Michelangelo's David. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Walsh's West Coast Offense.
Niners abandon the West Coast Offense
No fanfare for passing of "genius"
August 21, 2004 (NHS) -- Michelangelo's David. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Walsh's West Coast Offense.
Once upon a time, such a ridiculous grouping would've raised no eyebrows in the sports world. Indeed, for the 49er-smooching media members, it's still even today a fact (not opinion) for them that Bill Walsh's alleged "creation" -- the so-called "West Coast offense" (WCO) -- is more profound than the discovery of sliced bread and a round earth combined.
For over 20 years Niner-haters have suffered the most ignorant of ignorance spewing forth from pie-hole after pie-hole of the 49er Bandwagon about how Walsh is a "genius", "visionary", "professor", and so on -- and how the *****' offense is just oh-so-"enlightened" that you'd be a fool to try and stop it, you could barely hope to contain it. Barely a few have criticized it, and only the NHS has directly spelled out the cheesy reality of it.
The rest of the unlucky masses not privileged to view this website have been force-fed by our lovable media that before Walsh "invented" all offense as we know it in 1981, no team had ever attempted a short pass in the history of professional football. If you took a snapshot of the mental image of what a Niner fan believes football was like before 1981, you would see Neanderthals poking at a pigskin with bone clubs before Walsh descended from the heavens like the Monolith to the tune of Also Sprach Zarathustra (1981: a Walsh Odyssey).
Compounding this ignorance is the recent crescendo of teams switching to the WCO (or at least claiming they have been, even if what they're doing is nowhere similar to it) -- which has been enough for the media/Niner fans to Officially Declare the spread of it as "proof" of Walsh's genius and the WCO as the most enlightened, successful offense in NFL history; nay, all of sports history.
So does it make any sense at all that now that the ***** have tossed the WCO into the garbage can, all it gets is a passing mention in an offseason sidebar???
In case you missed it, ESPN "announced" on May 17, 2004 that the ***** will no longer run the WCO. The mention came buried in an offseason overview article at ESPN.com.
You'll have to look hard to find it, but halfway down infamous Niner-smoocher Len Pasquerelli's sidebar blurb it says:
"[F]or the first time since Bill Walsh arrived in 1979, San Francisco will not operate from the West Coast offense."
Let's repeat: "San Francisco will not operate from the West Coast offense."
Naturally, your reaction right now is no doubt, "Is this a joke??"
The ***** and the WCO ... splitsville??
We thought it impossible, too. After all, given 20 years of the most insufferable hype and fiction vaulting the *****' playbook past the Bill of Rights in terms of its effect on humanity's evolution, can we really believe this is how the Holy Grail of NFL systems dies in SF? No moment of silence? No bronze statue? Not even the stereotypical whine and whimper?
Where's the miles-long funeral procession winding from Pier 39 down Lombard Street? Where's the press conference with Eddie DeBartolo belching, "It's gone"? Where's Carmen Policy releasing a statement that "It's vacationing in Tierra Del Fuego"? Where's Walsh, Montana and Lott mugging for the camera for some free P.R. and some free buffet?
Instead, there's not one headline. So what gives??
Maybe ESPN and Len Ninerelli got it wrong? Indeed, an article by the Contra Costa Times reveals that at least some players believe the franchise hasn't quite yet jilted its favorite mistress. "There are some nuances and things like that," said quarterback-by-default Ken Dorsey, "But we're running the same offense."
Aha. Whew. Crisis averted. Cowardly and cheesy offense based on the Almighty Dink Pass is alive and well by the Bay. No wonder we haven't heard the usual warbling emanating from the Bandwagoners.
And yet, one can't help shake the feeling that ding-dong, the WCO may be dead in S.F. When coach Dennis Erickson was first hired before last season, he first indicated that he wanted to start going downfield more. That's because Erickson is not part of the Wuss family -- er, "Walsh family" -- of coaches devoted to the pansy dink pass.
The biggest surprise to Erickson's hiring, however, was the reaction from the Bandwagon fans and media. All the Bay Area seemed to cozy-up to the idea of "going vertical" now suddenly being the key to the *****' chances, oblivious to their hypocrisy in that it is the WCO gimmick that is responsible for their entire basis of being Niner fans in the first place (their cheesy success in the 1980s). Laughably, even Dr. Dink (Walsh) himself endorsed it, claiming he was "concerned about getting the football down the field"(!).
While Erickson growled that he wanted to change the purely dink nature of the pathetic Whiner offense, it was clear that he was saddled with the wrong players and staff to do so. "Last year, we came into a system that was here, and there were coaches here and I had to get the feel of it," said Erickson.
Those coaches -- the ignoramus Jim Mora, Jr. and even bigger ignoramus Greg Knapp -- got the big fat Greek boot in the offseason. Taking over the offense is Ted Tollner, "a believer in the vertical game over the horizontal one" according to Boston.com sports.
Adding to the evidence pile that things are changing is several more comments by ***** in the same Contra Costa Times article:
"Coach Tollner and coach Erickson are really trying to put their stamp on it. They want this offense to be better. ... We don't want to look the same," said WR Cedrick Wilson.
"We're streamlining it a lot more, which is beautiful," left tackle Kwame Harris said. "We're cutting down on unnecessary jargon that was in last year. It's how coach Erickson likes it. Coach Erickson is really pragmatic. He thinks if it doesn't make sense or have a purpose, get rid of it then."
Added quarterback Tim Rattay: "They have eliminated some of the stuff that you do in camp that you never do in the season. We are jumping into stuff that we do best and we know that we are going to do during the season."
