West Coast Offense

.. ight enhance their playing skills and performance if they lost a substantial amount of weight, the fact is they play pretty well at their current weight. The one absolute essential trait for offensive linemen in the West Coast offense is natural body girth. In addition to girth, offensive tackles in this offense must be very strong and a have a high level of agility. Agility by the linemen in this offense is needed because of the quick three and five step passing game.

An offensive tackle should also have strong, long arms to facilitate those blocking tasks involving tasks involving leverage. From a blocking perceptive, however, the timing of the block itself is the critical factor. In addition, the offensive tackle must have intuitive sense of feeling or knowing where to intersect defenders. In this offense the offensive tackle must be able to adapt to a situation where a linebacker blitzes from the outside and the defender he was expecting to block drops back into pass coverage. This happens often within the offense, again because of the short controlled passing game. As a result, the offensive tackle must be sharp enough to quickly identify the scenario and be able to move and adjust to the circumstances as needed.

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He must also be extremely well versed and prepared in the skills and the techniques required to handle a variety of situations. The nature of the position of the offensive tackle also requires that athletes who play this position possess a level of inner confidence and natural self control that enables them to deal with frustration and, on some occasions in a football sense, disaster. Regardless of the circumstances, the offensive tackle in this offense must be able to regain his focus and function at a high level of performance within 30-40 seconds or less. In reality, some athletes appear to have a better disposition to deal with potentially disruptive elements than others. The next position of similar importance on the offensive line in the West Coast offense is the offensive guard. The ideal size for the offensive guard is about six foot three inches, and the should weigh about 300 pounds.

Similar to some of the other positions on the offensive line the requirements for playing guard in the West Coast offense depend to a great extent on the type of passing and running the team will do. In this regard, two obvious options exist, either the offensive guard has to be selected based on his capacity to contribute to a team’s existing system of offense. Another idea is a team has to style its offense according to who its guards are. Typically, the latter option prevails. A team adapts its offensive style to the abilities of its guards. An example of how a team adapts its offensive system to its guards occurs when a particular offensive guard can or cannot do something to his right or left.

If the left guard can pull and trap, then the team is more likely to run plays to the right with the left guard pulling (and vice versa). The guard positions are personalized according to what they can do. Typically, one or the other offensive guard on a team is stronger or weaker in a particular technique or the ability to get the job done. As a rule, great offensive guards possess several traits, including quickness, agility, explosiveness, the ability to pull and trap, and the ability to go inside-out on a linebacker. Randall McDaniel of the Minnesota Vikings is an excellent example of this type of offensive guard. Although he only weighs approximately 280 pounds, he is an outstanding player in every sense. He fits their form of the West Coast offense perfectly. In the West Coast offense more than anything, offensive guards must be able to pass block.

Generally speaking, girth, stability and body balance are essential factors in this skill. Because the offensive guard can usually get help as a pass protector, he just has to have enough power to avoid being knocked back. Just the sheer number of people inside will help the guard pass block. As a result, the guard can have some limitations as a pass blocker as long as he has enough girth to keep the defensive tackle from picking him up and moving him. The offensive guard position requires less technique for pass protecting than is essential for an offensive tackle. On the other hand, the offensive guard position requires more blocking and movement skills.

For example, in the West Coast offense the guard is used on numerous blocking combinations where he must get from point A to point B, pulling through a hole, trapping, pulling on sweeps, coming inside-out on a blitzing linebacker, etc. Collectively, this capability requires that the offensive guard has agility, mobility, and a refined level of techniques. The last but, most important position on the offensive line in the West Coast offense is the center. The ideal size for the center should be about six foot two inches and weigh about 290 pounds. The offensive center has a critical role in the West Coast offense. Not only must he start every play with a flawlessly executed snap, he is typically the key man in making line calls.

These calls are vital, and there is no way a team running the West Coast offense can do without them. For example, with the constant defensive changes that occur during a game, the offensive line must react to those changes if an adjustment in the blocking scheme is required. Because he is literally at the center of the action (in the middle of things), the center is the obvious member of the offensive line to identify and communicate to the other offensive linemen what blocking adjustment must be made. As a result, the center must have a thorough command of the offensive line blocking system, the game plan, and individual defensive players his team is facing. In a few isolated instances, some teams use an offensive guard to make line calls because the guard is either more experienced or more adept at making them.

As a general rule, the center doesn’t have to be an exceptional blocker. The center usually doesn’t have to block the nose tackle one-on-one, although if he can, it provides a considerable advantage to his team. The center who can isolate one-on-one with a nose tackle will take tremendous pressure off of the offensive line, particularly the guards. Most West Coast offense teams typically find a way to help the center with the nose tackle (slide a line). If the other team is in alignment that doesn’t have a nose tackle (4-3 defense) or has the nose tackle stunt away from the center, the center helps a teammate with his blocking responsibilities.

