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Understudy Gets Shot At Spotlight
January 19 2002
By Bryan Hersh of 49ers Paradise
“All the world is a stage, and all the people in it merely players. They have their entrances and their exists…” Funny when will William Shakespeare wrote that line football wasn’t even invented. But quite fittingly, Shakespeare described an NFL team through the eyes of a general manager despite him trying to share with us the wonders of theater.

Consider that a general managers job with a team is to make sure it functions as a whole putting on the necessary shows (wins) to bring in audiences (fans). The team its self or even the field of play are a general managers stage. And then there are the players - and no I don’t mean the actors, they as actors tend to do, have their exits and entrances, only where an actor may leave a scene, athletes are more likely to get injured, waived or simply replaced. Shakespeare sure knew a lot about the human psyche.

It’s too bad Shakespeare didn’t go on to talk about the directors in his famous line - had he, perhaps we’d have the perfect introduction for Terry Donahue. Donahue has been Bill Walsh’s understudy since Walsh returned to the team, and Donahue jumped from collegiate coaching to the NFL. Over that time Donahue worked closely with Walsh, absorbing all he could, and putting systems into place that would help him when he took over in the future. He was being groomed.

And now the understudy gets to take center stage as he begins to direct his first off-season. Do not expect much change however. While Donahue is sure to leave his fingerprint on the 49ers off-season, he isn’t flying solo by any means. Bill Walsh is still stage side offering well-received input and as a guidepost. The transition should be smooth.

Donahue is an amazingly organized man and believes in getting input from all of his staff before making personnel decisions. He has already begun taking assistant coaches scouting with him when he can, and is likely to continue orchestrating the long thorough reports on each available player he made famous around 49ers headquarters. Expect lots from Donahue, just not a lot of change from the way Bill Walsh believes things should be run. After all, Donahue is the understudy, and the apple tends to fall not far from the tree.

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