Ayers, Montana, or Cross yelled: “Hey, those guys are our coaches!”

Sherm Lewis, the running backs coach, was dressed as the biker, Bobb McKittrick, the offensive line line, was dressed as the mule skinner, and Walsh was dressed as the prospector. Walsh had had a Sacramento make-up artist dress the three coaches up for the banquet. It was a reprise of his famous gag of dressing up as a bellhop to greet the 49ers players in their Detroit hotel for Super Bowl XVI against the Bengals. Walsh explained: “Humor is just another way to communicate with other human beings. I’ve never seen anything accomplished without communication. Players must work in an atmosphere where they feel free to exchange ideas with their coaches. Players have to be able to communicate what they are trying to accomplish with each other and their coaches.”

Back in the mid-’50s, when Walsh was a graduate assistant to Bob Bronzan at San Jose State, Bronzan wrote this in his placement file: “I predict Bill Walsh will become the outstanding football coach in the United States.”

He went on to coach Washington Union High School to a conference championship in 1957 with a 9-1 mark, then served as defensive coordinator to for Marv Levy at UC-Berkeley from 1960 to 1962. From there it was south to Stanford in 1963 as administrative assistant, recruiting coordinator, and defensive backfield coach. Walsh was offensive backfield coach for the Raiders in 1966, then went east to Cincinnati to be quarterbacks and receivers coach for the Bengals and Paul Brown.

Walsh spent eight years there in Cincinnati, but was homesick for California. He said, “We used to go over to a neighbor’s house that had pine trees in the front yard and smell the needles.” After being denied the Bengals coaching job when Paul Brown retired, Walsh went west again to coach Stanford, and from there on to Candlestick to coach the 49ers starting in early January of 1979. You can read much more about Walsh in one of his own books or the book about his term with the 49ers that came out this fall.

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