- West Coast offense
American football, "West Coast Offense" ("WCO") is one of two similar but distinct offensive-strategic-systems of play: (A) the "Air Coryell" system; or (B) more commonly the pass play system popularized by Bill Walsh. However, WCO may simply refer to an offense that places a greater emphasis on passing than on running.
History and use of the term
The term "West Coast Offense," as it is now commonly used, derives from a remark made by then-
New York Giantscoach Bill Parcellsafter the Giants defeated the San Francisco 49ers17-3 in the 1985 playoffs. Parcells, a believer in tough defense over finesse-oriented offense, scornfully derided the 49ers' offense with the statement, "What do you think of that West Coast Offense now?" [ [David Harris, "The Genius: How Bill Walsh Reinvented Football and Created an NFL Dynasty," from Random House, 2008] ] In 1993a Bernie Kosarquote was publicized by " Sports Illustrated" writer Paul Zimmerman(or "Dr. Z"). Originally the term referred to the " Air Coryell" system used by two west coast teams beginning in the 1970s, the San Diego Chargersand Oakland Raiders. However, a reporter mistakenly applied Kosar's quote about the Air Coryell system to the 1980s-era attack of Walsh's San Francisco 49ers. [ [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/inside_game/dr_z/news/1999/10/28/inside_football/ 1999 SportsIllustrated.com article] . Retrieved 20 May 2005.] Initially, Walsh resisted having the term misapplied to his own distinct system, but the moniker stuck. Now the term is also commonly used to refer to pass-offenses that may not be closely-related to either the Air Coryell system or Walsh's pass-strategy.
West Coast Offense: Air Coryell
Kosar used the term to describe the offense formalized by
Sid Gillmanwith the AFL Chargers in the 1960s and later by Don Coryell's St. Louis Cardinals and Chargers in the 1970s and 1980s. Al Davis, an assistant under Gillman, also carried his version to the Oakland Raiders, where his successors John Rauch, John Madden, and Tom Florescontinued to employ and expand upon its basic principles. This is the "West Coast Offense" as Kosar originally used the term. However, it is now commonly referred to as the "Air Coryell" timed system, and the term West Coast Offense is usually instead used to describe Bill Walsh's system.
The offense uses a specific naming system, with the routes for
wide receivers and tight ends receiving three digit numbers, and routes for backs having unique names. For example, a pass play in 3 digit form might be "Split Right 787 check swing, check V". (see Offensive Nomenclature). This provides an efficient way to communicate many different plays with minimal memorization.
Walsh's West Coast Offense
Walsh formulated what has become popularly known as the West Coast Offense during his tenure as assistant coach for the
Cincinnati Bengalsfrom 1968-75, while working under the tutelage of mentor Paul Brown. Walsh installed a modified version of this system when he became head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Walsh's 49ers won three Super Bowls during this period, and as a result, Walsh's version has come to be known as the "West Coast Offense."
Several of Walsh's coordinators went on to successfully implement this system at other teams.
George Seifertwon two Super Bowls with the 49ers. Mike Shanahanwon two Super Bowls with the Denver Broncos. Mike Holmgrenwon a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packersand coached in another with the Seattle Seahawks. Holmgren's assistant Jon Grudenwent on to win a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
At the college level,
LaVell Edwardsand Dewey Warren created an offensive system similar to the West Coast Offense at Brigham Young University(BYU) in 1973 ["He put in the West Coast offense before it was known as the West Coast offense. And he did it at a time when college football teams were winning national championships with the run and not the pass." [http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2000/Sep-22-Fri-2000/sports/14445555.html Las Vegas Review-Journal, September 2000] . Retrieved 15 July 2008.] This offense culminated in a NCAA Division I-A national football championshipfor BYU in 1984 and a Heisman Trophy for Ty Detmerin 1990. BYU broke over 100 NCAA records for passing and total offense during Edwards' tenure. Several coaches and players associated with BYU's football program had success with this offense at BYU and elsewhere including: Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid, Brian Billick, Ted Tollner, Doug Scovil, Norm Chow, Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, and Steve Sarkisianamong others.The reason for the success in this version of the offense is that it cuts down on complexity. Norm Chow says offenses have around 12 basic pass plays and 5 basic run plays (with screens)--those plays are run from many formations, with plays tagged for a little versatility, so that the players know the offense by the second day of practice. Former Pittsburgh and Stanford head coach Walt Harrisalso used a variation of the West Coast Offense during his stint at Pittsburgh.
