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Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

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  • Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

    By David Leon

    The West Coast Offense is not my favorite offensive scheme, not by a long shot. I greatly prefer the Gilman-Coryell-Martz approach. I would also prefer the Spread, and the K-Gun, two very similar offenses. The WCO would rank just above the Erhardt-Perkins and Lombardi-Shula schemes. That's pretty low on my list of favorites.

    So why do I dislike the WCO? It's pretty easy to beat these days, that's why. Nobody plays it in the pure form that Walsh did back in 1981. The reason is simple: They can't. The pure system doesn't really work anymore. Let me give you a little history lesson about it.

    Back in the year 1981, everyone was deathly afraid of the bomb. Not the atomic bomb, the long pass. The 1978 rule changes had been in effect for three full years prior to the 49er eruption.

    Teams like the Steelers and Raiders had used the bomb with devastating effect on route to Super Bowl championships. The Cowboys were playing bombs-away also. Even the Rams, with Vince Ferragamo, were throwing the football deep.

    In those days, most defenses would concede a four yard pass and think nothing of it. They would not contest those short routes much at all.

    If you added some sophistication to your short passing game, running combination routes to produce rub-offs and so forth, you could really move the chains. You could sustain a drive for 9-12 plays, keep your defense off the field, build your QB's passer rating, and score touchdowns.

    Bill Walsh knew and understood this. He organized his entire offense around the precept that defensive coordinators would give him his short yardage, practically for free. This was especially true in the final two minutes of the game when everybody (and I mean everybody) played the prevent defense.

    The 49er offense was revolutionary for the time. Frankly, I always knew it could be stopped. I used to chastise our Ram defensive coordinators, like Fritz Shurmur, for ordering our corners to cover the 49er WRs as they ran endlessly down the field on eight and nine routes to no avail. Joe would seldom throw the football deep. Truth be told, he had a 40 yard arm. He couldn't fling it that deep with any consistency of accuracy.

    Well, it took awhile, but a defensive coordinator arose who had the nuts to play a realistic defense against the WCO. I regret to say this, but the man's name is Bill Belichick. At the time, he was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants under Bill Parcells.

    If you will check the historical record, you will find the New York Giants were the team that most consistently vexed the 49er dynasty. They laid a devastating 49-3 route on ***** on route to their first Super Bowl victory in 1986-87.

    Jim Burk sent Joe Montana out on a stretcher in that game. They terminated the ***** shot at a three-pete in 1990-91. They also terminated Joe Montana's career as a starter with the *****. After that game, it was basically Steve Young's team.

    The ***** always struggled offensively against the Giants, and it wasn't just because of their awesome linebacker corp. The scheme was what hurt them. Belichick's defensive schemes worked extremely well against the *****. In fact, it's fair to say he showed us all the pattern for how to defeat the West Coast Offense. How did he do it?

    It's pretty simple: He totally ignored the long pass. When Jerry and John went deeper than 40 yards, Belichick's DBs were instructed to let them go. Yep, just let them run around the field free without an escort.

    It didn't matter if Jerry was running around the endzone, waving his arms frantically, just as long as he was 45-65 yards away from Joe Montana. Such a sight didn't bother Belichick at all.

    Let me unpack the strategy just a little for you.

    Belichick understood that Joe had a pop-gun arm. He also understood that Walsh had invented a short-passing offense. He understood that the eight and nine routes run by 49er receivers were nothing in the world but trickeration.

    He knew that the ***** had little or no inclination to throw the football deep. He doubted Joe would get the pocket-time he needed to throw deep against the Giants because of pass-rushers like Lawrence Taylor, Leonard Marshall, and Jim Burk. He doubted Joe could throw the deep pass effectively, even if he was given time.

    Belichick decided he would defend a 40 yard box from the scrimmage line, and no more. He divided that 40 yard box into two zones. He called the first 20 yards from scrimage the red zone, and he called the second 20 yards the yellow zone.

