Sometime in the next few days, network sources say Bill Walsh will sign a new contract with NBC Sports, where he has spent the last two seasons trying to make the transition from a lifetime of coaching football to three hours a week of translating the game on television to the American public.

He has not always succeeded, despite the best efforts of his broadcast partner, Dick Enberg, to get him into the flow of the game as opposed to the minutiae of rotating zones and splendidly executed trap plays. "Coachspeak" shouldn't be allowed on network television, or anywhere else, for that matter. Save it for the news conferences and the players.

Often, Walsh, the so-called genius who put together the San Francisco 49ers' dynasty, has been more coach than color analyst. And lately, according to published reports, he was seriously interested in getting back into the NFL maelstrom, interviewing with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers for a coach-general manager position. Yesterday, the Bucs finally named interim coach Richard Williamson their coach.

How serious was Walsh's interest?

According to at least one NFL general manager familiar with the situation, not very.

"They talked, sure," the GM said of Walsh's meeting last week with Bucs owner Hugh Culverhouse. "You can always talk. But from everything I've read and heard, I think the fire has gone out there. I think he's playing games. It's just so hard for many of these guys to get out of the arena. Once you're the focus of attention, it's very hard to let go. They get teased and they get tempted. They get their name in the paper, and they like that too. But then reality sets in, and you remember what it took to get there. It's a very tough job."

During Super Bowl week, New York Giants Coach Bill Parcells talked about how the profession has changed over the eight years he's been the man in charge. Never mind all those early morning meetings, three-hour practices and late nights working on game preparation during the season, he said. Now, with the huge emphasis on the draft and increased pressure over the last few seasons on Plan B free agency, even the offseason provides little respite from all those endless hours at the office. "There's almost no letup," he said. It wasn't a complaint; it was simply reality."

While television analysis certainly can be a nerve-wracking occupation, it's a walk in the park compared with the life of a professional coach.

Bruce Ogilvie, a professor of psychology at San Jose State, said in the Main Event, a sports journal for physicians, that the NFL and NBA present the two most traumatic environments for coaches for a variety of reasons.

"Big-time coaches are subject to two kinds of pressure that don't bother the rest of us," Ogilvie said. "First, the performance demands by owners, fans and the press are unreal. Making the playoffs is now a minimum requirement, and if you don't get there, regardless of how ordinary your players are, you're made to feel your job is in jeopardy.

"Second, most NBA coaches and many in the NFL have been winners most of their lives, either as athletes or other levels of coaching; otherwise, they wouldn't be where they are. Suddenly, they're in a situation where they can't win, no matter what they do. The result is a feeling of helplessness, anxiety and pressure, enormous pressure. That's a hell of a way to live."

Some people -- the late George Allen comes immediately to mind -- thrive on it. Others, such as Dick Vermiel, drop out. "Every time I even think about getting back in, my wife reminds me about why I got out," Vermeil said recently of his days coaching the Philadelphia Eagles. "I knew what I was doing to myself when I walked away."

Vermeil turned to television -- just as Walsh has done and ought to continue doing. At age 58, does Walsh have anything to prove after coaching the 49ers to three Super Bowl championships in the 1980s and laying the groundwork for the 1989 title as well? Would his considerable ego have been satisfied with taking over a Tampa Bay team and getting it to 8-8?

Only Bill Walsh can say for sure, and he has not been available to comment. Last week, Culverhouse served as his intermediary, saying Walsh told him "that to continue the discussions {with the Bucs} would not be fair to his on-going relationship with NBC."

That relationship now will continue as the network continues to try to make Walsh a star in a new arena. That's no easy trick for a man who occasionally comes off as an imperious know-it-all on the air, an admirable trait for a coach trying to motivate 47 very large and angry men but a negative trait for a broadcaster trying to explain things to viewers.

Listening to Walsh, not to mention many other athletes and coaches turned commentators, one also gets the sense that often they know a lot more than they're telling us. Before the Raiders-Bills AFC title game, for example, O.J. Simpson breathlessly reported that Bo Jackson's hip injury just might be a lot more serious than Los Angeles was letting on. How did O.J. know? He didn't really say. But Bo knows O.J., and O.J. knows Bo. Anyway, you get the picture.

In his second season on NBC, Walsh apparently was getting it too, at least in the eyes of network executives. They obviously have enough faith in his potential to sign him to what certainly will be a lucrative contract. Bill Walsh has seen his future, and it is not coaching.