Bill Walsh Football is Back

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Bill Walsh Football is Back
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Both Bill Walsh and Jim Harbaugh were hired respectively to be the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers at 47 years old and the San Francisco Giants are World Series Champions?

It must be fate, the work of angels and the divine, or maybe it's just history repeating itself almost to a T. However before history does repeat itself, Jim Harbaugh must somehow turn the 49ers into a contender again and rebuild the lost legacy of Bill Walsh's offense that left when former offensive coordinator Mike McCarthy became head coach of the Green Bay Packers.

After McCarthy's departure, the 49ers completely scrapped out the West Coast Offense when they hired Norv Turner to fill the same capacity. Gone were the WCO principles and here came the "digital" version of the Don "Air" Coryell offense that put Kellen Winslow, Dan Fouts and the San Diego Chargers on the map some three decades ago.

Every other 49er offensive coordinator after Norv Turner tried to run a similar Coryell offense but without the same results. A prime example is Alex Smith's downward trajectory of his career after Turner departed to coach the San Diego Chargers.

The offense worked wonders for the Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s but it just didn't look like the old 49er football many of us fell in love with years ago when Bill Walsh called "Sprint Right Option" with :58 in the 1981-1982 NFC Championship Game.

One aspect that Harbaugh will share with Turner's digital offense is the power run game to set up the play action pass which he utilized in Stanford when Toby Gerhardt ran all over the NCAA from 2006 to 2009. However, the drop-backs will be quicker and the passing will be more rhythmic, allowing skill position players to make plays in the open field.

Remember Jerry Rice and John Taylor scoring on the quick slant? How about Roger Craig and Tom Rathman in the flat wide open matched up against a much slower defender?

"Sometimes, football players have the stigma of the dumb football jock," Dwight Clark stated in the 1981 edition of America's Game. "But in Bill Walsh's offense, you couldn't be the dumb football jock."

"All I knew was that a 10-yard hook was run 10 yards and hook," Clark continued. "In the West Coast Offense a 10-yard hook could be a cross versus man-to-man and he has inside coverage that is sliding back outside. If it's man-to-man under you're looping out and around. To me that made the West Coast Offense really, really difficult."

This more familiar offensive style will no doubt be the complete opposite of Mike Singletary's vision of bully offense that ultimately led to his demise. Teaching was deemed almost unnecessary during the Singletary regime and instead drop your pants and yell sufficed enough for Big Mike.

"Having the ability to change routes, change the depth of your route given the fact that a defense is running a certain defense, believe me it is not fair," Ronnie Lott said in the 1981 edition of America's Game. "There were times when George Seifert and I would sit there and look at some of these patterns and say yeah that's going to be pretty hard to stop!"

Mismatches on offense were Bill Walsh's trademark and Jim Harbaugh and his Cardinal staff exhibited a command to find these mismatches as evidenced by Stanford's absolute dissection of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The future looks a little bit brighter here in 49erland thanks to the legacy of an old friend.

Go make Coach Walsh proud again, Coach Harbaugh.

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