2002 Playoffs Q&A with Bill Walsh

2002 Playoffs Q&A with Bill Walsh

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Hello Mr. Walsh: My question is this: Are my beloved 49ers really good enough to reach the Super Bowl this season? By the way, Steve Young was right, the colors do sort of just bleed into your soul! - Jeff Pexton, Utica, NY
BW: The 49ers have the same chance that every other playoff team does. The parity in the National Football League is so distinct that it is just a totally level playing field for every team. We're optimistic, we're excited about the playoffs but I'm sure every other team is. This is not one of our dynasty teams. If it was a dynasty team, I'd be speaking much more positively. But, we do have a quarterback that can win a game, and that's the essential aspect of playoff football.

Mr. Walsh: Was wondering what were your first impressions of Joe Montana when he first appeared in training camp? I'm sure you weren't saying 'now there's a future HOF'er.' - Jeff Fowler, Auburn, WA
Well, I knew Joe was a great player from some of his games at Notre Dame. He wasn't that consistent in college but he did have some truly great games. His appearance in training camp - a number of our players thought that he was a placekicker before they were introduced. And our star wide receiver in later years, Dwight Clark, was sure that he was a Swedish placekicker. So, he didn't give the impression of what was to come.

Hi Bill, I'm a big fan that moved to S.F. Bay area in 1982 and watched Jerry Rice become one of the biggest all-time players to ever play the game. Did you, at that time, believe that Jerry Rice was not only a Hall of Fame player, but one who would change the game of football forever? At that time, Steve Largent was considered a larger-than-life receiver and for Jerry to have surpassed him was unreal at the time. Will there ever be another Jerry Rice? - Mike Ban
One reason that Jerry's records will not be surpassed is his longevity. He may play up to 20 years, and every time he plays, he breaks a record. I knew he'd be an outstanding player in the National Football League when we traded and drafted for him. He has tremendous stamina, wonderful body control, excellent speed, wonderful hands, but a champion state of mind. And, so we knew he'd be great, but you can never project someone as being the greatest of all-time.

Bill, from a strategic standpoint, which coaches challenged you the most (regardless of teams involved)? - Ronald Borczyk, Pittsburgh, PA
BW: The most difficult coach, the biggest rivalry we had was with Joe Gibbs of the Washington Redskins. He had great teams. They were extremely well coordinated and extremely well coached and they played with great intensity. So, our biggest rival over the years was the Redskins. But also the New York Giants with Bill Parcells - he was an outstanding coach. And, that rivalry with those two clubs and the 49ers was really a rivalry of greatness because all three teams had dynasties during that period.

How important was Tom Rathman to the offense you designed? He put up numbers no other "west coast" fullback has even got close to. Is this because you valued the fullback more or was he just more talented than the rest?
BW: Well, Tom was the ideal fullback for any system but particularly ours. He had excellent hands. He was fine pass receiver. But, most importantly, he was a great blocker. He was the best blocker of his time at the fullback position. Also, as a ball carrier, he had better speed than people thought. And, he could walk right through certain (players) - he liked defensive backs as tacklers. So, Tom fit in beautifully with Roger Craig - two Nebraska football players - to give us the best backfield of that era.

Hi Bill: I was wondering what your assessment was of Tom Brady & Chad Pennington. Am I correct to believe that these two will make for a very interesting Pats/Jets rivalry over the next decade? Thanks for taking the question. - MJF
Both are outstanding. Pennington appears to have unlimited potential. He could very well become one of the great quarterbacks in football. Brady is like a Bob Griese or Bart Starr quarterback. He can manage his team, he can lead his team, he's a good passer. But, as time passes, it could very well be that Pennington becomes the ultimate quarterback in the NFL.

Bill, As a fan of the Niners since '83 some 6,000 miles away from San Francisco in Wales - I have the following question for you: Looking back from the time you took the Niner coaching job in '79, if you were able to go back in time and do one thing differently - it could be a play call in a game, a personnel move or whatever. What would the one thing you'd do differently be? - Wyn Morgan, Wales
We had an opportunity to draft Mike Singletary. We traded that choice to the Chicago Bears, who then drafted Mike Singletary, who became a Hall of Fame football player - one of the great linebackers of all-time. So, he was there for our bidding. But, on the other hand, with that trade, we drafted two outstanding players - Michael Carter and Jeff Fuller - who were Super Bowl champions. But, I do wish - as I look back - that Mike Singletary would have been a part of the 49er organization.

Who would you choose out of the quarterbacks in the league today, to run your offense?
BW: Virtually all the outstanding quarterbacks could run our offense very, very successfully. I don't see much differentiating between; let's say a Michael Vick and Brett Favre as an example. They could all run facets of our offense and we would emphasize the strengths they have, those skills they have.

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