West Coast Offense Play, Game Strategy, And Coaching Guide

West Coast offense is two similar offensive concepts in American football. Traditional offense emphasizes vertical passing over horizontal passing, unlike Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense.

It stretches the defense, opening up possibilities for longer rushing plays and longer throws. 65–80% of Walsh’s West Coast Offense is built on receivers running precise throw patterns.

These pass patterns dominate the offense. Because the defense is spread out, the offense can focus on 14-yard throws and middle-to-long-range runs.

For the West Coast system to work, a quarterback must be able to make pinpoint passes while still being blind to the defender they will be facing. Find out all there is to know about the West Coast offensive.

 What Is West Coast Offense In General?

West Coast Offense

The common phrase “West Coast Offense” refers not so much to a specific playbook or set of formations as it does to a philosophy and an approach to playing the game.

According to the conventional school of thought in offensive strategy, a team must first establish its rushing game to draw in the opposing defense and create vertical throwing lanes downfield.

Vertical passing lanes are those that are perpendicular to the line of scrimmage.

The traditional offense is distinguished from Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense by its emphasis on a vertical passing attack rather than a horizontal passing attack.

It helps to stretch out the defense, which opens up opportunities for longer running plays and longer passes, both of which can achieve greater gains.

Approximately 65–80 percent of the offensive scheme is composed of precisely run pass patterns by the receivers in the West Coast Offense as Walsh executed it.

These pass patterns make up the majority of the offensive strategy.

Because the defense has been spread out, the offensive team is now free to concentrate on making passes of more than 14 yards and running plays that cover a range of yards from middle to long.

 West Coast Offense Pros

  • The West Coast style calls for the quarterback to have exceptional accuracy and to pass blindly often while getting near the players on the other team.
  • In addition, the quarterback has to choose who of the five receivers is the greatest option to pass the ball to very rapidly, far more quickly than in earlier systems.
  • It gives an effective method for communicating a wide variety of plays with just a small amount of rote learning required. On the other hand, the Walsh “West Coast offense” might, in principle, have greater flexibility since 0-9 digits do not restrict route combinations. However, this comes at the expense of the players needing to complete far more memory work.

West Coast Offense Cons

  • Since the offensive coordinator is responsible for calling the plays, the quarterback often does not have time to think about the play and is instead required to behave robotically, carrying out the play in precise accordance with the instructions given to him by the offensive coordinator.
  • The duties expected of quarterbacks in prior systems, such as having a powerful arm and being good at managing the game, are no longer necessary under this system.
  • Many observers concluded that Johnny Unitas, a powerful field general, would not have done well in the position of being submissive to the offensive coordinator and that his long passes, which might be errant at times, would not have been effective in the West Coast Offense.

Complete West Coast Game Strategy

west coast offence

The West Coast Offense is based on its configuration and the quarterback taking three to five steps backward while dropping back into pass formation. These 3-step and 5-step drops have become second nature in today’s game.

Running backs and tight ends are converted to receiving positions by WCO.

Running backs and tight ends are either coming out of the backfield to run swing, curl, or hitch routes or they are joining the wide receivers and spreading out wide over the line. Behind the line of scrimmage, WCO utilizes several different backs.

Because these short routes are synced to meet the dropbacks of the quarterback, it is possible to have precisely timed completions on simple and short passes.

Because of this aggressive passing assault, the opposition is forced on its heels, which makes it possible for a running game built on the trap, counter, and toss plays to emerge.

And once the defense is compelled to defend the run, a crucial play design that originated from WCO and is known as “play-pass” or “plays action” comes into play.

Walsh believed that the play-action pass was the finest play to call against the most disciplined defense.

The rapid completion of passes of three to five yards and the execution of small running plays opened the door for the potential of a massive play farther down the field.

Even though the execution of these many parts and play calls might seem quite different, quarterbacks and coordinators should have no trouble implementing them.

Throughout the game, Walsh only used a select few play calls. When both teams use the same formation and tempo, it is difficult for the opposing defense to get a read on the game.

Important Positioning On West Coast Offense 

Virtually every play that comes out of a West Coast Offense will feature the same group of players on the field.

Although there is a possibility that there could be some minor alterations made to the personnel grouping, such as adding a wide receiver by exchanging one of the running backs, most of the tinkering in this offense takes place with the formation, not the positions themselves.

