In tribute to the recently departed Bill Walsh, Cincinnati Bengals fan Jene Bramel reflects on what might have been.
Although Walshâ€™s version of the vertical offense could have been sick with Greg Cook and Isaac Curtis, the innovator found a way to modify his passing attack with short, precise passes and mulitple wide receiving options putting pressure on the defense with timing routes â€” what is now known as the West Coast offense but could rightly be called the Cincinnati offense. Walsh again found a near perfect fit for his new playbook in Ken Anderson, a smart, calm, precise passer. Walshâ€™s offense was clicking for the Bengals in the early 1970s. By the end of the 1975 season, Anderson was running the offense to perfection with a 60% plus completion rate and 8 yards plus per passing attempt. Curtis had been to three consecutive Pro Bowls and was a star. The Bengals had made the playoffs in 1973 and 1975. The future was ridiculously bright.
Then Bengal head coach and patriarch Paul Brown retired and handed the reins to long time offensive assistant Tiger Johnson instead of Walsh, who resigned in disappointment. The rest, as they say, is history. Walsh spent a season in San Diego as an assistant and coached Stanford for two seasons before taking the head coaching job in San Francisco where his offense flourished under Joe Montana. Johnsonâ€™s Bengal teams steadily declined and he was fired in 1978. Cincinnati made two Super Bowls in the 1980s, only to lose both to the franchise Bill Walsh built.
Rest in peace, Bill Walsh. This Bengal fan still longs for what couldâ€™ve been.
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