Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bill Walsh Booklist

By Chris Willis, NFL Films
Bill Walsh (1984)
On this date (November 30th) in 1931 Bill Walsh was born in Los Angeles, California. Nicknamed “The Genius” Walsh coached ten years (1979-1988) with the San Francisco 49ers, where he had an overall record of 102-63-1 (92-59-1 in regular season, 10-4 in playoffs). He won 6 division titles and 3 Super Bowls in those ten years in the NFL. The mastermind behind what would become the “West Coast” offense, Walsh was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993.

Over the years there have been five major books written about Walsh, including his autobiography. Here is a look at all five titles.
Building a Champion

Building a Champion (Published 1990)
Walsh’s autobiography (written with Glenn Dickey, sports columnist of the San Francisco Chronicle), Building a Champion was published in 1990 (St. Martin’S Press) just two years after retiring from the 49ers. In this 272-page volume Walsh gives background and insight into his coaching life; including his stops in Cincinnati and Oakland. He also explains his coaching philosophy about scripting plays; coaching quarterbacks; and building an organization. One of the best football autobiographies you can read. A plus is the Appendix in the back with four pages of Walsh’s most famous called plays including The Catch.

The Catch play drawn up by Bill Walsh
Rough Magic: Bill Walsh’s Return to Stanford Football

Rough Magic: Bill Walsh's Return to Stanford Football (1994)
Rough Magic was written by Lowell Cohn, long-time sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, and published in 1994. Cohn’s book followed Walsh’s return to coach at Stanford. It covers the whole 1992 Stanford football season with unlimited access to Walsh, his players and coaches.
Bill Walsh: Finding the Winning Edge

Bill Walsh: Finding the Winning Edge (1998)
In 1998 Walsh had his whole coaching philosophy and organizational foundation written in a 550-page “Bible.” Co-written with James Peterson and fellow coach Brian Billick, Finding the Winning Edge offers Walsh’s unique blueprint for developing a successful football program, as well as how to hire and develop a qualified staff; evaluate and acquire talented players; designing a winning program; making the right decisions, and so much more. Tons of high school, college, and even NFL coaches refer to this coaching “Bible” on how to run a football program.

Bill Walsh: Remembering The Genius, 1931-2007

Bill Walsh: Remembering "The Genius" 1931-2007 (2007)
Published by Sports Publishing, Inc. in 2007, this short 95-page paperback honors the life and legacy of Bill Walsh. Mainly filled with photos and short one or two page essays, Remembering “The Genius” is a nice collectors piece for fans of the great Hall of Fame coach.

The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty

The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty (2008)
Written in 2008 by David Harris (author of The League) The Genius (Random House) was published one year after Walsh had passed at the age of 75. Harris’s beautiful writing style brings Walsh to life with all of his glories and flaws. Definitely worth a read.

Today, let us remember "The Genius," by reading some of the best football books ever published.


  1. many coaches spend time digging deep into the philosophy, and x's & o's to the level Bill Walsh did? Those 10 years in SF were, and still are fascinating. Your book on the '84 49ers is a MUST READ. Of all his quotes....the one that still holds true is evaluation of QB's....he must be "decisive and accurate"...

  2. Shame that Finding the Winning Edge is out of print. Even used copies of it go for very high prices.

    1. You can find it online in PDF format if you look hard enough.