One additional factor related to the center that West Coast offense teams address is his height. Although there have been successful centers in the NFL who were relatively tall, many West Coast offense teams feel that, all factors considered, a shorter center is better. Not only does a shorter center have lower center of gravity (thereby facilitating body balance), he also tends to be more mobile a trait that offers significant benefits to an individual who must operate in a relatively small area. A large body can be a hindrance in a small area (somewhat analogous to the limitations imposed on a jockey who weighs more than 150 pounds). Most West Coast offense prefer a center who is able to quickly move in between people. In most cases, a shorter center can do that better than a tall, rangy one. Finally, the most important position in the West Coast offense has to be the quarterback.

The ideal size of a quarterback in this offense or any offense should be about six foot three inches and weigh about 210 pounds. Roughly the quarterback needs to be taller than the center. Playing quarterback in the West Coast offense requires several skills and traits some of which can be developed through practice and sound coaching, and others which are inherited (genetic gifts). One of the most obvious requirements for a quarterback in the West Coast offense is have the ability to pass. It is important to realize that arm strength and being able to pass are not synonymous.

Some players can throw a football 80 yards, but they aren’t good passers. Good passing involves accuracy, timing, and throwing a ball with enough touch so that it is catchable. Good passing also requires understanding both the West Coast offense and the receivers in the West Coast offense, and having a great sense of anticipation. While it is certainly admirable to be able to throw a ball on a line for 35 yards, if the ball is off target or arrives in such a way that it is difficult to catch, such an ability is of dubious value. The fundamental goal of passing a ball is to make sure it’s caught by the intended receiver.

One of the more important criteria for assessing the potential of a quarterback to play in the West Coast offense is to what extent does he have the ability to throw a complete inventory of passes from screen passes to times, short passes to medium-range passes and down-the-field throws. Not having a complete inventory of passes in his arsenal does not eliminate a quarterback from a West Coast offense team’s considerations, but it can be a meaningful factor. Two other positions important to the West Coast offense are the fullback and running back positions. The ideal size for the fullback position should be about six foot one inch and weigh about 245 pounds. The running back should be large enough to take punishment and retain stamina.

The main goals for the fullback and running back position in the West Coast offense are to be able to block and catch. In this offense these positions have to able to pick up blitzing linebackers. The most important value for these positions is to be able to catch. These positions in the West Coast offense will probably have more catches than rushing attempts. In the past, the knock against passing teams is that they had no consistency. You might win some games, but eventually a pass first offense will come back to haunt you. Bad weather, a strong pass rush, lack of ball control, too many turnovers, and a host of other reasons were offered as obstacles to sustained success. Through the 1970s, this thinking was supported by the fact that the truly great teams ran the football much more often than they passed it.

However the game has since changed. I believe the fans wanted to see more action within the football games. Pass minded coaches like Sid Gillman, Don Coryell, Bill Walsh, and LaVell Edwards won championships with passing offenses. What I believe caught the attention of many observers was that Walsh and Edwards offensive philosophies was unlike previous air attacks that threw only in long-yardage situations or to surprise the oppositions. Instead Walsh and Edwards approach was to: spread the defense over a much bigger area of the field, both horizontally and vertically; create mismatches in the speed, size, or number of receivers defenders try to cover; thrown on any down and any distance to avoid tendencies that defenses could key on; maintain possession through the air just as other teams tried to do on the ground.

These tenets formed the basis for what is now called the West Coast offense. This high-production, low risk offensive attack has proven itself over the years and is now used successfully by man teams at all levels. The West Coast offense appeals to high school coaches because it does not require players up front who can blow people off the ball, down after down, which is needed in a run based offense. The West Coast offense is a finesse attack that features both ball-control and big play potential. Ball control in way of short, intermediate, and play-action passing results in first downs, moving the chains down field and maintaining possession of the ball.

A series of short passes soon add up to sizable gains, putting the defense back on its heels. Moreover, receivers who can run with the ball can turn short passes into long gains or even touchdowns. There are three main principles to minimize risk and achieve success with the West Coast offense. These include protecting the quarterback, timing the pass, and using multiple receivers (including using backs as receivers). Pressure from the pass rush can result in loss of yardage and can disrupt timing between the quarterback and receivers, resulting in forced passes.

Repeated hits on the quarterback take a toll physically and invite injury. The offense must have a plan to handle the pass rush of linemen, shooting linebackers, and defensive back blitzes. When the defense sends more rushers than available blockers, the hot receiver principle is used in order to get rid of the ball before the rusher can get to the quarterback. Solid pass protection gives the quarterback time to find the open receiver and throw him the ball. The quarterback gains confidence and gets into a rhythm of throwing on time while the defense becomes frustrated because of its inability to get to the passer.

