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I wrote my Friday column based on group interviews today with 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Both talked at length about how the West Coast Offense has evolved beyond what Bill Walsh imagined. Fangio went so far as to say no one runs the Bill Walsh offense even though they still call it the West Coast Offense. I found all this enlightening and frankly thrilling and to read my column please click here.

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25 Comments

  1. Doug A

    I think Bill Walsh said he scripted plays to see what the defense would do with certain formations, and then he could play off of that. Also, he liked to use his formation similarities to deke a certain kind of response and counter that response with his own twist to take advantage of a known quantity.

    It sounds as if the defense is trying to disrupt the offense more these days by doing zone rushing, e.g. bringing in four from one side of the alignment, while rotating an DE and a OLB into coverage, or even more complicated variations, or paying it straight. If that is the case, scripted plays must be scrapped in favor of countering a shifting defense. Harbaugh seems to try to dictate a response by overloading his TE’s on one side or the other, or putting DL in the backfield.

    Walsh’s offense had to evolve, and it did. But what he did to get the best players on the field and on the team, treat his players with respect, and get his players ready to play hasn’t seemed to change as much.

    October 27th, 2011 7:25 pm

  2. Randy

    What I love about this group of coaches is they are students of the game that are innovative and constantly evolving. We could not be farther away from Singletary’s regime and that defines why the 49ers are now successful. Lowell, that is why you were excited and fascinated by the discussion. I am worried some of these coaches are going to be lured away next year. Jed, open the pocketbook.

    October 27th, 2011 9:02 pm

  3. Dan

    Lowell, I don’t know if you saw this on the 49er blog, but I posted this link to an old Ira Miller article from 2004 about the demise of the West Coast offense.
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2004/08/19/SPGHH8AH071.DTL

    Ira quotes Bill Walsh and Lord Fangio.

    On another note, if you look on at some of the old 49er games on YouTube, it’s interesting to look at how different the Walsh/Holmgren/Shanahan offense was from current offenses formation wise. They used a LOT of formations with two backs split in the backfield. There were few if any five receiver spread formations, and no shotgun. I don’t recall seeing very many, if any, I formations.

    October 27th, 2011 9:36 pm

  4. Skoop

    Nice article. I would also point you to Eric Branch’s piece on the evolving power run game for the Niners. Interesting to see the Niners’ specific offensive evolution. They have been evolving their offense during the game… during the half… during the quarter…. during the drive…. and in the huddle. Harbaugh is literally in Smith’s helmet, after all. Thoughts on Jed lately!? Curious to hear your take – almost halfway through the season. … whoa great WS game tonight! one for the books.

    October 27th, 2011 9:45 pm

  5. Niners in 2012

    I remember the first time the Niners started using shotgun, it was blasphemy. I think you definitely can still run Bill Walsh’s version, but they don’t make fullbacks like Rathman anymore. the guy was a great combo of lead blocker + a great receiver out of the backfield.

    October 27th, 2011 10:55 pm

  6. Seth

    Great article, its fascinating to listen to those guys break down the game.

    October 27th, 2011 11:03 pm

  7. Lisbonio

    Thanks for the clarity and detail in your column. It’s rare to get it stright from a coach as to what they are doing…

    October 28th, 2011 7:30 am

  8. Dennis

    It seems like everyone who isn’t running the spread offense claims to be running their version of the west coast offense. I agree with Fangio. The west coast offense has morphed into any offense that is not the spread and therefore the west coast offfense nolonger exists.

    October 28th, 2011 7:40 am

  9. Zevi

    Yes, this is a great column. It is good to see the Niners assistant coaches are now talking to the media.

    October 28th, 2011 10:29 am

  10. TJB in HMB

    Vic Fangio is a singer from the early 1960′s. He used to appear on the Merv Griffin show frequently. These days he only performs in Reno. Check him out at Fanucci’s Spaghetti Emporium.

    October 28th, 2011 10:46 am

  11. TJB in HMB

    The West Coast offense is now called the Pacific Rim offense.

