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What kind of offense do we run?

  • thl408
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The WCO as Walsh ran it no longer exists due to the reasons listed regarding the evolution of defenses and the LB position, but the principles that Walsh introduced are timeless.

I agree that the 49ers do use WCO terminology for play calling, I swear I read that in a coach's interview somewhere, but I fail to see the major principles of a WCO in their current offense. I'll list them in my order of most significant to least (anyone, please feel free to add/comment):

- Ball control passing (short passes, RB involvement) : In 13-14, NOPE
- Timed QB dropbacks to WR routes: NOPE (I see very little of this)
- Progression Read passing attack: NOPE
- Terminology in playcalling - YES
- Pass to set up the run: NOPE
- Using the three man triangle stretch: just a little, so YES
- Half field reads for the QB: YES
- Pre-snap motion to gain intel and create mismatches: YES
- QB rollouts: YES
- Beating the blitz with a quick pass (as opposed to added protection): NOPE

So the three categories I hold most important to WCO is not being used by the 13-14 49er offense, in my observation. Someone brought up that the run/pass ratio for the 49ers in the glory days was very even, I agree (proven with stats). But it's not about the run/pass ratio, it's about which comes first within a game. The 49ers of today are run first, whereas the Joe/Steve WCO were pass first.

With the double TE/jumbo sets, I formation power running, lack of ball control passing, run first mentality, and coverage read passing plays, I don't see the 49er offense of 13-14 resembling much of a WCO on the field. Every offense in the league uses some concepts from the WCO, but that doesn't make them a WCO in my eyes.
100% agree thl408.

I often times see clear WCO running and passing formations but they aren't run LIKE a WCO play. For instance, running AR1 or 2's out of a WCO formation or ONLY a primary read with zero high-to-low progressions (i.e. no secondary receiver option, TE's and RB options).

Its still a conglomerate offense to me.
Originally posted by thl408:
The WCO as Walsh ran it no longer exists due to the reasons listed regarding the evolution of defenses and the LB position, but the principles that Walsh introduced are timeless.

I agree that the 49ers do use WCO terminology for play calling, I swear I read that in a coach's interview somewhere, but I fail to see the major principles of a WCO in their current offense. I'll list them in my order of most significant to least (anyone, please feel free to add/comment):

- Ball control passing (short passes, RB involvement) : In 13-14, NOPE
- Timed QB dropbacks to WR routes: NOPE (I see very little of this)
- Progression Read passing attack: NOPE
- Terminology in playcalling - YES
- Pass to set up the run: NOPE
- Using the three man triangle stretch: just a little, so YES
- Half field reads for the QB: YES
- Pre-snap motion to gain intel and create mismatches: YES
- QB rollouts: YES
- Beating the blitz with a quick pass (as opposed to added protection): NOPE

So the three categories I hold most important to WCO is not being used by the 13-14 49er offense, in my observation. Someone brought up that the run/pass ratio for the 49ers in the glory days was very even, I agree (proven with stats). But it's not about the run/pass ratio, it's about which comes first within a game. The 49ers of today are run first, whereas the Joe/Steve WCO were pass first.

With the double TE/jumbo sets, I formation power running, lack of ball control passing, run first mentality, and coverage read passing plays, I don't see the 49er offense of 13-14 resembling much of a WCO on the field. Every offense in the league uses some concepts from the WCO, but that doesn't make them a WCO in my eyes.

I agree with this assesment. WCO was never about formations, it was always about core principles and concepts. I remember in an interview Steve Young essentially said the WCO is tying the QB feet to the WR routes. I totally agree with you about Ball control passing being the number 1 aspect of the Walsh offense. That right there is where the Niners were 2 decades ahead of the NFL.

I was the one that posted the P/R ratios, but it was more of an illustration that the preception of the WCO being a all pass offense being false. In fact I would be willing to bet that if the you could get 1st half P/R ratios during the dynasty days it would approach 65-70% pass vs rush. However i still find it funny that the drive that resulted in "the catch" and launched the dyansty was an 11 play 89 yard. However of the 11 plays, 9 of them were runs.
  • thl408
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Originally posted by Niners816:
I agree with this assesment. WCO was never about formations, it was always about core principles and concepts. I remember in an interview Steve Young essentially said the WCO is tying the QB feet to the WR routes. I totally agree with you about Ball control passing being the number 1 aspect of the Walsh offense. That right there is where the Niners were 2 decades ahead of the NFL.

