Contra Costa Times

Walsh returning to 49ers sideline?
January 24, 2003
Young and Garcia believe the ex-coach could offer his services

By Cam Inman

SAN DIEGO - Bill Walsh coached the 49ers to their first Super Bowl victory 21 years ago today.

Might he return to coach the 49ers, again?

Former 49ers quarterback Steve Young and his successor, Jeff Garcia, both said Thursday they wouldn't be surprised if Walsh volunteers to coach the 49ers on an interim basis if the team's search for Steve Mariucci's replacement stalls.

"I'm sure that if things got where really nobody emerged, that he would raise his hand and volunteer," said Young, noting that he talked with Walsh earlier this week.

Young said he wasn't being facetious and pointed out that he voiced a similar prediction last weekend on ESPN, where he works as an in-studio, game-day analyst.

"I said don't be shocked if as the search goes on and the search goes on and they think the guy's not available now -- (Walsh) has not said this, by the way, this is me talking -- that if the guy's not found and they think maybe they'd find him in a year, that (Walsh) might be able to bridge that," Young said while attending a youth educational center dedication along with Garcia and NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue. "Don't be shocked."

Garcia was skeptical but said he also wouldn't be too surprised if Walsh trades in his role as a team consultant to replace Mariucci, who was fired by 49ers owner representative John York nine days ago.

"As much as he continues to hang out at the facility, I don't see why not," Garcia said. "I wouldn't be surprised if that were to happen, but I don't see us going in that direction. But it wouldn't shock me. The guy still has a youthful exuberance about him. Bill can coach the game."

Walsh, 71, won three Super Bowls in his 10-year stint as 49ers coach from 1979-1988. He turned his job -- and the dynasty he built -- over to then-defensive coordinator George Seifert, who won two Super Bowls in eight seasons before being replaced by Mariucci in 1997.

Terry Donahue, the 49ers general manager who is spearheading the coaching search, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Donahue said Tuesday he plans to interview six to eight candidates. He began that phase Tuesday and Wednesday by meeting with 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora.

Other preliminary candidates include New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, Eagles offensive coordinator Brad Childress and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, whom the 49ers on Thursday obtained permission to speak with, according to a team spokesman.

"If you're going to fire a coach, you have some sort of idea what you're going to do and I think they have an idea now," Young said. "I've talked to Bill and he's got a firm hold on what he wants to accomplish. The biggest issue is to find a guy who can build on what Steve did, and Steve built a great foundation."

Asked about the possibility of returning as coach, Walsh said in USA Today on Monday: "You know, I could do a better job today than ever before. I just couldn't handle the eight-month (grind)."

Walsh told the Times last month: "At this stage, I wouldn't want to be out there every day coaching, because I've done that. ... I think I'd be better now than I'd ever been.

"You'll find when you get a little older, you'll get better and better. You won't lose it. If you can only remember," Walsh added, laughing. "When I was at Stanford (in his second stint, 1992-94), I designed a play, a brilliant play. ... When we'd get in the game, I couldn't remember the name I gave it. I couldn't remember because I'd just done it that week. I gave it something like, 'Tornado.' I'd call, 'Hurricane.' What's that? 'Rain storm.' Then it'd be too late."

Walsh, who was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, owns a 102-63-1 coaching record with the 49ers, including a 10-4 postseason mark. He returned as a consultant from 1996-97, and came back again in January 1999 to become general manager of the salary cap-plagued team. He turned over general manager duties to Donahue on May 2, 2001, and then signed on as a consultant through the 2003 season.

"The last thing you want to do is have someone come in and say, 'Oh, that doesn't work. I'm going to tweak it, change it, throw it away,'" Young said of the 49ers search. "It sounds to me Terry has basically said, 'We're going to make sure the fundamental underpinnings of who we are as an organization stay.' So that's the key. So who is that guy?"

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