Kurt Warner on West Coast Offense

Submitted by AC1997 on November 6th, 2012 at 9:21 AM

Kurt Warner from the NFL Network was on Mike and Mike's radio show this morning discussing the issues with the Philadelphia Eagles.  He made an interesting comment about the limitations of the West Coast Offense that I thought were relevant to us in the MIchigan blogsphere. 

I'm paraphrasing here obviously, but this is pretty close to what he said:

The West Coast Offense is a very successful offense, but it has limited opportunities to make adjustments at the line.  Sometimes when the defense blitzes you find yourself without a good play called to counter what they're doing and there may not be someone to throw to. 

Essentially he was saying that when the Saints blitzed there were times when the routes being run by the WR were not giving Vick an obvious option to throw to before he was overwhelmed.  He implied that there aren't a lot of play changes available to a West Coast QB.  I presume what is supposed to happen is that a WR changes their route when they see blitz and the QB is supposed to know that - which seems like a lot of pressure on both positions. 

I assume the interview will be posted here later:




November 6th, 2012 at 9:26 AM ^

audibling is a function of the offensive style and not the QB/ OC. I'm sure if a Manning or Brady was running a WC offense, they would audible.

For any old 49ers fans, did Joe Montana call audibles at the line, especially if a blitz were called?


November 6th, 2012 at 9:58 AM ^

But if I were to venture a guess I'd say that audibles in a West Coast Offense are limited because so much of the scheme relies on route combinations and timing. It's hard to switch one receiver to a hot route that exploits a blitz without disrupting the protection scheme or other routes in the package.


November 6th, 2012 at 10:30 AM ^

Your lack of football knowledge has you mistaken. Calling an Audible is changing the play. Montana, Brady, Manning, even Denard, Bellomy, and Gardner all do this. If they get to the line and see a blitz they will absolutely get into a better play.

What Kurt Warner is talking about is changing the route after the ball is snapped. More flexible offenses have hot routes built in to replace where an announced or unannounced blitz came from.  But because the WCO is more about combinations to isolate defensive players so that they are damned if they do damned if they don't, once the ball is snapped your locked into that route combo and pass pro. 


November 6th, 2012 at 11:28 AM ^

The real issue, which makes no sense to me since I ran the west coast offense as a player for years, has to do with the 'hot read' as earlier mentioned.   It is an audible and the QB and O-line should be barking those signals if/when they preceive that the D is going to overload the blocking.   WCO is every bit as capable of making that hot read and the subsequent call as any other offense I've run. 


November 6th, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

I disagree somewhat.  Typically, a quarterback is told to throw to where the blitz is coming from.  If you line up in an Ace package with twins on either side and the slot guy's man blitzes, then you want to hit the slot guy.  But in a base "Pro Right" package, with everyone packed in tighter, the hot read is typically a quicker pass to a guy on the outside or a back coming out of the backfield.  The WR is still covered by his guy (typically a CB) and a hot read to a RB typically involves throwing the ball behind the line of scrimmage and hoping that the RB can make guys miss when they come up to make the tackle.

NOLA Wolverine

November 6th, 2012 at 2:17 PM ^

Sometimes it's better to keep guys in to block rather than send them out on a route. The hot read on that play can be a delay route from the RB, where he can stay in and pick up the blitzing slot defender, or spill out into the flats if the defender drops into coverage. It's worked for Alex Smith and San Francisco atleast. 


November 6th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

That's still an iffy proposition for the reasons I've mentioned in this thread...

I'm not saying it can't work, but Harbaugh has turned into a bit of a mastermind at running the offense.  You can point out various offenses that work regardless of the defense.  Good triple option teams are good against everyone, good spread passing teams are good against everyone, etc.  Borges isn't a mastermind or a genius.  He's simply a solid, veteran coordinator.


November 6th, 2012 at 9:33 AM ^

Kurt Warner on other topics:

On his wife's former lesbian haircut: "The devil hides in strange places including hair products. Thanks to my Lord and savior Jesus Christ for expelling Satan from Garnier Surf Hair"

On having regular bowel movements: "Praise Jesus, for he solidifies."

NOLA Wolverine

November 6th, 2012 at 9:35 AM ^

The offense is what ever you want it to be. Want a bunch of hot route adjustments? Add it! Want a stream lined audible system to adjust plays? Build it! Want to call a bunch of zone read plays where the QB isn't allowed to read the end? Go for it. 

The biggest issue with the Eagles is that their offensive line is 100% pure garbage. 


