Original West Coast Offense...League Leading Rusher?

Sean WilsonCorrespondent IDecember 18, 2008

So yes...I'm a Redskin fan...and as such I should hate four teams.  Why four?

Despising the New York G-strings, Philadelphia Pigeons, and...of course...the Dallas Cow patties is a given.  But outside of watching the Cowgirls get a beat down, nothing pleases me more than watching the 49ers struggle over the last decade plus. 

As any Redskin fan will tell you, the only reason the '80s isn't known across the NFL as the Redskin's decade, is because Bill Walsh, Joe Montana, Roger Craig, Jerry Rice, and Ronnie Lott kept winning Super Bowls...again, and again, and again.  From 1981 to 1990 the 49ers won four Super Bowls. 

The Redskins in that same time with John Riggins, Art Monk, Charles Mann, and Dexter Manley won two and lost another to Marcus Allen's Raiders in 1984.  

The general idea has been their legacies were cemented in very different ways.  The prolific passing attack of Bill Walsh versus the Joe Gibbs counter tray. 

This fallacy has brought on a distorted representation of the West Coast offense as implemented by Andy Reid, and now Jim Zorn, and other disciples of Mike Holmgren's branch of the Bill Walsh tree. 

And while the Mike Holmgren method has had moderate success to include a Super Bowl with the Packers (Brett Favre had a little to do with that one), it hasn't consistently won championships since Bill Walsh left the game. 

Unfortunately for the Eagles, Redskins, and others running this tainted version...the running game successful during the Bill Walsh era in San Fran fell the way off the dodo bird...or the free market economy.

Why Sean?  What's this you say about successful running game in the West Coast offense?  From 1981 until 1990, the Niners averaged 129.7 rushing yards per game.  They led the league in rushing in 1987 with 149.1 yards/game, finished second in the NFL and led the NFC in rushing in 1988 with 157.7 yards/game, and finished fourth in 1984 with 154.1 yards/game. 

By comparison, the power running game of the Redskins averaged 132 yards/game over the same span.  That doesn't highlight a significant disparity to me.

How was the running game so successful for the Niners?  Shock and awe that's how!  The offense ran through Joe Montana and the passing game and dealt explosive scoring blows early.  By halftime the drubbing with Roger Craig and Tom Rathman left opponents bruised and disheartened. 

Much like the Cowboys success of the early nineties, the passing game in the first half built a tremendous lead and softened up the middle of the defense with big play after big play; after the defense couldn't catch their breath, Joe, Steve, and Troy practiced their hand off for 30 minutes.  There was no confusion, no identity crisis, and no surprises.  Both teams knew what would happen...they just couldn't stop it!

The point is Zorn...Reid...and any other of Walsh's illegitimate grandchildren don't have to use the Holy One Father Joe Gibbs/Bugel's plan, or reinvent a sembient rushing attack...just watch game tapes of the Niners decade and you'll realize its built into the package. 

Just cut off their weak appendage with first half explosions, then pummel them into an inebriated submission with a consistent smash mouth running game.  The method works...very, very well. 

One of the problems with modern West Coast concepts is the varied blocking schemes required to run both offenses. 

The Colts don't technically run a West Coast offense, but they have been successful not just due to Peyton's all-powerful awesomeness...but because the offensive line, tight ends, and H-backs block using the same scheme EVERY down whether it's a pass or a run.  No thinking involved...they perfect through repetition.

While as a Redskin fan I look upon the face of the Holy One Joe Gibbs as a deity, I would rather see a rushing attack that emulates Bill Walsh's.  'Skin fans please, don't run me out on a rail for sacrilege.

...but four is bigger than two...I think!