I was the one that posted the P/R ratios, but it was more of an illustration that the preception of the WCO being a all pass offense being false. In fact I would be willing to bet that if the you could get 1st half P/R ratios during the dynasty days it would approach 65-70% pass vs rush. However i still find it funny that the drive that resulted in "the catch" and launched the dyansty was an 11 play 89 yard. However of the 11 plays, 9 of them were runs.

SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.
Originally posted by thl408:
Originally posted by Niners816:
I agree with this assesment. WCO was never about formations, it was always about core principles and concepts. I remember in an interview Steve Young essentially said the WCO is tying the QB feet to the WR routes. I totally agree with you about Ball control passing being the number 1 aspect of the Walsh offense. That right there is where the Niners were 2 decades ahead of the NFL.

I was the one that posted the P/R ratios, but it was more of an illustration that the preception of the WCO being a all pass offense being false. In fact I would be willing to bet that if the you could get 1st half P/R ratios during the dynasty days it would approach 65-70% pass vs rush. However i still find it funny that the drive that resulted in "the catch" and launched the dyansty was an 11 play 89 yard. However of the 11 plays, 9 of them were runs.

SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

Totally. And these Bill Walsh 1-7 Quarterback training videos are epic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhnYVvtrrLs

They really get good from 2 on: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVYYPlSGUoU

I think the best part of these videos is not so much learning how to play QB in the WCO from BW himself (with Montana demonstrating) but the calculated perspectives of WHAT a WCO actually is. It's true foundation. You can see why I call our current offense the Anti-WCO.
[ Edited by NCommand on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:18 PM ]
Originally posted by thl408:
SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

Speaking of progression, I always remember that one play vs New England in '12 when he hit Delaine Walker on the wheel route for a 35+ yard TD. In the replay your could see him go thru a set progression. I think it was Crabs post/Cross, VD seam, and Walker Wheel. So, I have little doubt that Kap is able to do it, it just seams that we are content with decoying a single wr open or letting kap run. I'm fine if you do this a couple of times a game but I have a problem when most of your passes look this way. You can not consider yourself a WCO and not use a progression passing system.
  • thl408
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Originally posted by thl408:
SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

Not sure why link isn't working, here's Young's interview (below):
__________________________________________
Why is the West Coast offense so popular in today's NFL, more than 30 years after Bill Walsh introduced it? Because the quarterback can make good decisions with the football if his footwork is timed with the receivers' routes.

When I joined the USFL's L.A. Express in 1984, my first professional offensive coordinator was Sid Gillman, who was one of the primary influences on Walsh's West Coast philosophy. I remember what Sid told me: "How can you make a decision if you have no sense of timing? You are just waiting, waiting, waiting. Then you have to set your feet and throw the football. By then it's too late."

The first time Sid saw me, he said, "Look, your footwork is horrible." I had never cared -- and knew nothing -- about my footwork; I just got it done on the field. But Sid was the first coach to tell me that my footwork decided how I would play. If Sid could get a hold of most of today's quarterbacks, he would say the same thing: "Your footwork is horrible."

Sid also told me about Johnny Unitas' footwork. Even though there was no such thing as the West Coast offense when Unitas played, he was probably the original West Coast quarterback, because he and Raymond Berry tried to synch up their plays from a timing standpoint.

Because I played for Sid, I knew footwork was important when I got to San Francisco in 1987. I had gone to the best place to perfect it. Bill was essentially preaching the same things as Sid, knowing by my footwork when to throw the ball.

I remember Bill yelling at me, "Steve, no one knows where you are going to be. You've got to lock this stuff in so you can make reads, give the ball to people on time and make decisions about where to throw the football based on your feet."

On a typical pass play, I would drop back five steps, plant and throw immediately and on time to the primary receiver. But if I hitched, I would move on to the second receiver. Or I would hitch a second time and throw to the outlet. A third hitch told me I had to leave the pocket. Everything is tied together. In fact, I could watch a game film, cut my body in half, watch only the bottom half of my body and tell you how we played.