November 6th, 2012 at 9:55 AM ^

I think that only goes so far.  You are fairly limited in a true West Coast offense.  Spread offenses are a lot more versatile, because you have more players who can become hot route outlets; you can also move guys around a little more in spread offenses, like they do with the "diamond" formation that was popularized by Dana Holgorsen at Oklahoma State/WVU, in which a spread offense quickly becomes more of a power offense.


November 6th, 2012 at 10:10 AM ^

Magnus is correct. The problem with the true west coast system, that we have seen a lot of this year with Michigan, is that each formation in the WCO (except for the Denardisms in our hybrid half spread O) has for the most part 2 receivers. We have been in loads of 21 and 12 personnel which features a low number of receivers who are often in combos with each other (ie. Smash, Knife, China, Rebel... etc). When one runningback or receiver has a specific route, it usually is one piece of a large puzzle to isolate a specific part of a zone defense, and for the most part you can not really change routes in a "smash" concept that is called specifically to isolate a cover 2 corner. 


November 6th, 2012 at 10:35 AM ^

The offense that Borges ran at SDSU in '09 & '10 was nothing even remotely close to that of Walsh's "west coast" offense. Ryan Lindley had free rein to change plays at the LOS. It's quite possible that Hoke & Borges just don't trust Denard to audible.



Here is footage from SDSU's bowl game against Navy in 2010. Notice that they begin the game in no huddle mode (which they did quite often in '10). Lindley audibles frequently.




Blue in Seattle

November 6th, 2012 at 11:31 AM ^

Borges has described what he does as evolving from the west coast offense.  The biggest teaching that occurred was to the WR learning complex routes as comared to the spread run option that was taught in 2010.  So I think this reflects that Borges runs a system based on a west coast offense, but I don't think he's stayed stagnant to the evolution of defenses to practice to stop it.  I don't have the schematic experience, but it seems like strong NFL passing attacks have adapted to have a role for the hybrid TE, and even multiple TE bodies who act a lot more like slot WR.  Also when was the last time you saw Brady or Manning lining up with only two WR?  I suppose you can argue certain players aren't the WR body type and talents, but the spreading of the offensive formation and the amount of motion that occurs prior to snap is not the West Coast Offense as used by the Montana/Young 49's, or even the Kurt Warner Rams.  And maybe it's just useless banter, but the NFL announcers frequently use the cliche of, "when you have blitzer rushing in, look to the route from that direction because that's the guy who isn't covered.

The problem with radio 


November 6th, 2012 at 11:37 AM ^

Browns fan here whose had to endure the Pat Shurmur version of the West Coast for the past two years.  For my money West Coast offense means no score offense.

Maize and Blue…

November 6th, 2012 at 11:51 AM ^

Bill Walsh stated it takes 3-4 years to fully learn and understand the offense.  Sounds like a really foolish type of offense to run when top notch college players stay 3 years maybe 4 at the most.

NOLA Wolverine

November 6th, 2012 at 8:54 PM ^

You can get an entire degree in that time frame. Drawing up lines for X's and O's to follow isn't the issue. Installing playbooks is about getting players reps in the system so they can run what you plot out for them and execute it. It's the QB Walsh refers to. The QB does need to understand every intricacy of the system (plays availible to call on a given game day), otherwise you can't hope for him to execute the play as called. 

Ron Utah

November 6th, 2012 at 11:52 AM ^

I am a huge Kurt Warner fan, so I'll try to say this nicely (and quote a great movie):

I love you, but you don't know what you're talking about.

First of all, the WCO doesn't limit audibles.  That's a coach's decision.  And second of all, Al Borges isn't using the WCO system right now.  Yes, he wants to use more pro-style sets.  Yes, he wants to use route trees and concepts that have grown out of the WCO philosophy.  But to Kurt Warner I would note that every WCO passing play has a hot read built-in.  There is always a short possession route.  Always a check down.  In fact, the offense is predicated on using short routes to get YAC (Borges believes about half of passing yards should come after the catch) to open the field for runs and deep passes.

The limitations on Denard audibling are just that--limits on Denard.  Bellomy was allowed to audible.  A redshirt freshman with virtually no game experience...that tells me that Borges is fine with audibling.  But WCO passing plays are designed so that you don't need to audible if the other team is blitzing.  They are designed to be effective against man, zone, blitz, and multiple cover defenses.

I see no evidence that would suggest Borges is "anti-audible".  I see lots of evidence that suggests that he's anti-Denard-audible.