    He called the first 20 yards the red zone because this was the hot-spot for most WCO activity. More than 75 percent of the *****' plays terminated within 15 yards from scrimmage. This is where most of the action was. He decided to defend this area with hard-n-tight man-on press-coverage. Every receiver would be shadowed in this zone, and every play contested.

    Belichick decided to defend the yellow zone with a soft-zone coverage. The soft-zone is scheme notorious for allowing receptions but producing devastating hits on receivers.

    The remainder of the field would be undefended.

    This scheme is what some people call the Belichick-Box. It's really a pretty simple scheme. Everything about it is designed to deny short 'high percentage' passes. Everything about it encourages the quarterback to hold the football for a 6 count. Everything about it encourages the quarterback to attempt the deep pass.

    When Belichick first deployed it, the objective was to take away the *****' short-passing game, and give Giants an opportunity to physically destroy Joe Montana. It worked out precisely as planned... Several times.

    In the 4th quarter of the 1990-91 NFC Championship, Joe Montana was trying to move the 49er offense to a score, and finish the Giants. None of his short receivers were open. His pocket began to break down. He scrambled right trying to extend the play and find a deep receiver. He was cut off at the pass by Lawrence Taylor. Leonard Marshall absolutely crushed him from behind.

    You can see the footage here.

    NFL Films ranked that hit as the second hardest of all time. It was just behind the closeline Concrete Chuck Benarik put on Frank Gifford. That hit effectively terminated Joe Montana's career with the *****. He stayed on the roster for two more years, but he was rarely the starter. If was basically Steve Young's team after that play.

    The NFL Network really should show the 1990-91 NFC Championship game soon. It's educational. Some will tell you that the classic Walsh offense died on that day. Walsh's disciples went scurrying in every direction after that game. They modified the WCO in many ways in response to the Belichick Box.

    The ***** went with Steve Young, a quarterback who could run like hell & extend pass plays by scrambling. Holmgren experimented with an evasive Howitzer-armed quarterback named Brett Favre who could gun the football deep. Shanahan invented a new running scheme that could punish teams for using the Belichick-Box, and freeze them with play-action.

    Basically, the WCO doesn't work well these days unless you have most or all of the following things:



    1. An athletic, mobile, evasive QB who can extend a play.
    2. A rifle armed QB who can throw deep with great accuracy and consistency.
    3. Big physical receivers who can jump. These receivers use their size and strength to beat press coverage, and they use their hops to rise above coverage and take the ball away from defenders.
    4. A great offensive line who can consistently deliver five seconds of pass-protection.
    5. A one-cut-and-go running attack that can punish defenses running the Belichick-Box, and freeze the front seven on a play-action fake.

    With that laundry list of WCO requirements, I look at my Rams and frown.



    * Do we now have an athletic, mobile, evasive QB who can extend a play? Maybe, maybe not.
    * Do we have a rifle armed QB who can throw deep with great accuracy and consistency? Probably.
    * Do we have big physical receivers who can jump? Nope.
    * Do we have a great offensive line who can consistently deliver five seconds of protection? Hell no.
    * Do we have a great one-cut-and-go zone-blocking running attack? Not really. Maybe we develop one if Steven Jackson stays healthy.

    So if you were a defensive coordinator scheming against the Rams in the 2010 season, just what would you do? It's very simple: You deploy the Belichick-Box.

    You encourage Sam to hold the football. You encourage Sam to hope that a deep receiver will come open. In the process, you give your attack dogs a chance to kill Sam. With our shaky line, they'll get plenty of shots at him.

    Given the Rams poor record of pass-protection in recent years, and given Sam Bradford's history of injury, the WCO is probably the last offensive scheme I would attempt to deploy if I were the Rams' management.

    So what would I run? An NFL-modified version of the Spread. More about that next time.

  • #2
    Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

    It's a myth that our O-line is terrible. When our starters are healthy it's a team strength IMO.