The popular term "West Coast Offense" is more of a philosophy and an approach to the game than it is a set of plays or formations. Traditional offensive thinking argues that a team must establish its running game first, which will draw the defense in and open up vertical passing lanes downfield ("i.e.", passing lanes that run perpendicular to the
line of scrimmage).
Bill Walsh's West Coast Offense, however, differs from traditional offense by instead emphasizing a short, horizontal passing attack to help stretch the defense out, thus opening up running lanes. The West Coast Offense as implemented under Walsh features precisely run pass patterns by the receivers that make up about 65% to 80% of the offensive scheme. With the defense stretched out, the offense is then free to focus the remaining plays on longer throws (more than 14 yards) and mid to long yard rushes.
Walsh's West Coast Offense attempts to open up running and passing lanes for the backs and receivers to exploit, by causing the defense to concentrate on short passes. Since most down and distance situations can be attacked with a pass or a run, the intent is to make offensive play calling unpredictable and thus keep the defense's play "honest".
Beyond the basic principle of passing to set up the run, there are few rules that govern Walsh's West Coast Offense. Originally the offense used two split backs, giving it an uneven alignment in which five players aligned to one side of the ball and four players aligned on the other side (with the quarterback and center directly behind the ball). Although Walsh-influenced teams now commonly use formations with more or fewer than two backs, the offense's unevenness is still reflected in its pass protection philosophy and continues to distinguish it from single back passing offenses. Throughout the years, coaches have added to, adjusted, modified, simplified, and enhanced Bill Walsh's original adaptation of the Paul Brown offense. Formations and plays vary greatly, as does play calling.
Another key part of the Walsh implementation was "pass first, run later." It was Walsh's intention to gain an early lead by passing the ball, then run the ball on a tired defense late in the game, wearing them down further and running down the clock. The
San Francisco 49ersunder Walsh often executed this very effectively.
Another key element in Walsh's attack was the three step dropback instead of traditional seven step drops or shotgun formations. The three step drop helped the quarterback get the ball out faster resulting in far fewer sacks. "WCO" plays unfold quicker than in traditional offenses and are usually based on timing routes by the receivers. In this offense the receivers also have reads and change their routes based on the coverages presented to them. The quarterback makes three reads and if no opportunity is available after three reads, the QB will then check off to a back or tight end. Five step and even 7 step dropbacks are now implemented in modern day WCO's because defensive speed has increased since the 80's. Some modern WCO's have even used shotgun formations (e.g. Green Bay, Atlanta '04-'06).
The majority of West Coast Offense routes occur within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. 3-step and 5-step drops by the quarterback to take the place of the run and force the opposing defense to commit their focus solely on those intermediate routes. Contrary to popular belief, the offense also uses the 7-step drop for shallow crosses, deep ins and comebacks. For instance, the
Michigan Wolverinesutilize the 5- and 7-step drops about 85% of the time with West Coast pass schemes implemented by Quarterbacks Coach Scot Loeffler. Because of the speed of modern defenses, only utilizing the 3- and 5-step pass game would be ineffective since the defense could squat and break hard on short-to-intermediate throws with no fear of a downfield pass.
The original West Coast Offense of Sid Gillman uses some of the same principles (pass to establish the run, quarterback throws to timed spots), but offensive formations are generally less complicated with more wideouts and motion. The timed spots are often farther downfield than in the Walsh-style offense, and the system requires a greater reliance on traditional pocket passing.
A Walsh innovation was scripting the first 15 offensive plays of the game (Walsh went as far as to scripting the first 25 plays but most teams stop at 15). Since the offensive team knew that the first 15 plays would be run as scripted no matter what, they could practice those plays to perfection, minimizing mistakes and penalties. Success of the offense could establish
momentumand dictate the flow of the game. Scripting also added an element of surprise, since a defense could be caught off guard by a scripted play that had no relationship to the current situation ("e.g.", a run play on third-and-long). It also gave the coaching staff an opportunity to run test plays against the defense to gauge their reactions in game situations. Later in the game, an observed tendency in a certain situation by the opposing defense could be exploited.
Requirements and disadvantages
The West Coast offense requires a quarterback who throws extremely accurately, and often blindly, very close to opposing players' hands. In addition, it requires the quarterback to be able quickly to pick one of 5 receivers to throw to — much more quickly than previously used systems. Often, the quarterback cannot think about the play, but instead reacts instinctively — and thus is often under the control of the offensive coordinator, calling the plays for him.