When a quarterback learns the West Coast footwork, he becomes more developed, because his feet help him with the reads. His mind is free to digest more things happening around him and more of the field, which increases the quarterback's degree of difficulty. I had reads where I would look toward one side of the field -- bounce -- look to the other side of the field -- bounce -- and then hit the outlet in front of me. But the more I played, the more I understood.

Although the West Coast offense has three- and five-step drops as its meat and potatoes, the offense becomes even more explosive when the quarterback can get more protection, drop seven steps and time his footwork with the receivers' routes. Then the quarterback can attack 20-25 yards downfield with timing.

Artists of the West Coast attack
Of today's quarterbacks, Rich Gannon understands the footwork and is able to thrive in the Raiders' West Coast offense. But the quarterback who comprehends it the best by now is Brett Favre.

Mike Holmgren is a stickler about footwork, and Favre has gotten a bit sloppy with his footwork since Holmgren left Green Bay for Seattle. Brett doesn't always have his feet locked in when he throws. But since the timing is so engrained in him, Brett can be erratic with his feet and still get the job done.

Donovan McNabb has great, fast feet and has learned to lock them in to run the Eagles' offense effectively. Although the offense requires disciplined footwork, it doesn't limit a quarterback with McNabb's athletic skills. Donovan is so talented that he can create all he wants if his footwork is trained in conjunction with the routes.

In Andy Reid's West Coast system, Donovan has found that he is getting rid of the ball quicker, he has a higher completion percentage, the Eagles' offense is scoring more touchdowns, and he can still run the ball every once in a while. That is when the offense gets good -- having a mobile quarterback with West Coast footwork.

Michael Vick doesn't run the West Coast offense in Atlanta, but he sounded like he was willing to learn it when I met with him in July. Although he should have a great NFL career regardless of what offense he runs, I can't imagine the things he could do in the West Coast offense.

It's more difficult for a veteran quarterback to learn it. Vinny Testaverde has had a hard time with the Jets' West Coast offense under Paul Hackett because Vinny was taught a different way. He played for a number of years dropping back, looking at the receivers and letting it go when they were open. It's like teaching an old dog new tricks. I can't describe how much work is involved. The footwork needs to be well-coached, and the quarterback has to be willing.

College: The perfect West Coast classroom
If quarterbacks learned the West Coast offense in college, oh man -- it would make a huge difference. Talk about a feeding frenzy for a quarterback. I would make a coalition of NFL West Coast teams and say, "Let's figure out how to coach this in college. Then we'd have a kid coming out of college we don't have to train." I'm sure Bill Musgrave is coaching it as the offensive coordinator at Virginia because he knows the West Coast offense backwards and forwards.

Detroit Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg, who was my last offensive coordinator in San Francisco, is a great teacher of the West Coast offense. Joey Harrington will benefit from Marty if he gets a chance to continue as the Lions' head coach. There are a number of coaches who have figured out how to teach it, and Mornhinweg is one of them.

The best West Coast coaching job I've seen was when Mike Shanahan left the 49ers, became the head coach in Denver and made it available to John Elway. Shanahan put in the shotgun (something we never did), figured out plays John could feel comfortable with, and amended the offense for an older quarterback who needed to learn it quickly. He told John, "Trust me -- I'll try to make it amenable to you, but trust me."

The best defense? Belichick's Giants
All I heard from defensive linemen my entire career was, "Geez, we rush you and do everything, and we still can't get you because the ball is gone." Try to rush Brady or Gannon or McNabb. The ball is gone. How? Because there is a sense of timing that the offensive players understand.

When I played for the 49ers, we loved to see man-to-man defense. I could get the ball quickly to the receivers. Over the 10 years Jerry Rice and John Taylor played together, how many slant routes did they catch and break for a long touchdown? Several -- and most came against single coverage.

The defense that gave us the most difficulty, however, was the New York Giants through the 1980s and the early 1990s under defensive coordinator Bill Belichick. The defense (generally a two-deep zone) wasn't tactically difficult, and we had the plays for it. But the Giants players -- Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Gary Reasons, Leonard Marshall, Pepper Johnson -- were together so long and ran it so well, they limited our explosiveness.

The Giants always had 11 eyeballs on the quarterback. They played zone, faced the quarterback, waited for me to throw the ball and tackled everything, forcing us to work our way down the field. No one was able to get free runs with the ball. Belichick also understood that he could affect the quarterback's timing if a defensive back got in the receiver's face.

