The following is a bit of a primer on WCO principles. The information is NFL-centric, obviously, but the timing issues re QB footwork and pass route depth have application to any form of football.
"Tenets of the West Coast Offense
-- According to Bill Walsh, in the ideal setup, the wide receivers would catch 15 passes a game, the running backs would catch 10 and the tight ends would catch 5. A team is looking for 25 first downs a game. These quantities are referred to as "Walsh's numbers."
-- Short-to-medium-range passing attack. Receivers are expected to "Run After Catch."
-- Players must have more discipline; they have little opportunity for freelancing.
-- Use the pass to set up the run. The most successful WCO teams run the ball well.
-- If a team gains 7-8 yards per run, it can run as little as one out of four plays; otherwise, the WCO calls for an equal number of running and passing plays.
-- The quarterback must be mobile, be able to throw a touch pass with accuracy, and be intelligent. He must throw on rhythm and timing. As Steve Young says, "In contrast, the West Coast offense as it originated with Bill Walsh is any play or set of plays that tie the quarterback's feet to the receiver's route so there is a sense of timing."
-- In the 2-WR, 2-RB, 1-TE base set, any of these five players can be the primary receiver at any given time.
-- Defenses are given a variety of looks, with an offense attacking a defense with more receivers than it can cover. Mismatches and confusion are created on defense by using 2 TE sets, 4 WR sets, and 3 WR sets, etc.
-- Using motion forces a defense to cover players with inappropriate players for coverage, i.e., it creates mismatches.
-- Throw the football on any down or distance.
-- To maintain ball control, short passes to the tight end and swing passes to running backs are key. Use tight ends who can catch better than block if there is a question of personnel. Tight ends are key to a red zone attack.
-- The quarterback must be able to release the ball quickly and accurately on timing after a 3-step drop. Receivers run precision routes. The offense is designed to keep the quarterback healthy.
-- After the QB drops 3-steps back, one of the receivers should be open to catch a pass if necessary. Ron Jenkins calls him the HOT receiver.
-- Power running behind zone blocking to minimize negative yardage plays. This is a departure from the 49ers version of the WCO that used man-blocking and cut blocks and misdirection.
Figure 1. The defensive nomenclature used in this document. (This figure is patterned after Diagram 3-1, Chapter 3, "Coaching Football's Spread Offense," Tim Sowers, Barry Butzer).
[Smith]. Smith, Brian, "Defining Utah's Spread Offense," September 15, 2003.
Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at http://www.4malamute.com/definitions101.html
Steve Young, "West Coast helps QB make good decisions", espn.go.comhttp://espn.go.com/nfl/s/westcoast/popularity.html
Len Pasquarelli, "An offense by any other name..."http://espn.go.com/nfl/s/westcoast/history.html
One more article is revealing re the importnace of QB footwork in the WCO scheme:
It's all about the feet
- Steve Young
"The best way to define the West Coast offense may be to start with what it isn't.
The traditional passing game, which NFL teams ran for years, is based on deep drops, quarterbacks bouncing and waiting for receivers to come open, one-on-one matchups and throwing the ball downfield.
In contrast, the West Coast offense as it originated with Bill Walsh is any play or set of plays that tie the quarterback's feet to the receiver's route so there is a sense of timing.
The offense cannot be taught or run based solely on a playbook. If a coach has no history in the West Coast and wants to teach it based on a playbook, he wouldn't get it. Timing and choreography, not plays, are what make the West Coast offense.
My definition might include a number of teams that aren't generally thought of as West Coast offense teams. In fact, most of the league uses some of the West Coast philosophy and perhaps even the Walsh tree of plays. For the most part, the system and the plays are intersecting, but they don't need to be. The quick slant is considered a staple West Coast play -- dropping three steps, planting and throwing on time and in rhythm with the receiver. But there are tons of ways to design West Coast plays, even if they didn't originate with Walsh.
Two weeks ago I visited the Patriots and met with quarterback Tom Brady. When I asked him about his drops and his reads, he said everything is about finding space, zone routes, man-zone reads, short drops and timing. Brady's footwork tells him when to throw the ball. So, while offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has no West Coast history or ties to Walsh and the 49ers system in his coaching background, the Patriots essentially are running the West Coast offense.
Meanwhile, based on how Kurt Warner and the other Rams quarterbacks throw the ball, Mike Martz does not run a West Coast offense in St. Louis. He uses a more traditional passing game in which the routes are not tied to the quarterback's feet.
Bucs coach Jon Gruden, who worked under Mike Holmgren in Green Bay, will say, "We're not running the West Coast offense. I'm running my offense." Well, that's fine, Jon. And sure, he and other coaches may feel they don't run the West Coast, because they don't run Walsh's plays from 1980.
But I disagree. Although Gruden may run different plays and have different names for certain aspects of his offense, his plays are designed with the quarterback's footwork in mind. And that is the West Coast offense."
-- Steve Younghttp://espn.go.com/nfl/s/westcoast/history.html
I'll have more on this later, but I think this is a good start!
P.S. The best website on the WCO, http://www.westcoastoffense.com appears down at the moment. If and when it is accessible again, I'll give you a head's up.
Oski Wee Wee,