The Walsh offense owes much to the past. As a Raiders' assistant in 1966, Walsh learned under Al Davis and John Rauch, who was the Raider's head coach. Raiders football was based on the theories of Sid Gillman. Al Davis had taken Gillman one step further. This system became the basis of Walsh's offense.
Gillman brought refinement to the game. Every technique and skill was isolated. In the Raiders organization, Walsh had no barriers to restrict creativity. It was a fully dimensional approach. For example, a system was developed for offensive line blocking that used almost all conceivable blocking combinations. It took time to learn it, but when the linemen mastered it they were well equipped to handle any situation.
The pass offense included an almost unlimited variety of pass patterns as well as a system of calling them. Coach Walsh used backs and tightends more than anybody in the NFL in his passing game.
In 1968, Coach Walsh joined Paul Brown in his new franchise in Cincinnati. While in Cleveland, Paul Brown implemented a highly organized structure and format that transformed the game to the modern era. In Cincinnati, Coach Walsh was the wide receiver coach and became responsible for the passing game. Coach Walsh used much of what he learned with the Raiders to create the Cincinnati passing attack.
In Cincinnati, the Bengals had
Virgil Carter, who was an athletic quarterback, but did not have a strong arm.
Walsh devised a system of short, quick, timed throws. Walsh and Brown's
objective was to make 25 first downs per game and control the ball with short
passes and selective
With the short yardage completions, the Bengals would control the ball and keep their opponent's offense off the field. It was a case of partially neutralizing an opponent's superiority with a nickel and dime offense. Even with improved talent the basic philosophy remained the same: Timed passes and precise patterns which were practiced extensively.
Much of the practice time Coach Walsh used to practice situational offense. He isolated every different situation that might occur in a game. An example of this situational approach: you might see six short yardage plays in a game, eight plays when the offense is backed up in their own end zone, six plays with third down and twenty yards to go, etc. In training camp Coach Walsh and his teams practiced and prepared for all these contingencies. Over some time, Walsh's teams became very proficient at dealing with each particular situation.
Coach Walsh had predicated his offense on controlling the ball through an opportunistic running game and timed high percentage short passes. As the opponents geared themselves up to stop it, Walsh's teams would have opportunities for the big strike down the field. "Nickel and dime offense"? It Works!
Coach Walsh was disappointed when he wasn't offered the head coaching position in Cincinnati after Paul Brown retired. So, Coach Walsh moved on to the San Diego Chargers for the 1976 season where he served as Offense Coordinator and worked closely with Dan Fouts. Coach Walsh greatly improved Fouts mechanics and fundamentals making him into a outstanding quarterback.
In 1977 Coach Walsh moved on to Stanford as Head Coach. After two successful seasons at Stanford, Coach Walsh took on the great challenge of turning around the San Francisco 49ers. A search for a General Manager for the 49ers proved fruitless and Coach Walsh added the title of General Manager. Coach Walsh put together a great administrative staff to assist him, including John Ralston and John McVay. Coach Walsh became the one authority figure in the organization and took great steps to correct the past disorganization and conflicts. With hard work the San Francisco 49ers won 3 Super Bowls over a ten year period. The principles and organization that Coach Bill Walsh brought to the game of football defines the modern football era.
Several professional and college teams use a version of the 'West Coast Offense' today. The success of these teams is tremendous. The future looks bright for these teams as they continue to refine and enhance the 'West Coast Offense'.
Professional Teams using the 'West Coast Offense' or a variation of (2008):
Bill Walsh Bio: