49ers Come Full Circle

Oct 12, 2004 at 12:00 AM


It was in 1977 that Eddie DeBartolo took over a 35 year-old franchise that mustered only one winning season in the previous 5 years. DeBartolo took over a 49ers team that could not put it together offensively. At quarterback, Jim Plunkett mustered a paltry 62.1 quarterback rating while throwing 9 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Delvin Williams, the running back, averaged 3.4 yards per carry while earning a team high 931 yards. After the 1978 season, Eddie DeBartolo made a decision that would change the landscape of football forever; he hired Bill Walsh as a head coach and GM, the fourth coach to be hired in a little more than 12 months.

Even though the 49ers went 2-14 during the '79 season, the 49ers went from worst to first in passing offense and 6th in total offense. Running back Paul Hofer chewed up yardage getting 1,277 total yards. It only took Walsh two more years to win his first of 3 Super Bowls.

How did Walsh turn the team around from a bottom feeding second-rate team to an offensive powerhouse? The West Coast Offense.

In a nutshell, the West coast offense is an offensive system predicated on short passes, timing, and quarterback mobility. West Coast quarterbacks need not have a rocket arm, they instead need to be accurate enough to hit your mother-in-law's mole on her right ear from 20 yards away. The offense is predicated on timing, good quick decisions, and a ball control offense that relies on the pass, not the run, to keep the defense off the field. This is the offense that spread to other teams in the NFL like the Macarena.

Why did it spread? Simple: It worked.

Dennis Erickson uses a completely different offensive system. He uses a system based on the downfield, deep pass. He likes to use two tight ends, one running back, and 3 wide receivers. Up until Erickson was hired, the 49ers were a West Coast team. From 1979 to 2003 49er coaches used the West Coast system as the base of their offense. While Erickson's system may work for some teams, in order for THIS team to succeed, Erickson needs to bring the West Coast offense back.

The chances of him doing it are about as good as the chances of J-Lo staying married. But if you look at how the 49ers are built, they are a just asking for it. Tim Rattay works his best when he is in a rhythm. The reason he has a bonkers quarterback rating in the 4th quarter is because he has been able to get in a rhythm. He is accurate, completing 64.4% of his passes this season. Steve Young holds the 49ers record for completion percentage with a 65.8% completion percentage; and he had the benefit of operating under the West Coast system.

More importantly, Rattay has no time to execute Erickson's offense. On the offensive line, Kwame Harris needs to get better faster in order to avoid being labeled as a bust. At best he is a disappointment in his second year. Justin Smiley is a rookie, Kyle Kosier is a utility lineman best used as a backup, not an every down player. Newberry, the Pro-Bowl center, is out for an extended period of time. Rattay has to get the ball out quick because he simply does not have the time to hold it for those deep routes to develop. With 3 and 5-step drops, Rattay can establish a rhythm, move the team up the field, and keep the struggling defense off the field.

Despite preseason prognostications, the running game is struggling. Why not use Conway, a possession receiver, in order to keep the chains moving with screens, slants, and short passes over the middle. Eric Johnson, who leads all receivers (yes, that's including the likes of Owens, Moss and Harrison) in receptions looks likes the second coming of Brent Jones. He already has a career year. Barlow, who is a good open field runner, could get involved with some screens. The 49ers should control the tempo of the game not with their run game, but with the pass.

There is a reason almost every team took a piece of the West Coast offense and integrated it into their offensive scheme. There is a reason that Bill Walsh's disciples go on to be so successful in the coaching ranks. The scheme works, it's that simple. And really, what would the NFL be without the 49ers running the West Coast offense? It looks like the organization has come full circle and the same medicine that worked in 1979 will do the trick a quarter of century later.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


0 Comments

  • No Comments

Facebook Comments



More San Francisco 49ers News



Why Trey Lance will help 49ers receiver Brandon Aiyuk reach his full potential

By Bob Heyrman
May 8

Don't be surprised to see Brandon Aiyuk breakout with Trey Lance under center in 2022 for the San Francisco 49ers. Just when many of us expected the Arizona State product to take a significant step forward in year two, he clearly began the year as an afterthought in the 49ers' offense. As a rookie, Aiyuk proved to be the perfect complement to star receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle hauling in 60 receptions, for 748 yards, and five touchdowns on 96 targets. Aiyuk also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns on six carries. Last season, the 24-year-old Aiyuk only had 13 receptions on



Frank Gore has this high praise for 49ers WR Deebo Samuel

By David Bonilla
May 7

When Frank Gore speaks, San Francisco 49ers fans listen. The man is an icon in the hearts of The Faithful. The former NFL running back, who remains the 49ers' all-time leading rusher, has a lot of love for his first NFL team too, always keeping up with new developments and often sharing his opinion on the team he admires most. Gore voiced his opinion on Friday, responding to a tweet asking fans to name the best wide receiver in the NFL. Gore's answer? Deebo Samuel. Not only did he call Samuel the best wide receiver, but he took it further, calling him the "best player all-around" in the NFL (h/t The Spun). That is some high praise from the future Hall



Are the 49ers really underwhelmed by QB Trey Lance?

By Rohan Chakravarthi
May 9

Earlier this week, reports surfaced from FanSided reporter Matt Lombardo that the San Francisco 49ers have been "continually underwhelmed" by young quarterback Trey Lance as he approaches his second season in the NFL. Lombardo further clarified that his tweet was based upon a conversation with an executive who's "pretty tight" with the 49ers, as well as members of the coaching staff last season. Unfortunately, based on the words of multiple players on the team, as well as the coaching staff and front office, that unsubstantiated claim couldn't be further from the truth. Here's a month-by-month breakdown of the comments surrounding Lance following the season, beginning with San Francisco's post-season press conferences in early



Is former 49ers QB coach Rich Scangarello one of the sources for Matt Lombardo's Trey Lance tweet?

By Brian Renick
May 9

Last Thursday, Matt Lombardo of FanSided created a bit of a firestorm on 49ers Twitter when he tweeted out that the 49ers have been "continually underwhelmed by Trey Lance…" I have heard that the #49ers' staff has been continually underwhelmed by Trey Lance … https://t.co/BfypDIHzXo— Matt Lombardo (@MattLombardoNFL) May 5,


Featured

More by Oscar Aparicio

More Articles

Share 49ersWebzone