    With that being said. I think he has a point about the WCO, it's not my favorite either. Especially not in our division.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

      That article is proof that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

      The spread offense would protect Bradford better than the WCO? Are you freaking kidding me?

      Word to the rise, this "David Leon" posts a lot of articles on BleacherReport (glorified blog). He is a classic "Rams fan who doesn't actually like the Rams," and his football IQ is about 23.

      You can post his stuff (and other BleacherReport articles) here, but take them with a grain of salt (unless, of course, they are written by Armen Dacity. That guy is awesome).

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

        The fundamental flaw in his analysis (aside from the fact that he spends half of it talking to the reader like they are a child) is assuming the Rams will use a pure West Coast offense. He's also saying an offensive system that is proven to work and still used by other teams (Eagles) doesn't work at all...which is an interesting statement to make and quite the paradox.

        He's also suggesting that Sam Bradford equates to Joe Montana in terms of arm strength and etc.

        Also, the Rams have really yet to run their true offense (last year had better not have been it) which means teams won't have any idea what the Rams are up to until about half way through the season. Any intelligent DC is not going to simply yell "Bellicheck box!" as soon as the Rams offense takes the field. Finally, an intelligent OC will change things up, if he sees the DC deploying this "legendary" Belicheck Box, he will use plays that expose its weaknesses, of which there are plenty.

        This isn't madden, the OC is not limited to 30 plays.
        "I've been saving the Universe for over a thousand years. I figure it owes me just this once."

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

          This isnt a bad thread though missing a few other points like: Todays defensive players are more athletic...faster/stronger with SIZE. Anymore tyo have a solid defense you had to acquire a good DE and now that FS/SS are in heavy demand, it all makes the West Coast systems more problematic



          Still the West Coast isn't over and done with by no means. I need not go any further then either the Colts/Saints. Grant not in pure form West Coast especially with teh Colts and their Spread system...but run many permutations of the scheme.

          Another key want of any offense is a solid TE on offense...Doesnt require a moble Qb to drop the ball of to either the TE or RB. But in San Fran.'s Glory day they also had themselves a TOM RATHMAN anlong with R. Griag that added another demionsion to the West Coast.

          The 1999 M. Martz West Coast system better resembled J. Glandvilles RED GUN then West Coast.

          Fact is regardless who is using West Coast or other styles, its all contingent on what players you have. Most people thing the 3-4 defense is the best style--yet not all teams have the talent for it.

          However in theory if one wants to discuss what the best offensive style is but near impossible intodays NFL to Pull off it would be the Wild Cat oddly enough. Assuming one can get 2 RBs with QB passer skills--dominate RT and LG with a solid C plus--throw in a pass catching Blocking TE of some talent plus 2 top calibur WRs, there would be too many threats to cover consistantly. But considering the how many Rbs have QB passer skills--that end of the Wild Cat being a dominate feature in the NFL is more remote the the end of the West Coast Offense

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          • #6
            Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

            Their are multiple ways to play a "West Coast" and it gets manipulated so much its hard to know what to call it sometimes. The Rams will run a predominantly run dominated game plan that takes advantage of the short passing game and takes shots down the field.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

              I read about half of that rag and then woke up with a lump on my forehead!
              sigpic :ram::helmet:

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                Originally posted by David Leon
                So why do I dislike the WCO? It's pretty easy to beat these days, that's why. Nobody plays it in the pure form that Walsh did back in 1981. The reason is simple: They can't. The pure system doesn't really work anymore.
                Then what makes you think the Rams play the -snicker- "pure" -sniker- form of the WCO?
                The more things change, the more they stay the same.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                  Poppycock. Belichick invented nothing. That was Parcells' 3/4 he was running in the 80s. And I don't think you need to be a defensive genius to figure out that 4 LBs are more likely than 3 to stop a short passing game. The NYG's 3/4 was more effective against the SF WCO than Fritz's because of the caliber of personnel . If the Rams had replaced Youngblood with LT,for eg, I'm not sure the Whiner dynasty would have occurred. Even then, The Rams almost always split their games against SF in those years & almost all the games were competitive.

