Offense: The West Coast Lingo is Obsolete

Beyond the infamous “Spider 2 Y Banana” moment from Jon Gruden, the West Coast offense has caused many coaches, players, and fans headaches trying to figure out what language is even being spoken. In the West Coast Offense, 15-word play calls are the norm and rookies, free agents, and mid-season additions struggle to grasp the offense. So why continue using these wordy play call systems? What are the benefits? I believe there aren’t any at all. Why do coaches continue to use these wordy play-call systems like the West Coast Offense? The answer is because they’re stubborn and too scared to change. For coaches, changing the play call system is like an older, anti-tech employee converting everything over to their iPad, or my grandmother using the self check out register. They don’t understand it so they don’t like it.

But do you really need a 15 word play call?

Within the first eighteen seconds of the video, Gruden has given me a headache. Gruden’s reasoning is that the QB needs to deliver all of this info into the huddle:

  • formation, shift, 3 play calls (because you may get 1 run and 2 passes or 2 passes and 1 run), the snap count, blocking scheme, protection, and alert.

When I coached in a WCO system, we had some insanely long play calls as well. I remember a few, one being:

  • Pro right gun zip motion 50 Smash Y Corner Rose S Swing Strong on 1.

That’s a high school play call and completely unnecessary. Now your formation may still have to be a long call, but using a set of rules can eliminate the verbiage of the actual play.

It’s obsolete schematically…

Today we use a key word to describe a route combo and a set of rules that will rarely change.

For instance: If I want to run a 1×3 look with a backside slant and a front side smash I can call:

  • Trips Right Slant Smash Right

Now my players know that in trips, #3 will always run an arrow route (0 out), #2 and #1 are tagged in the combo “Smash” so #2 runs the corner and #1 runs the shallow hitch. The back blocks away from the protection (pro is right so he goes let) and the Slant call was backside because we read left to right separated by the center.

Wordy west coast run game with a built in pass check might be:

  • Twins I Right 36 power check 92 Y Seam Right.

This allows for a twins formation with the Y to the right from the I. We’re going run first with a 36 power (tailback tagged as 3, off-tackle right being 6). The check is if we get a loaded box (8 in would cause a check), we can switch to the 92 (3 step is the 9, 2 is slant from the X and Z) Y Seam and the protection is right (FB blocks right, TB blocks left).

The way we would run this in our current offense is with an RPO or run-pass option. Instead of having to verbally check to the pass play, the pass is always built in. The QB makes a read on the box and flat defender and can check to the pass automatically without a tag in the huddle or a single word at the line.

An example call may be:

  • Four (2×2) Right Power Right.

We’ve eliminated the numbering system because our TB is always getting the power anyway and the back needs to read the wrapping guard and the FB’s kick to determine exactly where to run as it is. We don’t need a pass check because in 2×2 our rule is #1 has stalk and #2 has bubble on both sides.

It’s obsolete personnel-wise as well…

If I am an NFL GM and coach I need to be concerned with how fast rookies, free agents, and mid-season tradees and signees can pick up the offense I’m running and make an impact. Fans and boosters/owners expect immediate results on the contract money spent and they should. But if a 10 year veteran like Alex Smith struggles to grasp the WCO play calls, how do you expect someone new to the system to make an immediate impact if they spend more time thinking about the play call than the actual game they’re playing. We want defensive players to just play and not think, but what about offensive players?

I think Gruden, Andy Reid, and Joel Klatt (listen to his dinosaur antics on the Solid Verbal on 4/1/15) just prove how out of touch these WCO guys are with today’s ever changing world. I’m not a no huddle guy but I am a coach that believes my players should have the least to think about and just go out and play the game. I don’t believe they can successfully do that at the HS level, and most college coaches seem to think in the 20 hour practice limits and with how fast staffs and rosters turn over that they can succeed with it either.