Okay, okay. Woah, WOAH! We need to stop here to get some things straight:
1. re: "We don't want to look the same": For 20 years, the ***** looked exactly the same, dinking the ball up and down the field with their nickel-and-dime game, and their look was called "The Best Ever". The WCO was lauded as the pinnacle of efficiency, their quarterbacks "surgeons", and their offense "like a beautiful ballet". Now all of the sudden, that look is no longer wanted? With no protest whatsoever from the Bandwagon?
2. re: "streamlining" stuff that "doesn't make sense": This implies that there were things that Bill Walsh was doing in his WCO that were unnecessary / had no purpose / were just plain screwy. Is this not sacrilege? After all, we've been told over and over and over that the true greatness of Walsh was his attention to detail and the way he organizes everything into one great, big master plan of genius. Humble Bill himself in his own book, Finding the Winning Edge, claims, "The 'West Coast Offense' still amounts to nothing more than the total attention to detail and an appreciation for every facet of offensive football and refinement of those things that are needed to provide an environment that allows people to perform at maximum levels of self-actualization."
Now all of the sudden, were told there were superfluous pieces that need to be streamlined out? Who the hell is Dennis Erickson to come along and deem some of the "genius" is unnecessary? Didn't it all have some "genius" purpose? Or are people ready to agree that Blowhard Bill's insipid writings are simply poppy****, and there never was that "total attention to detail and appreciation for every facet" crap?
3. re: eliminating some camp stuff: Again, just months ago, this would have been blasphemy. For 20 years we've heard every coach wants to adopt "the 49er way" in training camp and statements like "Walsh was a planning mastermind. He planned his training camps down to the minute." (from the "Unofficial Web Site of the West Coast Offense"). Now, it seems, that some of those genius-planned minutes of training camp were big wastes of time, at least according to the standards of Dennis Erickson. So much for the "mastermind".
But before we jump the gun, it's a long way off before people wake up to the real significance of what's really going on here. That's because like everything Niner, the media is spinning away any possible negatives. For any other team, announcing they are switching offenses is as simple as saying so. But the ***** can't do that. They have to keep up appearances with comments like Dorsey's above (that they're just changing "nuances", not the WCO), and thus continue to dodge the issue. Unless the ***** and their media friends figure out exactly the right way to do it, there will be no declaration that the ***** have dumped the WCO. That's because the ***** are sophisticated enough to realize that such a blunt announcement would pretty much empty what is left of the Bandwagon. For those few Niner fans left, it would be like taking that whole Einstein's theory of relativity thing and putting it thru the shredder. Their whole 49er Fantasyworld paradigm would crash down upon itself.
Instead, what's happening is the usual from the media devoted to protected their favorite team: a trickle of disclosure slathered in spin. On August 19th, the SF Chronicle ran a story entitled, "Demise of West Coast offense, Victim of disguised blitzes, other defensive strategies". It starts out, "As cycles go in sports, the West Coast offense had a long run." It gets worse from there.
Instead of the truth that the WCO can no longer operate as a gimmick to make a decent, illegally-bought team seem "best ever", the ignorant masses are fed that the WCO is just a poor "victim" of "cycles" and changing circumstances. No connection to the artificial help the WCO gave to inflating the records and hype behind past ***** teams whatsoever. No self-actualization of their hypocrisy that they are trying to have it both ways -- they heaped all sorts of credit on it during its heyday by insisting it was the "best ever" system, yet now give it no blame whatsoever when it ends in failure, because "all systems come to an end". Amazing.
So San Francisco will bop along mostly oblivious. The city that's so concerned with marriage has failed to notice the most amazing sports divorce of our lifetimes. On one hand, it's fabulous to see the WCO finally get the recognition it deserves, which is to say, none. Throwing a bunch of short passes has never been a revolutionary system. It was never an "invention" of Walsh -- he just adapted what he had learned from Sid Gillman via Al Davis and Paul Brown -- at the perfect time when the rules in the NFL changed to allowing such a cheesy reliance on short passing to thrive. It certainly was never "genius", as he stumbled on it by accident when his starting QB (Greg Cook) got injured.
But on the other hand, some retribution is due to those legitimate NFL fans that have seen the truth all along and have had to stomach the Bandwagon B.S. Walsh continues to enjoy the most overrated hype of any coach in NFL history because, as Bud Grant once remarked, "Bill Walsh knew the value of having a PR department to put out his stuff ... it represents ego."
But now that Walsh has walked out the *****' door for (hopefully) the final time, apparently that hype that blanketed the WCO has also vanished. What's truly exciting is that if Dennis Erickson gets it enough to flush it down the crapper, perhaps it is inevitable that eventually everyone will understand the truth. The WCO is nothing special any more. Given its spread throughout the league, it can no longer operate as a gimmick. The only remaining function of the WCO is to be a fast food for bad franchises to become at least competitive because even bad quarterbacks can complete a 2-yard slant.
But to get over the top, a team has to have that extra something now. A deep threat like the Rams. A great defense like the Ravens. The ***** don't have anything. They've never had anything but their cheesy offense, and now that's gone, too.
The interesting thing will be to watch what happens to the other teams still running versions of the WCO. Certainly, when Russia folded and the Berlin wall fell, not every communist country vanished overnight. Teams will continue to claim to run the WCO. However, what's being called the WCO already bears little resemblance to the actual gimmick that vaulted the ***** into the stratosphere of overrated. And as that similarity stretches, so will the credibility of the media still trying in vain to connect any credit to Walsh.
The death of the WCO in San Francisco is a huge, huge victory for us lifelong NFL fans that enjoy the game of football, not the pansy-ass, watered-down, two-yard dink offense. And it's that thought that makes Niner-haters smile even more than the thought of watching a no-talent Niners team wallow in their stink absent the deodorant of the WCO.