    October 28th, 2011 10:47 am

  12. Tiburon Dave

    Just the fact that Roman and Fangio had a candid coversation with the press is a story unto itself…well done Lowell

    October 28th, 2011 11:17 am

  13. Tiburon Dave

    I agree with Dennis that the Walsh offense doesn’t exist anymore but I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that the players have much more power now than they did in the 1980′s.
    .
    Walsh had complete control of his roster and it was his way or they could sell shoes for a living…he was able to demand the extreme precision of his players that made his offense almost unstoppable. Walsh didn’t care if his backs preferred the I…learn to run a pro set or go sell shoes…
    .
    Today you only see that level of control in New England and it shows in the way they execute on the field…

    October 28th, 2011 11:28 am

  14. Mark M

    A fascinating read. Thanks.

    October 28th, 2011 11:52 am

  15. chris

    I dont agree that the statement that todays west coast offense has passed Bill Walsh or moved beyond. The game is just different than it was back in the 80′s. But you cant tell me that if the 49ers were playing today with a young Joe Montana, a young Jerry Rice, Roger Craig etc………and Bill Walsh as coach, that they still wouldn’t be kicking todays teams butts and winning Super Bowls, even against todays fancy defenses and steroid juiced players………..everyone said the game had passed by Al Davis around the early 1990′s. But he got the Raiders to a Super Bowl in 2002 with his same basic Raider philosophy……and even as a sickly 82 year old, todays Raiders are on the upswing…..the game is about great players, great coaches and great owners…..not all the evolution of fancy formations and scripting of 30 plays…

    October 28th, 2011 12:08 pm

  16. Stan

    I just think those coaches dont have the guts to run a full blown west coast offense.

    October 28th, 2011 1:31 pm

  17. Neal

    I always wondered why they did not call it the Walsh Coast offensive.

    October 28th, 2011 3:52 pm

  18. SaltyNuggets

    Here’s a quote worth repeating. Not sure who this belongs to…
    “Most fans wish the 49ers would try to win now. Are they trying to win now? Are there surprises lurking in the cornfield? Let’s go wild and pretend the 49ers want to put up a fight this season. It says here they cannot put up a fight with that quarterback, with Alex Smith who never seems to go away, who lingers like bronchitis. With bronchitis, you could puff an inhaler and get better. There are no known inhalers that cure chronic Alex Smith.”

    October 28th, 2011 3:55 pm

  19. CohnZohn

    SaltyNuggets, Whoever wrote that really knows how to write.

    October 28th, 2011 5:08 pm

  20. Stan

    Jim Harbaugh IS THE INHALER. Alex Smith ,as I’ve said, is high on Harbaugh fumes.
    Without Jim n’Tonic,Alex is having his usual attacks.

    Now THAT’S writ’in!

    October 28th, 2011 5:16 pm

  21. Niners in 2012

    The title of the article is kinda insulting: “Think you know West Coast Offense? Think again”. It’s like you’re assuming were all a bunch of dummies.

    October 28th, 2011 7:53 pm

  22. CohnZohn

    Niners in 2012, Journalism 101, writers don’t write headlines.

    October 28th, 2011 7:55 pm

  23. Bob In Pacifica

    Good column, Lowell. Sort of like what your kid writes. I see he’s been a good influence on you.

    October 29th, 2011 7:18 am

  24. Cardinal9000

    ### The two of the key principles to running the Walsh’s script is to identify the situation’s tendencies during the film scouting process. The other step is to determine the opposition’s habits on 1st down and ten and 2nd and short during game time. The subtle side of the script is to get into the opposition head and then stage them for a surprise play. After watching most of the home games, I have a very good idea on what Harbaugh and Roman are up to. They are very good strategists in terms of game preparation and game time. …

    @ Doug A ### I can understand the reason why Roman sometimes runs a 30 play starter script. There is a certain logic to it. Whether the real fans of the game know it is a different story.

    There are more stuff to it. There is also the 25 Lies principle that is behind the script.

    If one can use this approach in business, he/she will have an advantage.

    November 3rd, 2011 1:26 am

  25. Cardinal9000

    One more thing, good writing by Lowell. Appreciate your column

    November 3rd, 2011 1:28 am

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