The Decision Makers

Mar 9, 2001 at 12:00 AM


The men making the decisions for the San Francisco 49ers are Bill Walsh, John McVay, Terry Donahue, Bill McPherson and Steve Mariucci. These are the men that will decide which free agents the 49ers will sign, which players the team will have to cut, which players to draft and which players will make the team. Each of these men has extensive knowledge about football and the 49ers.

Bill Walsh took over as General Manager in January of 1999. As General Manager he coordinates the daily management of the organization and all aspects of football operations including personnel decisions, the draft and training camp.  

In 1979 Walsh took over as Head Coach of the 49ers. He was responsible for laying the foundation of success that led to the 49ers becoming the most successful franchise over the past two decades. He remained the Head Coach until 1988. Adding to his responsibilities with the 49ers, he became the General Manager in 1982 and took over as President in 1985. Following are some of the many accomplishments that the 49ers as well as Walsh, himself, have achieved.
  • 3 Super Bowl Victories (1981, 1984, 1988)
  • 7 Post Season appearances in 10 years
  • 6 NFC West Division Championships
  • 10 victories in 14 post season games
  • NFL Coach of the Year in 1981 and 1984
  • NFL Coach of the Decade for the 1980's
  • Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993
  • An overall record of 102-63-1 (.617)
Bill Walsh's career includes coaching at Cornell and Stanford as well as being the top analyst for NBC for its coverage of the NFL and Notre Dame games in 1989.

Walsh was also instrumental in the establishment and management of the World League in 1994.

Under the guidance of Bill Walsh, several people have moved up in the coaching ranks including Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Ray Rhodes, Jeff Fisher, Sam Wyche, Rod Dohower, Bruce Coslet, Sherman Lewis, Brian Billick, Gary Kubiak, George Seifert, Jon Gruden and Paul Hackett.

John McVay is the Vice President and Director of Football Operations for the 49ers. His responsibilities include contract negotiations, management of the salary cap and preseason scheduling. McVay served with the 49ers from 1979 to 1995 before his return in 1999. Positions that he has held with the 49ers include Vice President, General Manager, Director of Player Personnel, Director of Football Operations, and Vice President for Administration and Assistant to the President.

As a player at Miami University he was an All-Midwest Selection and two- time MVP as a Center. He has coaching experience at the High School, College and NFL levels.
  • 3 years as Lancaster High Coach
  • 1 year as Franklin High Coach
  • 5 years as Canton Central Catholic High Coach
  • 1962-1964 Assistant Coach at Michigan State
  • 1965-1973 Head Coach/Athletic Director at Dayton
  • 1974-1975 Head Coach/General Manager for Memphis Southmen
  • 1976-1978 Head Coach of the New York Giants
  • 1979-1995 San Francisco 49er Organization
In 1989 he was named the Sporting News NFL Executive of the Year

Terry Donahue came to the 49ers in 1999 as the Director of Player Personnel. His responsibilities include scouting, the draft and coordinating the Pro Personnel department.
  • 1967-1970 Defensive Line Coach at Kansas
  • 1971-1975 Offensive Line Coach at UCLA
  • 1976-1995 Head Coach at UCLA
  • 1996-1998 Lead College Football Analyst for CBS
  • He compiled a 151-74-8 (.665) record at UCLA
  • Most wins for a Coach in PAC 10 History
  • Team made the Top 20 12 times
  • Team made the Top 10 5 times
  • Team appeared in 13 Bowl Games (4 Rose Bowls, 5 PAC 10 Championships)
  • 34 first team All-Americans
  • 14 first round draft picks
Bill McPherson took over as Director of Pro Personnel in 1999 for the 49ers. His responsibilities include research of player movement and evaluation of talent. He has been an assistant coach with the 49ers since 1979. He has worked his way up from Linebacker Coach, Defensive Line Coach, Defensive Coordinator and Assistant Head Coach to his current position.

His other experience includes assistant coaching positions at the High School, College and professional levels.
  • 1956-1962 San Jose Bellarmine Prep
  • 1963-1974 Santa Clara Defensive Coordinator
  • 1975-1977 UCLA Defensive Line Coach
  • 1978 Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker Coach
  • 1979-now San Francisco 49er Organization
Steve Mariucci took over as Head Coach of the 49ers in 1997. He is one of three coaches to win 12 or more games in each of his first two seasons. In his first season the 49ers made it to the NFC Championship Game and had an 11 game winning streak. In 1998 the 49ers had the top rated offense in the NFL. In 1999 the 49ers had one of the premier rushing offenses in the NFL.

As a player at Northern Michigan, Mariucci was a two-time All-American and three time Team MVP. In 1975 he led the team to a 13-1 season after going 0-10 the year before. This was the greatest turn around in college football history. They were the NCAA Division II National Champions that year. He also holds 14 Northern Michigan passing records.
  • 1978-1979 Northern Michigan QB/RB Coach
  • 1980-1982 Cal State Fullerton QB/Special Teams Coach
  • 1983-1984 Louisville Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator
  • 1985 USFL Orlando Renegades Wide Receiver Coach
  • 1985 Los Angeles Rams Quality Control Coach
  • 1986 USC WR/Special Teams Coach
  • 1987-1989 California Special Teams Coach
  • 1990-1991 California Offensive Coordinator
  • 1992-1995 Green Bay Packers QB Coach
  • 1996 California Head Coach
  • 1997-now 49ers Head Coach
As QB Coach with the Green Bay Packers he helped to develop Brett Favre, Mark Brunell, Ty Detmer and Kurt Warner.

These men are the ones responsible for ensuring the success of the 49ers.  They have already started this off-season by restructuring the contracts of several players, including Ray Brown, Junior Bryant, Greg Clark, Derrick Deese, Dave Fiore, Garrison Hearst and JJ Stokes. They also made qualifying offers or tender offers to the following free agents; Lance Shulters, Jeff Garcia, Fred Beasley, Jeff Posey, Wade Richey, Jonas Lewis, Ben Lynch, Ronnie Heard and Chad Stanley. To meet the salary cap restriction they are looking to restructure the contracts of Terrell Owens, Bryant Young and Travis Jervey as well.

The moves made by these men this off-season are a good indicator that they are dedicated to keeping as many 49er players as possible. Although, Ken Norton Jr. and Jerry Rice's departures are imminent, they are doing everything they can to keep as many of the free agent players that the 49ers have. I am impressed with the abilities of these men to manipulate the salary cap and make the decisions, year in and year out that keep the 49ers as a competitive team. I am looking forward to seeing which players they are able to bring in through free agency and this year's draft.
The views within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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