Sound protection is based on effective blocking technique. Blocking for the pass is more than the offensive player positioning himself in front of the rusher. The rusher is surging toward the quarterback. The blocker must stop this surge and force the rusher to start up as many times as possible or redirect him away from the quarterback. Technique must he drilled in game like situations and polished through repetition.

Practice time allotted for pass protections should he proportionate to how much an offense will use the passing game. Pass timing is the next most important element in successfully throwing the football. The depth of the receivers route must time out with the depth of the quarterback’s drop. If the receiver breaks into his route before the quarterback is ready to throw, the defender begins closing on the receiver and arrives at the same time as the ball. If the quarterback is ready to throw, but the receiver has not broken into his route, the coverage begins to converge to where the quarterback is looking and gets a jump on the ball.

Proper pass timing aids the receiver in getting open and permits the quarterback to get the pass off. It establishes a rhythm for the quarterback and receivers. A team that executes its passing attack with near flawless timing is difficult to defend, because in most instances, it simply beats the coverage. The quarterback and receivers must have a thorough understanding of what a given pass route is trying to accomplish and how to run that route properly. Receivers must run routes at precise depths and adjust their route according to the coverage encountered. The quarterback must understand pass defense, recognizing the alignment of defensive secondary personnel and their drops into coverage. He must know the strengths and weaknesses of the coverage and which defender can take away a given route.

Finally, using multiple receivers in the West Coast offense is a definite must. The design of the attack must include a secondary or dump off receiver along with a primary receiver. Their routes will complement each other so that; versus man coverage, a clearing action is provided by one receiver for the other, and versus zone coverage, the defender must make a choice of which receiver to cover. This design increases the chance for a completion, and permits the quarterback to get rid of the ball quickly, since he does not need to wait for his primary receiver to get open. The receivers routes should be in the same general area and at varying depths so that a stretching action is made on the coverage, and one receiver come open before the other.

The quarterback should be able to quickly scan from one receiver to the other, and complete the pass to the open man. He is taught that when the coverage takes away the primary receiver, he will immediately go to the secondary receiver. Even if throwing to the second choice results in a missed first down, an incompletion or possible interception will be eliminated and some gain will be achieved. There’s always chance the receiver might break away for the first down. Throwing the ball to the secondary receiver enough times will soon condition the defense to cover him, opening up possibilities down field.

The West Coast passing attack utilizes all five skill positions as pass receivers in a variety of ways when attacking the defense. By using all skill positions as receivers, the offense can attack the whole field and reduce defensive coverage into one-on-one situations. The nice thing about the offense however is that on any given pass play, a quarterback will have a variety of options, especially on the side of the field that the play is designed to go, and because of this, a receiver is usually open. For example, on a pass play to the strongside, the wide receiver may be called to run deep down the field, the tight end may be called to run an intermediate out route, and the fullback may be called to run a swing pass. If the flanker and tight end are covered, the quarterback should be able to dump the ball off to the back.

Remember, football is a game of field position. Positive yards are gained in the field position war (remember this is the same strategy a traditional running attack tries to accomplish). At best, the back breaks a tackle and picks up the first down. Don’t force the issue, don’t make mistakes. This is supposed to be a low risk offense.

A complimentary benefit is that completions will raise a quarterback’s confidence level. In conclusion, the West Coast offense in my opinion is the most productive offense that could be used in football. I say productive because this offense can be used with average players for maximum benefit. As defenses place more and more emphasis on speed pass rushers, disguised coverages, and attacking, pressure-based concepts, the need for the West Coast offense will continue to grow. Bibliography 1.

Building a Champion. Bill Walsh and Glenn Dickey. Sports Publishing Inc. Champaign, IL 1992 2. Footballs Quick Passing Game: Fundamentals and Techniques Vol.

1. Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. Sagamore Publishing, Inc. 1998 3. Footballs Quick Passing Game: More Advanced Routes Vol. 2.

Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. Sagamore Publishing, Inc. 1998 4. Footballs Quick Passing Game: Implementing the Package Vol. 3. Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. Sagamore Publishing, Inc.

1998 5. How to Coach Footballs Running Trap Game. Jerry H. Laycock. Parker Publishing Company, Inc.

1972. 6. Perfecting the Play Action Passing Game in Football. Mike Koehler. Parker Publishing Company, Inc.

1984. 7. Quarterbacking. Bart Starr and Mark Cox. Prentice Hall, Inc. 1967.

8. Rough Magic: Bill Walsh’s Return to Stanford Football. L. Cohn. Harper Collins Publishers, 1994.

9. Developing an Offensive Game Plan. Brian Billick. Sagamore Publishing, Inc., 1997. 10.

Winning with the West Coast Offense. Mike Lowry. M-Low Enterprises, 1996.


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