                  And what is this rubbish about the NYGs owning the Whiners after '86? I keep getting bumped off the net when I go to PFR but I managed to note that SF beat the Giants 3 years in a row after that '86 playoff game this guy claims was such a milestone/ death knell for Walsh's WCO. And maybe Joe Morris running wild( 150+ yds) on the Whiner D had something to do with the result in that '86 game,hmmm?!!

                  And as others have noted, there isn't a lot of similarity in the the Philly/Shurmur version with McNabb and the SF/Walsh original with Montana. And I defy anyone to see a pattern of any sort in the mishmash that The Rams put on display last year.

                  That list of requirements as specific for a successful WCO is absurd. Any team will win with any strategy if they have all that stuff.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                    Sam Bradford will thread any defense. It's going to be okay. ;)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                      Found this great article to add to this story.

                      Patriots spread offense will be non-factor going forward. There is a new defense in town the Spags in the box. Thats right running the Patsies spread offense that went 18-1 is now a thing of the past and cannot ever be run by an NFL team ever again. Let me explain, you see when Brady would step back to throw Strahan,Tuck,Osi and Robbins would punch him in the mouth. Thus causing the field to seem a lot smaller for the strong armed qb. You see by using the Spags in the box approach hitting a qb in the face numerous times begins to make him have a tendency to panic. So Brady would snap the ball and there it was bam a defensive lineman in his face. Now other NFL teams trying to run this offense will now be out of luck due to the Spags in the box method of defense against this offense. NFL teams can no longer use the pure WCO or the Patriots spread due to two now famous defenses. It's really very simple and is the reason for the Patriots inability to win Superbowls since tape gate. Teams have now caught on and realized it takes just the simple Spags in the box approach to completely shut down the Patriots. See Spags new Brady had a cannon for an arm but if he doesnt have time to load the cannon he cant throw deep to Moss and Welker. So by deploying the Spags in the box defense it completely nullified Brady's cannon. See Spags noticed that the Patriots only like drives for td's that only required 4 or five plays at the most. So he figured by crushing Brady and making him throw short passes that his cannon arm would soon just wear out and no longer be able to fire deep down field. The Spags in the box defense just let guys run free because they knew Brady would not have enough time to throw the ball before getting laid out by one of many talented d-linemen. So there you have it folks if you are planning on deploying the Patriots spread offense forget about it because the Spags in the box defense will shut it down.

                      By, Krusty Krusterton.

                      Sarcasm off, ok so your telling me the Bellicheks defense not the players in it were the death of an offense that many teams still deploy today. A team with Carl Banks, Lawrence Taylor,Pepper Johnson and Gary Reasons and Leonard Marshall just to name a few of the very talented players on defense were not the reason for the Whiners struggles against them? Then that would tell me that the Martz GSOT can be easily defended with the Cover 2 considering the Bucs were the one team year after year gave the Rams offense fits. Was it the cover two or the talent on the Bucs defense? This article is a load of elephant dung and just another doom and gloom guy dooming the Rams season before it even starts. The Eagles seemed to have plenty of success with the wco and so did the Farve led Packers. Just another nimrod with a pencil writing about something he thinks he's an expert on.
                      Last edited by rammiser; -05-14-2010, 08:16 PM.
                      Aim high Willis, Aim High!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                        We run "JACKSON SMASH!!!!!" too much for our offense to be a pure WCO. (As well we should, he's our best player.)

                        We're also better suited to run a WCO variant than the spread. Our receivers are nowhere near good enough to run a proper spread.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                          Originally posted by rammiser View Post
                          Found this great article to add to this story.