Belichick's defense disrupted our timing much like Tony Dungy's, except Dungy added one more element -- Dom Capers' zone blitz. That was the defense I hated to see the most.

The late Fritz Shurmur, who was Green Bay's defensive coordinator from 1994-98, played a lot of zone and was tough and physical with the tight ends. Some of his players should have been arrested for how they mistreated our tight ends, particularly Brent Jones. But Shurmur knew he couldn't defend our offense unless he disrupted the timing.


--By Steve Young
Special to ESPN.com
Originally posted by thl408:
SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

I love listening to Young talk about football in general, but especially when he starts talking about the glory years. I know he is not Joe, but he has always been my favorite Niner because of the way he handle the pressure of taking over for the greatest QB of all time. The thing that pains me about the last 3 years is had Young been qb we are probably looking at a three-peat. I couldn't imagine the '92,93,95 or '98 offense being paired with the '11-'13 defense. Oh well just a little stupid "what-if" game I always play with the niners I always rewatch as many 80-90s Niners games as I can find and the pure beauty and almost artistic approach of our old WCO is what stands out. I guess that is why we all have a hard time letting it go, it was just so fun to watch. It really was like playing chess when everyone else was playing checkers.
[ Edited by Niners816 on Feb 28, 2014 at 2:24 PM ]
Originally posted by Niners816:
Originally posted by thl408:
SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

I love listening to Young talk about football in general, but especially when he starts talking about the glory years. I know he is not Joe, but he has always been my favorite Niner because of the way he handle the pressure of taking over for the greatest QB of all time. The thing that pains me about the last 3 years is had Young been qb we are probably looking at a three-peat. I couldn't imagine the '92,93,95 or '98 offense being paired with the '11-'13 defense. Oh well just a little stupid "what-if" game I always play with the niners I always rewatch as many 80-90s Niners games as I can find and the pure beauty and almost artistic approach of our old WCO is what stands out. I guess that is why we all have a hard time letting it go, it was just so fun to watch. It really was like playing chess when everyone else was playing checkers.

The beauty of the Joe Monatna and Steve Young offense vs what we run today. Truly comparing apple to oranges, watching those old games is almost painful during the season, but I'd agree the offense would sometimes be so rhythmic that it was incredible to watch.
  • thl408
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Originally posted by Niners816:
Originally posted by thl408:
SYoung interview about footwork (old). It doesn't get much better than hearing it from the horse's mouth when it comes to how the offense he ran operates. Currently, I see Kap's footwork a bit all over the place, which is why I say 'no' to "QB dropback timed with WR routes". My guess is because it isn't stressed by the coaches since they aren't using a progression based passing attack (or very little of it).

I agree with the bolded regarding Walsh's WCO. Like we are saying about the WCO, pass to set up the run.

Speaking of progression, I always remember that one play vs New England in '12 when he hit Delaine Walker on the wheel route for a 35+ yard TD. In the replay your could see him go thru a set progression. I think it was Crabs post/Cross, VD seam, and Walker Wheel. So, I have little doubt that Kap is able to do it, it just seams that we are content with decoying a single wr open or letting kap run. I'm fine if you do this a couple of times a game but I have a problem when most of your passes look this way. You can not consider yourself a WCO and not use a progression passing system.

After digging that play up, I'm on the fence about set progressions on that particular play. I feel it was a coverage read and a great playcall versus the coverage NE presented. As always, up for everyone's own interpretation.

NE: cover 3
SF: All verticals designed to attack the CB along the near sideline. Long developing routes, so 49ers beef up protection.

After the snap, Kap looks to Moss at the top of the screen. CBs bail and form Sky coverage cover3 (2CBs, 1 S).


Kap's eyes pulls the middle deep safety over to Moss' side of the field.


With the middle safety out of the way, the CB on the near sideline is about to have a problem with two vertical routes coming his way. The 4 underneath zone defenders stay at the LB level to obey their assignments.


The CB circled red is stressing on who to cover (VD, DWalker). Whichever one he chooses is the wrong one.


Amazing what a deep threat along the sideline and good protection can do for Kap.