The following is the usual formation for all plays on the West Coast:

  • Guards (G) – Both Guards (G) begin the round in their normal positions, to the left and right of the arena’s centre.
  • Offensive Tackles (T) -Both Offensive Tackles (T) begin the game in their normal positions, which are on the perimeter of the guards.
  • Tight End (TE): The player that starts the play beyond the offensive tackle on either side of the field, depending on which play call is being executed.
  • X Wide Receiver (X) – Begins the play lined up wide along the sideline at the line of scrimmage, on the side of the center opposite where the tight end is positioned.
  • Z Wide Receiver (Z) – Starts lined up wide near the sideline off the line of scrimmage, on the same side of the center as the tight end. Z Wide Receiver (Z) – Starts lined up wide near the sideline off the line of scrimmage.
  • Quarterback (QB) – The quarterback, sometimes known as the QB, starts each play positioned under the center to take the snap.
  • Fullback (FB): The fullback lines up exactly behind the quarterback (or slightly to the quarterback’s right or left), three to five yards from the line of scrimmage.
  • The halfback (HB) positions themselves in the backfield of the field. The vast majority of the time, he will line up to the fullback’s left or right at the same depth as the fullback. 

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Who Should Or Not Use The West Coast Offense 

west coast offence

Should Use Of The West Coast Offense

  • Teams That Have a Powerful Arm

Even though quarterbacks in the West Coast Offense will take just a three or five-step drop on passing plays, they will still need to have a strong arm to be successful. It is because they will be throwing the ball all over the field and will be required to do so accurately and with a good deal of zipping on the ball.

  • Teams That Have an Intelligent Quarterback

The quarterbacks in this system will need to be able to read defenses rapidly and make changes on the fly quickly to be successful. When taking a short drop back, getting rid of the ball as fast as possible is essential to prevent being sacked.

  • Teams That Contain a Wide Range of Receivers for the Pass

The West Coast Offense is well-known for using at least two wide receivers, tight ends, fullbacks, and halfbacks in addition to wide receivers. A wide array of players skilled with their hands is required for a team to have any chance of reaching its full potential.

Should Not Use The West Coast Offense

west coast offence

  • Teams That Rely Mostly On Running The Ball

The West Coast Offense will undoubtedly include running plays to maintain a healthy balance within the assault. On the other hand, this system prefers to utilize the short passing game as an extension of the running game rather than the other way around. Therefore, it is not ideal for teams who want to run the ball hard and pound it into the ground.

  • Teams That Do Not Possess Offensive Linemen Who Are Agile

The West Coast Offense does not rely heavily on jumbo packages that include additional linemen. It is common to practice for the tight end to participate in passing plays by running routes. As a result, teams need to possess an offensive line that is agile and can switch directions quickly.

  • Teams That Are Not Equipped With Capable Route Runners

It is not enough for a West Coast Offense to have strong pass catchers. However, this is an essential component. Additionally, they should be skilled route runners. Receivers must execute precise routes to become open as quickly as possible, given the prevalence of short and rapid throws. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

1. Why Is It Called West Coast offense?

The West Coast Offense is a concept that can be applied to any level of athletic competition and still be useful. Coach aBill Walsh, the Quarterbacks Coach for the Cincinnati Bengals at the time, is credited with the invention of this concept.

This “Air Coryell” offense was once known as the West Coast Offense. However, when one player inadvertently referred to Coach Walsh’s scheme as “The West Coast Offense,” the moniker “Air Coryell” offense was adopted.

2. What Is Meant By The West Coast Offense?

The West Coast offensive is a kind of offense used in American football that focuses more an emphasis on throwing the ball than on rushing the ball. Its approach was designed to maintain possession of the ball by using short throws and rapid slanting pass patterns conducted by receivers and running backs.

It caused mismatches in the defensive coverage, creating room for the running backs and receivers to make big runs. 

3. Who Made The West Coast Offense?

Although the term “West Coast offense” is most commonly associated with Bill Walsh, who was the quarterback coach for the Cincinnati Bengals and later became the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, it may derive from a comment that was made by Bill Parcells, who was the coach of the New York Giants at the time, after the Giants defeated the 49ers 17–3 in the 1985 NFL Playoffs.

4. Is the West Coast Offense Outdated?

The West Coast offensive is still in use today, although it is not the same version that Walsh originally conceived. Since Walsh retired from coaching, several other coaches have continued the heritage of the offense, although with their unique spins on things.

The West Coast Style is a novel horizontal throwing offense centered on timing and route running.

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