Skip to main content

Longtime 49ers Coach and Executive Bill McPherson Passes Away


Longtime San Francisco 49ers coach and executive Bill McPherson passed away on Tuesday, March 17th at the age of 88.

One of the most respected teachers in the game at the time, McPherson worked in multiple capacities on the 49ers coaching staff for over 20 years (1979-98), serving as linebackers coach (1979, 1987-88), defensive line coach (1980-86), defensive coordinator (1989-93) and assistant head coach/defensive assistant (1994-98). Hired by Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh in his first season with the team in 1979, McPherson was part of San Francisco's five Super Bowl Championships (XVI, XIX, XXIII, XXIV and XXIX).

Following his coaching career, McPherson stayed with the organization in the team's front office, working as the team's director of pro personnel for four seasons (1999-2002) and later as a personnel consultant (2003-05).

A defensive tackle at Santa Clara University in the early 1950s, McPherson began coaching in 1956 at his high school alma mater, San Jose's Bellarmine Prep (1956-62), following his service with the U.S. Army in Korea. He later worked as the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Santa Clara University for 12 years (1963-74) before moving to UCLA as defensive line coach (1975-77). Following his time at UCLA, McPherson entered the NFL coaching ranks in 1978 as the linebackers coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Born October 24, 1931, "Mac" was inducted into Santa Clara's Athletic Hall of Fame as a player and coach (1984) and spent time on the University's Board of Fellows. He is also a member of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame's class of 2005. McPherson held a business degree from Santa Clara (1954) and a teacher's certification (secondary degree) from San Jose State University (1958). McPherson is survived by his wife, Elsie, five children, 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.