Point is, I am still not sure this play had set progressions. To me, it's a coverage read (middle safety is Kap's key). Where ever the middle deep safety goes is where Kap will not throw the ball. Had the middle safety recognized what the 49ers were trying to do and helped his CB on the near sideline, all three verticals are defeated and Kap should check down.
Originally posted by thl408:
After digging that play up, I'm on the fence about set progressions on that particular play. I feel it was a coverage read and a great playcall versus the coverage NE presented. As always, up for everyone's own interpretation.

NE: cover 3
SF: All verticals designed to attack the CB along the near sideline. Long developing routes, so 49ers beef up protection.

After the snap, Kap looks to Moss at the top of the screen. CBs bail and form Sky coverage cover3 (2CBs, 1 S).


Kap's eyes pulls the middle deep safety over to Moss' side of the field.


With the middle safety out of the way, the CB on the near sideline is about to have a problem with two vertical routes coming his way. The 4 underneath zone defenders stay at the LB level to obey their assignments.


The CB circled red is stressing on who to cover (VD, DWalker). Whichever one he chooses is the wrong one.


Amazing what a deep threat along the sideline and good protection can do for Kap.


Point is, I am still not sure this play had set progressions. To me, it's a coverage read (middle safety is Kap's key). Where ever the middle deep safety goes is where Kap will not throw the ball. Had the middle safety recognized what the 49ers were trying to do and helped his CB on the near sideline, all three verticals are defeated and Kap should check down.

I was going on pure recollection, but after seeing the play cut up like this it does look like a coverage read. Its a nicely designed play and even Gore is wide open on the check down had that been needed. If we are bound and determined to run first and pass second, I think this play would be a great first down tendancy breaker. However it needs to be hammered into kap if the verts are taken away do not force the ball, check it down.

Kaps arm absolutely jumps off the screen when you rewatch this play. Man, if he could be groomed and had a true WCO scheme in place the sky is the limit. He has all the tools to be a 65% 4000+ yards 30 Td guy, you add in his legs and it almost unfair. I badly want to see a full season with a healthy Boldin,Crabtree and drafted/acqired Burner.
[ Edited by Niners816 on Feb 28, 2014 at 5:35 PM ]
After watching Walsh qb's vids it's sickening how our offense doesn't have the alternate routes and incorporation of rbs in the passing game. These 'progressions' everyone is beating to death happen in 3 seconds. Not after routes develop but as they get off the line of scrimmage. Teams can drop LBs in coverage because who is going to fill that void? Not our TE and RBs. The last offensive play of our season had Walsh rolling in his grave. He'd have a fit throwing that ball with WR not even with or past the DB.
Originally posted by thl408:
Kap's eyes pulls the middle deep safety over to Moss' side of the field...

Point is, I am still not sure this play had set progressions. To me, it's a coverage read (middle safety is Kap's key). Where ever the middle deep safety goes is where Kap will not throw the ball. Had the middle safety recognized what the 49ers were trying to do and helped his CB on the near sideline, all three verticals are defeated and Kap should check down.

This seems like another one of our staple plays...3 standard intermediate-deeper go-routes and what many consider a "progression read" is nothing more than CK looking off a S to one side to get better isolation on the other. In this case, it seems more in-light with another Don Coryell pass play?
Originally posted by jbeale49:
After watching Walsh qb's vids it's sickening how our offense doesn't have the alternate routes and incorporation of rbs in the passing game. These 'progressions' everyone is beating to death happen in 3 seconds. Not after routes develop but as they get off the line of scrimmage. Teams can drop LBs in coverage because who is going to fill that void? Not our TE and RBs. The last offensive play of our season had Walsh rolling in his grave. He'd have a fit throwing that ball with WR not even with or past the DB.

Those are FANTASTIC videos...I remember taking cliff notes for everyone a while back on all 7. They very much outline the foundation of a true WCO.
Originally posted by NCommand:
Those are FANTASTIC videos...I remember taking cliff notes for everyone a while back on all 7. They very much outline the foundation of a true WCO.

I love that video, for some reason whenever I think of it the first thing that comes to mind is his instructions on long steps for in breaking routes and quick step for out cutting routes. Nothing better than seeing the master with his star pupil.
[ Edited by Niners816 on Mar 1, 2014 at 7:34 AM ]