When I consider the list of offensive coaching greats in the sport of football there is one name that stands above the rest to me and that’s Bill Walsh. During my coaching career I have had the privilege of learning the nuances of the West Coast Offense out of a playbook that was pretty much a direct descendant of the Bill Walsh playbook and not a variation of that playbook.

The one thing that stands out above all else was Bill Walsh’s knack for innovation.

Many coaches learn from a coach who learned from the coach before him who learned from a coach before him and so on. Not to say that the West Coast Offense was something that had never been seen before because much of it is derived from former Cleveland Brown coaching great Paul Brown. However, what Coach Walsh did was take the concepts of Coach Brown’s offensive philosophy and modify them for the modern game. He was an innovator and not afraid to break the mold. He was not only a great offensive coach but a great Head Coach. Here are thoughts from Coach Walsh on what makes a great coach from his book, “The Winning Edge”.


  • Be yourself.
  • Be committed to excellence. You must be willing to work extremely hard and make whatever reasonable sacrifices are necessary to achieve the organizational goals that have been established for the team. At all times, the focus must be on doing things properly. In reality, the talent level of most NFL teams is relatively even. As such, one of the critical keys to success is execution. Players making plays is what wins football games. More often than not, the primary catalyst for the occurrence of such plays is an unwavering commitment to excellence.
  • Be positive. Your staff and your players will respond better to a positive environment than to a negative one.
  • Be prepared. No aspect of coaching is more important than preparation. While coaches cannot actually control which team wins a game, they can determine how their teams prepare to win. Good fortune on the playing field (i.e., performing well, winning, etc.) is a product of design. Attention to detail is critical.
  • Be organized. It is critical that you make the best possible use of the available time and resources. Being organized is the single best way to avoid wasting either.
  • Be accountable. You must accept responsibility for those matters over which you are in charge.
  • Be a leader. An effective leader is an expert in his field.
  • Be focused. The key point is that at least three elements must be present to build a winning team: talent; strategies and tactics; and conditioning and execution.
  • Be ethical. You must have a strong value system.
  • Be flexible. While consistency is important, if the situation changes, you must change with it. Within the specific framework of your system, you must be bold, creative and willing to take risks when necessary. “There is only one way to do anything: The right way.” (Golda Meir)
  • Believe in yourself. It is also important that you sell your program to your players. They must believe in you in order for them to be able to make the sacrifices that will be required of them. Everyone in the organization (e.g., your staff, the players, the athletic trainers, the team managers, etc.) must believe that your plan for success will be effective.

Coach Van Tassel

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