November 6th, 2012 at 7:54 PM ^

is basically a variation from Croyell offense. Basically a lot of deep routes with 7 step drops.  Basically a death sentence for QB because OL often can't pass protect that long for the plays to develop.  The biggest reason why Rams offense worked is they have Orlando Pace at LT and Marshall Faulk at RB.  Without an elite LT, smart C and dynamic all around HB, the offense will be very inconsistent. 


November 6th, 2012 at 12:17 PM ^

"But WCO passing plays are designed so that you don't need to audible if the other team is blitzing."

I could be wrong here, and this is a mere observation, but depending on the formation, one of the so-called "blitz beaters" in this situation is essentially using the "hot" or "live" route (I've seen both terms) anyway assuming the short-yardage receiver is undefended in the blitz, so there wouldn't be a need to change the play, as you note. As I understand it, that's one of the reasons that there is a "hot route" built into this in the first place. Further, this is another example, I believe, of  where it pays to have a reasonably agile quarterback who can run right past overly-aggressive defenders - there are a few QBs out there who can still break off decent runs in WCO-type formations despite the zone blitz.



November 6th, 2012 at 12:15 PM ^

Holy crap, the conversation on this thread has gone way-technical and way over my head.

Therefore, I'll just get the drinks.  Who wants coffee?  Coke or Pepsi?  :-)

[ Some seriously fascinating commentary going on here ... I'm reading and re-reading trying to absorb what I can. ]

steve sharik

November 6th, 2012 at 1:04 PM ^

...but if Denard is, as Magnus says, "a running back playing QB," and Gardner looked like a better decision maker (plus being 6'4" doesn't hurt) at QB after only one week of practice, and if our RBs aren't doing well....

Imagine the power read (what Brian calls inverted veer) with Devin at Q and Denard at RB influencing the DE.


November 6th, 2012 at 1:07 PM ^

Unfortunately, I'm not sure that would work very well.  I don't think Gardner is the type of quarterback you want running the ball very frequently.  To me he's a mobile pro-style QB.  I would either want an RGIII-type of quarterback or a Tim Tebow-like quarterback running that play.  Gardner lacks the burst and/or power to be effective on that type of play, IMO.


November 6th, 2012 at 3:47 PM ^

I think you have it here.  It takes a special body type and physiology to be 6'4 and able to handle the stress of being a prominent "runner".  Vince Young and Cam Newton come to mind.  Devin, we know, is not them.  He is a fast strider, though, and a great for the role of a "broken play"/no one open/tuck it and run, runner


November 6th, 2012 at 2:30 PM ^

I also heard Warner this morning and wondered whether A) I was hearing him correctly and B) if so, does it apply to some of Michigan's difficulties handling blitzes. Good pickup to notice this and post it.

I am nowhere near as knowledgeable as most folks posting here. But from the reading I've done, I have wondered whether the WCO is as suitable to the college game as the simpler versions of the spread.


November 6th, 2012 at 11:08 PM ^

Any QB should be able to hit the right analog stick, then O or ^ or X, and then up on the D pad to send the receiver into an audible route.  It's not that hard. You can do this in any offense.  ANY offense.  Geez. 


November 7th, 2012 at 4:42 AM ^

You have to trust players to audible. It's obvious Al doesn't trust Denard enough to let him change all that much. I'm sure he can call an "opposite" audible in the run game, especially on a quarterback power.

We don't run the WCO and there are many interpretations of the WCO, but how most people understand it is that it is a playbook with a multitude of formations, shifting, and motioning in an effort to gain any advantage in numbers, leverage, and or angles. As far as content is concerned it really depends on personnel. Most successful WCO utilize the quick, efficient passing game as a running game, and basically uses the running game as maintenance to keep the defense honest.

The passing tree is based a lot more on timing and precision then most other systems, but also utilizes a lot of mesh, and pick type crossing routes in an effort to create open grass.

Since its inception in the NFL it has evolved and taken on new concepts and other variations. I'm not sure it's the traditional WCO in a lot of instances but a lot of the content is similar. Jon Gruden is a guy that runs it pretty similar to some of the originators.

Al Borges needs to run a system that best suits the future players at UM and not try to mold them into what he wants to do offensively. I do think Shane and even DG could operate the WCO but I'm not sure we have the horses at the necessary positions to make it as effective as we need it to be to win championships.

In the ever evolving world of football I'm more a fan of the multiple offense then anything. A little spread, a little pro style, a little power, a little air raid, a little option, and some west coast makes defenses have to prepare for so much more then if you're just.a one trick pony so to speak.

I think next year were going to see a lot more of what we watched against Minnesota. I think it will help our efficiency and open up our ability to pass the ball downfield.