                          Sarcasm off, ok so your telling me the Bellicheks defense not the players in it were the death of an offense that many teams still deploy today. A team with Carl Banks, Lawrence Taylor,Pepper Johnson and Gary Reasons and Leonard Marshall just to name a few of the very talented players on defense was not the reason for the Whiners struggles against them? Then that would tell me that the Martz GSOT can be easily defended with the Cover 2 considering the Bucs were the one team year after year gave the Rams offense fits. Was it the cover two or the talent on the Bucs defense? This article is a load of elephant dung and just another doom and gloom guy dooming the Rams season before it even starts. The Eagles seemed to have plenty of success with the wco and so did the Farve led Packers. Just another nimrod with a pencil writing about something he thinks he's an expert on.
                          Are you insinuating that execution by talented players trumps "systems" ? Heresy I say!! Hmmm .. rep coming your way ..

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: Memo To the St. Louis Rams: How Enemy DCs Will Destroy Your WCO In 2010

                            The funny thing is that his list of things you need to run a West Coast Offense strangely has almost no bearing on the offense he describes.

                            Why would you need a rifle-armed passer? To throw deep.
                            Why would you need a quarterback who can buy receivers time to run extended routes? To throw deep.
                            Why would you need a great offensive line to consistently give five seconds of protection? To throw deep.
                            Why would you need play action to freeze the defense? To throw deep.

                            What won't we do much if we're running a west coast offense? Throw deep.

                            Just because there is a method of defending against a particular system doesn't mean you don't use it. Every scheme has its strengths and weaknesses.

                            Comment

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                              M.Bulger
                              AT CP YDS T LG I RAT
                              53 35 448 2 56 1 97.1

                              B.Favre
                              AT CP YDS T LG I RAT
                              27 18 215 3 29 0 127.9

                              Your opinion:
                              Remember the QB rating is what is used as the “end all be all” in figuring how talented a QB is. Furthermore it is used to list a QB's greatness over history. Obviously you would agree that It doesn't take a whole hell of a lot of talent to throw passes that travel less then 10 yards at least not as much as a QB that is constantly throwing downfield 15, 20, 25 yards thus staying in the pocket longer taking more hits resulting in more interceptions and playing with more pain. As it is now, the dink passers are rating higher then players like Unitas, Starr Otto Graham, Van Brocklin, Stabauch, Bradshaw and others. Was Steve Bono really Better then these guys? Was Boomer? If you go by the QB rating system (which is what the NFL points to as a measurement of a quarterbacks greatness) then the answer is a resounding yes, Bono was better then those QB’s listed. Or is the QB rating system the single Biggest farce in the measure of a QB's talent there is. Why should the system so heavily favor the cowardly offensive system? If it were to favor any system (and I’m not saying it should) shouldn’t it favor the braver system?

                              I'd like to know who devised this system however nobody seems to know.
                              (read: rating without representation)

                              Your opinion:
                              Should the QB rating system be reformulated such as:

                              1. Stop giving QB's credit for the RAC (run after catch) and give them the yards the ball travels in the air? In other words do not credit a quarterback for yards he has nothing to do with? At least when rating their overall talent in the QB rating system?

                              2. Add into the formula how well QB's recognize blitzes?

                              3. before the formula spits out the results should it take into account the risk of the pass? In other words should a Hail Mary interception at the end of a half or end of a game have the same effect on the QB rating system as a pass thrown 5 yards downfield and is returned for a TD?

                              4. Should a minus two yard completion be positive points in the rating?

                              5. Noting that we are in the computer age and keep stats seemingly for everything do you believe it would be a logistical nightmare to take into account the “Run After Catch” (that is length of completion without the run) and perhaps putting less emphasis on completion percentage since any monkey can play catch standing 5 yards apart?





                              Here is a snippet from an article on the rating system

                              But what gives with the *****? Sure, Young and Montana were studs -- but come on. Here's what gives. It started in the late 1970s, when the NFL began bending the rules to favor passers.
                              The "illegal chuck" rule forced defenders to back...
                              -11-30-2004, 03:28 AM
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