A ridiculous rumor: Walsh returning as 49ers coach

Now, from the Super Bowl in San Diego, we're hearing from 49ers quarterbacks past and present, "Don't be shocked," if Bill Walsh winds up as the team's head coach in 2003. Bill Walsh as 49ers head coach? That's preposterous. "I'm sure that if things got where really nobody emerged, that he would raise his hand and volunteer," Steve Young said. Yeah, right. That's just want the Niners need at this point: A volunteer head coach.

Of course, they aren't exactly doing so great during the first week of the search to replace Steve Mariucci. Suddenly thrust into the position of finding a new head coach to lead the Niners into the future after Mariucci was abruptly fired Jan. 15, general manager Terry Donahue has identified a few coordinators around the league and is in the process of interviewing them. He already has interviewed 49ers defensive coordinator Jim Mora.

Young and Jeff Garcia both appeared at a Super Bowl press conference for the opening of an education center for disadvatanged youths when, naturally, the subject of the Niners' coaching search came up.

Young, who said he had recently spoken with Walsh, 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."

Garcia expressed skepticism at the idea, but gave credence to it when he said, "As much as he continues to hang out at the facility, I don't see why not. I wouldn't be surprised if that were to happen. 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."

And, to add a little more gasoline to the rumor, when asked about the possibility of returning as coach, Walsh told USA Today earlier this week: "You know, I could do a better job today than ever before. I just couldn't handle the eight-month (grind)."

And that's the whole point about why this talk about Walsh returning as coach is ridiculous and presumptuous. Walsh is 71. As he put it, in his own words, he couldn't handle the grind. Now, he's a youthful 71 and certainly has energy left to put into the job. But to expect him to have the kind of energy it would take to continue building on the platform established by Mariucci is not being realistic.

Maybe the 49ers do need to consider hiring a head coach on a one-year interim basis to help them during this transitional phase while they find their long-term coach to lead the team into the future. None of the candidates the Niners have mentioned so far exactly jumps out at you.

That person could come from within the organization, a veteran such as quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner, for instance - though we're hardly suggesting that's the answer. But Bill Walsh? Sorry, that's stepping just too far back into the past. This team needs to move forward.



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