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The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynastyby David Harris
Synopses & Reviews
The Genius is the gripping and definitive account of Bill Walsh’s career and how he built a football dynasty from the rubble of a fallen franchise. David Harris gives a stellar account of the silver-haired sophisticate from humble working-class roots who was hired as head coach and general manager of the San Francisco Forty Niners in January 1979 and became the architect of what is arguably the greatest ten-year run in NFL history.
With unmatched access to players, fellow coaches, executives, the reporters who covered the Niners’ heyday, and Walsh himself, Harris recounts how Walsh, through tactical and organizational genius, created a football juggernaut. There were also the demons that pushed and haunted Walsh throughout his career: his clash with his former mentor, Paul Brown, who denied Walsh his first pro head-coaching job with the Cincinnati Bengals; Walsh’s struggle with self-doubt and criticism; the toll his single-minded devotion to football exacted on his family; and his complex relationship with the Forty Niners’ owner, Edward DeBartolo, Jr.
Walsh’s pre-Niners coaching odyssey was arduous–a longtime assistant coach, he developed his legendary and now-standard pass-oriented West Coast offense during stops at all levels of the game. Despite never having run a team’s draft before, Walsh, along with his right-hand man John McVay, quickly built the foundation for a dynasty by drafting or trading for a durable core of stars, including Joe Montana, Fred Dean, Hacksaw Reynolds, Dwight Clark, and Ronnie Lott. (Walsh would later restock the team with such players as Jerry Rice, Steve Young, and Charles Haley.) The key to Walsh’s genius perhaps lay in his keen understanding of his athletes’ psyches–he knew what brought out the best in each of them. But the scope of Walsh’s impact on the game extended well beyond the field and locker room. The Forty Niners’ life-skills counseling program, which Walsh spearheaded with the sports sociologist and activist Dr. Harry Edwards, and the internship program Walsh devised to bring minority coaches into the game have since been adopted by the NFL for all league franchises.
In the annals of sport, few individuals have had as great an impact on their game–or on its relevance to life outside the lines–as Bill Walsh. With knowledge, skill, passion, and a critical eye, David Harris reveals the brilliant man behind the coaching legend.
The vision Bill Walsh brought to all his pioneering efforts was a function of his perception of himself as someone who was far more than a football coach. He cherished his standing and participation in the larger world outside the NFL and nurtured them at every opportunity.
“Knowing Bill Walsh was kind of like the blind man describing an elephant,” one of the sportswriters who covered him observed. “We all knew just one little piece of him. But he had all these other areas we knew nothing about. He dealt with lots of people outside of football, outside of our scope entirely. He was able to deal with politicians, people who were intellects in other areas. They were impressed by him.”
–from The Genius
Offers a portrait of football coach Bill Walsh who transformed the San Francisco 49ers, the NFL's worst team in 1979, into a football powerhouse through a combination of organization innovation, player management, and determination, in a study of success and the price it exacts. 50,000 first printing.
Exemplary . . . the rare biography that lives up to its subtitle's lavish claims.-New York Times Book Review
“ David] Harris illustrates Bill] Walsh's incredible passion for the game, his competitive drive, and even his whimsical sense of humor. Walsh was one of the NFL’s greatest coaches, and Harris’s book does him justice.-Booklist
The personal drama of Walsh's career is told with such verve that even nonfans will be riveted.-Publishers Weekly
Because of Harris's] exhaustive reporting, the reader feels in good hands.”—Wall Street Journal
Recommended.-Library Journal, starred review
From the Trade Paperback edition.
About the Author
David Harris is the author of ten books–including his widely acclaimed study of the professional football business, The League–and a former contributing editor at The New York Times Magazine and Rolling Stone. He has been a Forty Niners fan since he was ten and first crossed paths with Bill Walsh as a Stanford student in the 1960s. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Table of Contents
"A little bit of dignity and class" — You can only kiss a guy's ass so far — The right fit — Growing into the game — Climbing the ladder — The greatest disappointment — Opportunity knocks — Marching orders — An eye for talent — How to coach — Forty Niners football — That kind of season — Building a team — The least likely moment to say things look good — "Our time will come" — Who's next? — Worst to first — Life in a fishbowl — Back-to-back? — The collapse — Pain around the edges — Serious business — As close to perfect as you can get — Redemption — "What do you think of that West Coast Offense now?" — Banged up, beaten down, then shattered — A different drummer — Dimishing returns — Fool's gold — Bill v. Bill, Joe v. Steve — Falling apart and coming together — Destiny — Epilogue : The genius, rest in peace.
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