A Brief History of the West Coast Offense: Part 1, Planting the Seed

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A Brief History of the West Coast Offense:  Part 1, Planting the Seed

The San Francisco Bay Area has always been a home to imagination and nuance.

The Golden Gate Bridge, a structure that was said to be impossible to build, stands as a proud icon to the creative determination of a region.

This is the same place that brought peace and love in the '60s, which eventually spread through the nation.

Fast forward to the '80s and the technological breakthroughs that continue to revolutionize the world.

The San Francisco Bay Area is a beacon for those who seek the radical.  

A world outside of the box.

Which is why it is only appropriate that one of the most revolutionary philosophies to come along in the history of sports was born in a small Bay Area suburban town called Fremont, Calf.

It was 1957 when a local boy named Bill Walsh took the reins as the head football coach of Washington High School in Fremont.

The team was mainly comprised of stocky, young Polish immigrants who had hardly won a game in a number of seasons.

Walsh, fresh off a master's thesis in physical education from San Jose State titled, Flank Formation Football -- Stress: Defense, went on to turn the team around into a winning program in just two years.

 

In 1959, Walsh left Washington High School for a job on Marv Levy's staff at Berkeley.  He then went on to become an assistant at Stanford before landing a job with Al Davis and the Oakland Raiders as an offensive assistant in 1966.

Two years later, Walsh found himself in Cincinnati under legendary head coach Paul Brown.

It was here that the seeds of the West Coast Offense (WCO) began.

Walsh spent eight seasons with the Bengals as the offensive coordinator.

In that time, he incorporated many of Paul Brown's philosophies into his own tool kit.

Walsh credited Brown with bringing the classroom onto the football field.  

Brown was the first to utilize game film and break it down with his players.  Brown also was the first coach to "script" plays during the week as part of the game plan.  

Brown would ask, "What are our openers?"

Walsh developed a practice schedule that wasted no time and prepared the men for various situations in the game.

For example, they would practice certain plays for 1st & 10 from the opponents' 10-yard line.

This innovation is now referred to as "situational football," and it is commonplace on just about every top program in the country, from high school to the pros.

Walsh left the Bengals after Brown retired in 1975.

Walsh thought he would be Brown's successor but Brown, famous for his unpredictable temperament, promoted another assistant instead.

Walsh returned to the Chargers before returning to Stanford in 1977.  

After two winning seasons in the Bay Area, Walsh was recruited and swooped up by Eddie DeBartolo Jr. to save the San Francisco 49ers.

At the time, the 49ers were in turmoil.  

They had just come off two of their worst seasons ever, and GM Joe Thomas had succeeded in alienating almost every last player and fan from the team.

DeBartolo Jr. took a chance on Walsh and the rest is football history.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2.

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