He is to the game of football what Oppenheimer was to nuclear fission. In a crude jocks world, he is erudite, thoughtful, intellectual.
Within the confines of the gridiron game, Bill Walsh is a chess master, a Bobby Fischer who moves athletes in pads instead of kings, bishops and pawns.
Once, with expert skill, he moved them on the green fields of the pro game. In later years, preparation became his angle. He saw college talent and predicted the future.
Few have ever done it as well.
One suspects that if The Genius had chosen chaos theory rather than 333football, American style, he would be de-coding satellite feeds of anti-U.S. terrorist activity for the National Security Agency.
If literature was his passion he would be writing poetry like Frost or Longfellow.
But this is the twenty-first century, and Walsh, he of the late twentieth, is a man of his time and place. His place, in the beginning was Hayward, California.
Northern California. The Bay Area. A place that, for whatever reason, seems to be the spawning ground of great football coaches.
John Robinson, John Madden, Bob Toledo and Dick Vermeil come to mind. Within this world of Xs and Os, Walsh is the Master of the Universe. He is the Temple Mount. Mecca.
Master Bill is a man with an Ego and a Sense of History, too.
What does he mean to San Francisco?
Well, lets put it this way. He is very much a part of The City ridding itself of a long inferiority complex with Los Angeles. An inferiority complex with Los Angeles, you say?
Get outta here.
It is true. For those of us who remember the past, Bay Area vs. Southern California sports was a desultory affair. Think of the Irish Catholics vs. the Protestant English. A one-sided battle. A 30-year UCLA basketball winning streak by UCLA over Cal, Trojans teams that treated the Bears and Stanford like cannon fodder, the Dodgers drawing 3 million a year and killing the Giants, who played before friends and family at the stick.
Then came Walsh.
The former Stanford coach saw something in a scrawny kid from Notre Dame and decided to pick him over Steve Dills. Had he chosen Dills would we call him a Genius today? If Kenny Easley had been available, would Walsh had chosen him ahead of Ronnie Lott in 1981?
Hey, if World War II had not broken out, would we be calling Winston Churchill The Great Man?
As for The Genius, there is no doubt in his mind.
"Steve Dills?" he asks incredulously. "Come on!? He played for me. There was never any doubt that wed pick Montana. How could we not? The idea that I considered Dills has been out there, but its totally false."
So there. How about Easley over Lott?
"Well, we never thought we'd get Ronnie," recalls Walsh of the 1981 draft. "He was a top three guy who was still around through seven. But if you have to ask me who we would have chosen between the two head up, I would have chosen Lott."
Of course he would have. He is The Genius, and he, Lott, and Montana and teamed up to Make the Myths!
So, getting back to that inferiority complex thing. The Rams were considered one of the best organizations in sports, and no longer saw the Niners as rivals.
When Walsh and Co. led the 49ers to the Super Bowl in 1982, demons were exorcised. Today, with parity between the states' college sports teams, the Rams in St. Louis, the Raiders back in Oakland, and the once-mighty Dodgers being just another team, it is hard for some to remember just what the 49ers meant to The City - and the Bay Area.
That is a major part of Walsh's legacy.
Sunday was Walsh's last draft as a General Manager, but he considers the subject "maudlin." He insists "I'll be around" for a few years, and he will.
"This may be Bill's most creative draft," says Coach Steve Mariucci.
Like Presidential administrations, judgment must be reserved for later years, but from here Walsh's place in football and San Francisco history is secure.
The Man is a Genius.
Causes Steven Travers Supports
Conservative, Christian, USC, American patriotism