The Green Bay Packers offense is commonly referred to as a “West Coast Offense.” Likewise, Aaron Rodgers is often called a “West Coast Quarterback.”
For this article, I’ll take a look at some of the basic route combinations that exemplify the West Coast Offense, particularly those that you are likely to see on Sundays in Lambeau Field.
This is an oversimplification for illustrative purposes. There are nearly endless route and personnel combinations. I’m only going to cover a few of the most common and basic concepts.
The West Coast Offense Defined
We must start any discussion about the West Coast Offense with Bill Walsh. He, of course, is the greatest West Coast Offense coach in NFL history and won three Super Bowls.
Over the years, the moniker “West Coast Offense” has come to mean many things, and if you ask three people to define it, you might get three different answers.
Certainly, offenses evolve over time in that ever-changing game of cat-and-mouse between the defenses, but some of the defining aspects of the West Coast Offense haven’t changed for decades.
I’ve come to understand the West Coast Offense to mean how Walsh modified Sid Gillman’s passing principles to match his own attack philosophy. Specifically, Walsh utilized a short, precision timing passing game to attack the underneath coverage to supplement the run game.
However, that doesn’t mean the West Coast offense is strictly a short passing game. There are plenty of vertical routes that come open once the underneath dominance is established.
Numerous of Walsh’s offensive-minded descendants, including current Packers head coach Mike McCarthy, former head coach Mike Holmgren, Jon Gruden, Mike Shanahan, and Brian Billick, have all won their own championships with their own flavors of Walsh’s offense.
By inspecting the coaching tree below, you can see that Walsh was a disciple of Sid Gillman, who I mentioned last week as being the father of the modern passing game. Gillman’s imprint revolutionized the game during the 1960s and his concepts are still widely used today.
I’m not saying that the passing game was primitive and haphazard before Gillman, but it certainly was more refined and orchestrated after him.