Michigan Football: Could the West Coast Offense Help in Wolverines' Transition?

Joel GreerCorrespondent IJanuary 6, 2011

Steve Mariucci
Steve MariucciTom Pidgeon/Getty Images

With each passing news cycle, the distance between Jim Harbaugh and the Michigan coaching job is growing larger.

It is expected that Harbaugh will shortly receive an offer from the Miami Dolphins that is somewhat higher than the Wolverines are able to afford.

Ironically, the offer will come from Steve Ross, the Dolphins' majority owner who graduated from Michigan in 1962 and donated $100 million to the Michigan business school.

Michigan AD Dave Brandon said at Wednesday’s news conference that he hasn’t given up on Harbaugh.  “My personal belief,” he added, “is that Jim Harbaugh is going to end up with a really, really challenging opportunity in the NFL.”   

Brandon did talk about what was next for Michigan football. First, winning the Big Ten was the top priority and the conference was a smash-mouth football league.

His next coach must have a head-coaching background, recruiting experience and be defensive minded.

“One of the things that I look for is a coach who can modify their approach and their attack based on the personnel that they have,” Brandon added. “And I think that's an important discussion to have with any candidate.”

What we’ll probably see is a transition from the read-option offense, to something more in tune with both power football and  a pro-style passing attack.

The transition won’t occur overnight, and a similar dilemma which occurred three years ago is unacceptable.

One possibility would be the “West Coast Offense” of which former 49ers’ coach Bill Walsh was a principle architect. The WCO can be a pass-first spread offense that would eliminate the constant pounding taken by quarterback Denard Robinson (if he doesn’t transfer).

Another advantage of the WCO is that you can run it with very few plays. UCLA OC Norm Chow, who had a large hand in developing quarterbacks Steve Young and Carson Palmer, states that the offense could be run with 12 pass plays and five running plays. The offense, he added, could be learned in a few days. 

Regardless of who the head coach might be, Michigan could bring in either Chow or Scot Loeffler to run the offense. Loeffler used WCO principles when he coached Michigan quarterbacks from 2002-07.

One more name to drop as a head-coaching possibility is former 49ers, Lions and Cal head coach Steve Mariucci.

The only real problem with “Mooch” is his friendship with Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo. Some say Mooch is a “Michigan State Man.” On the other hand, Mariucci had four successful seasons as a head coach with the 49ers, and even tolerated three years with the Detroit Lions.

Mariucci, who now works for the NFL Network, was a candidate for the Washington job in 2008.