This is in contrast to the previous quarterback requirements of other systems, which were an adept game manager and a strong arm. Thus, for example, many people reasoned that
Johnny Unitas, a strong-armed field general would not have fared well in being subservient to the offensive coordinator, and that his long but sometimes wobbly passes would not have worked in the new system. The West Coast offense caused a split still evident today amongst quarterbacks: those who were more adept at the west coast style ( Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck) and those more in tune with the old style ( Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Jim Kelly)
Also, the West Coast offense requires sure-handed receivers comfortable catching in heavy traffic, and the system downplays speedy, larger receivers who are covered easily in short yardage situation. One result has been the longevity of receivers in the West Coast system (such as the notable
Jerry Rice) because a decline in speed is not as harmful, when, in "stretch the field" systems, a receiver who loses a step is a major liability. "WCO" systems also rely on agile running backs that catch the ball as often as they run. Roger Craig was a leading receiver for the 49ers for many years and was a 1,000 yard rusher and 1,000 yard receiver in the 1985 season. Finally, receivers must follow precise, complicated routes as opposed to innovation; so subservient, intelligent players are valued more than independent, pure athletes.
Finally, the West Coast offense, with its emphasis on quick reactive skills, can be seen to further develop the running quarterback motif, where extremely fast running quarterbacks (
Michael Vick, Jake Plummer, Steve Young, Donovan McNabb, Vince Young) are valued, if they are good passers, because in blitz or short-yardage situations, when the West Coast offense's value is negated, the running quarterback can make up this difference by posing a threat to make the first down himself, paralyzing an aggressive defense.
* [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/inside_game/dr_z/news/1999/10/28/inside_football/ 1999 SportsIllustrated.com article]
* [http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2004/writers/dr_z/10/01/drz.mailbag/ 2004 SportsIllustrated.com article]
* [http://espn.go.com/nfl/s/westcoast/history.html ESPN.com explanation of West Coast offense]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
West Coast — may refer to:In geography: * West Coast, Tasmania in Australia * West Coast, Singapore * West Coast, New Zealand * West Coast District Municipality, South Africa * West Coast Municipality, Western Cape, South Africa * West Coast, Western Cape,… … Wikipedia
East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry — The East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry was a feud in the early mid 1990s between artists and fans of the East Coast and West Coast hip hop scenes. Seeming focal points of the feud were West Coast based rapper 2Pac (and his label, Death Row… … Wikipedia
Coryell offense — is the name given to the scheme and philosophy developed by former San Diego Chargers Coach, Don Coryell. Air Coryell was initially a nickname given to the offense of the San Diego Chargers under Coryell from 1978–1986, but now has come be used… … Wikipedia
Option offense — Morris Knolls High school running an option offense The option offense is a generic term that is used to describe a wide variety of offensive systems in American football. Option offenses are characterized as such due to the predominance of… … Wikipedia
UCLA High Post Offense — The UCLA High Post Offense is an offensive strategy in basketball, developed by John Wooden, head coach at the University of California, Los Angeles. Due to UCLA s immense success under Wooden s guidance, the UCLA High Post Offense has become one … Wikipedia
A-11 offense — The A 11 offense is an offensive scheme used in American football. It blends aspects of the Spread option, West Coast offense and Run Shoot. The scheme offers the appearance of having all 11 players in the field eligible to catch the ball, and… … Wikipedia
Spread offense — “Spread offense” may also refer to the four corners offense developed by Dean Smith. The spread offense is an offensive American football scheme that is used at every level of the game including the NFL, CFL, NCAA, NAIA, and high schools across… … Wikipedia
Pacific Coast Professional Football League — Sport American Professional Football Founded 1940 First Season 1940 Last Season 1948 Claim to Fame top level football league on US west coast prior to 1946 … Wikipedia
United States Coast Guard — portal Active 4 August 1790–present … Wikipedia
2006 West Virginia Mountaineers football team — NCAATeamFootballSeason Year=2006 Team=West Virginia Mountaineers ImageSize=150 Conference=Big East Conference Division= ShortConference=Big East CoachRank=10 APRank=10 Record=11 2 ConfRecord=5 2 HeadCoach=Rich Rodriguez OffCoach=Calvin Magee… … Wikipedia