After putting together back-to-back losing seasons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could use some inspiration, and they certainly got it on Wednesday when a special guest spent the day at One Buccaneer Place.
Several months after receiving an invitation from Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh accepted this week and addressed the Bucs players and coaching staff on Wednesday.
“I had an invitation from Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen to visit for sometime, and I was finally able to take advantage of it, so here I am,” said Walsh.
Walsh, who is considered the architect of the West Coast offense and led the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl titles and a 102-63-1 record, addressed Tampa Bay’s players a few minutes before they took the field for the OTA. He sent them off to work with a strong message.
“You have to have an atmosphere on this team where every man demands the best of the other,” Walsh said to the players. “You have to demand execution, commitment and sacrifice from your teammates. You must be determined not to take anything but the best effort a guy can give.
“Every man in this room is a Buccaneer, every man has a role to play. You have to bust your butt for every man in the room. Even if you’re just in a service role, you have to work as hard as you can to prepare the other players for the game.”
Walsh, who sported a Bucs polo shirt and hat, observed the OTA and evidently came away impressed.
“I do believe that this is a contending team, no question about it,” said Walsh. “They have a lot of the tools. I was particularly impressed with (Brian) Griese. The entire team has good speed, they know what they’re doing and there’s a lot of skill, so there isn’t any reason to believe that this team won’t be a playoff team next year.”
Last year, Tampa Bay had Hall of Fame defender Deacon Jones address its players during OTAs, and although he had some big shoes to fill, Walsh apparently left a lasting impression on the Bucs brass.
“It’s wonderful for our players to experience this,” Allen said of Walsh, who will also spent Thursday at One Buc Place. “It’s too hard to take the team to Canton (Ohio), so we’re bringing Canton here.
“To me it’s such a memorable experience anytime you learn history from one of the people who wrote history. He’s an author of the heart and great tradition of the league.”
Although he isn’t involved with the 49ers organization these days, Walsh is still a busy man. However, the fact that Gruden and Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett were practically raised in Walsh’s “family tree” of coaches that includes the likes of Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Ray Rhodes, Jeff Fisher, Brian Billick, George Siefert, Sherman Lewis, Bruce Coslet and Gary Kubiak, certainly helped Tampa Bay lure the Hall of Fame coach to the Bay Area for a few days.
In fact, Walsh had some glowing remarks for his former protégé.
“Jon is on the cutting edge of offensive football,” said Walsh. “I don’t think there’s anyone more innovated than Jon Gruden. He has a real edge on a lot of his opposition, but he has to have people who can effectively perform and execute. It appears that this year is a lot better year. Does he have it all together right now? I’m not sure of that. I do know that I was very impressed today.
“He’s become a consomment football coach,” said Walsh. “He’s a great innovator and a great technician. He’s has tremendous energy. I don’t know what more you could ask. His players believe in him. I’m one of those believers. I wouldn’t be here if I thought they were going to lose all of their games. I would’ve just stayed in San Francisco and watched them.”
With his working days as a 49er on hold, Walsh seems to have found his new NFL team.
“This will be my team the rest of the year, so they better do well” said Walsh. “I’m part of the family.”
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