What Bill Walsh is Thinking---3/18/99

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Throughout Bill Walsh's career as a coach and executive he has had a formula for success. In order to understand what Walsh is doing with the 49ers, we must look at this formula that has been revised and edited to near perfection. The first principle for success is to keep a balance of youth and veterans on the team. The second principle is to have depth wherever possible. The third is to have your future quarterback on the roster for as long as possible. The fourth is to keep the players healthy and to stick by your decision. The final is to keep stability in the coaching and quarterback positions. These fundaments are just a few, of Walsh's however they are most likely the most important.

To balance a team with youth and veterans is a very important factor when building a team for the long term. It is essential to have enough elder players with a winning spirit and work ethic in order to teach the youth of the team the winning system that is already in place. This is key factor because as the older players begin to retire, the youth needs to be what keeps the team going. However too many veterans on a team can result in clashing egos and a team that is to slow to compete; and too much youth usually results in an immature team that is to juvenile to make it all the way. Therefore a properly balanced team needs to have more youth then veterans, while keeping enough veterans around to keep the team on pace. The reason more youth is needed here, rather then a fifty-fifty split is because as the youth ages, many will be cut and traded before they begin to decline. The veterans that managed to stick around are a select few that improve with age, such as Steve Young, Tim McDonald, Jerry Rice and Chris Doleman.

To have depth throughout a team is a coach's dream. However it rarely possible to have depth at every position. Still the more youth backing up the first team, the better the chance for the team to continue its success into the future. A player that has grown into the system will already know how the team works, as well as the work ethic and attitude required to be a part of a team. Each team operates differently, thus it is much harder just to plug a player in to a team then it is to groom them to their position. It's too bad free agency and the salary cap have restricted team from compiling depth like they formerly could.

The previous principle is directly related to having your future quarterback on the team for as long as possible. Once again, the quarterback has time to learn the system and develop into his position. The quarterback also has the advantage of learning from the veteran starting ahead. However it is important not to wait too long. The future quarterback should get his shot while he is still young and improving. A thirty five year old first year starter is just a ridiculous thought.

Part of the responsibility of the team is to keep their players healthy. Whether this means that a player is currently injured and wants to play before they are one hundred percent, or if it means subjecting players to unnecessary workouts, or extra play time is irrelevant. Teams are just starting to practice with no pads whenever possible because it keeps the team healthier. The 49ers are restricting Rice's legendary workout because he has aged to the point where if he's in shape, he will be excellent. It is not necessary for a team to put players at risk regardless of if the player wants to work harder or play more or not. A team should always look out for the best interests of it's future and not sacrifice it for a moment of glory.

Keeping stability throughout the team is important. However it is most important at the quarterback and coaching position where leadership is exemplified. As a quarterback or coach ages in their position they become more comfortable and develop a rapport between themselves and other players. These special connections sometimes make the difference between calling the right play, or even a touchdown rather the interception.

Bill Walsh has left his impact on the 49ers, and just as it was about to fade off, he came back to make sure it wouldn't. Already one can see these principles being put to work in the new 49ers. Veterans are being released in Kevin Gogan and Roy Barker, youth is coming up through Jeremy Newberry, and others. Zack Bronson and Lance Schulters will get there turns soon too. The 9ers are trying to retain their own players rather then going free agent crazy. Walsh is scrounging everywhere for a quarterback, and may have found one in Jeff Garcia. He is limiting off-season work outs of Rice and others so that they wont tire by the beginning of the season. Walsh's impact on the team is larger then most realize. Many don't see the benefits, but if one takes the time to look down the road, the benefits are crystal clear, the continuance of a dynasty.

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