Mike Shanahan’s West Coast Offense had 100 pages of play calls and verbiage. Here’s a typical WCO call: shift to halfback twin right open, swap 72 all-go special halfback shallow cross wide open. Rolls off the tongue, right? Gary Kubiak‘s old school playbook contained the same.
During a game, the QB has the call (like the above one) sent into him, he relays it to the team and then makes sure that each player is in the right spot. In a (rare) hurry-up, he could be given three calls at once.
It goes without saying, while an OC is relaying in the calls and the QB is huddling with his team, the defense has that time, too. They’re substituting players, communicating with each other, lining up in the right spot. The longer an offense takes to get the quarterback into position, the longer the defense has to counter plan.
Not only does the defense have time to get their act together, they can catch their breath and mentally prepare for the next play. Offenses that spend time in the huddle are a defense’s best friend. Which is ok if you want to focus on the run and controlling the clock. You’re not relying on finesse.
Besides a wordy system being an overload for a QB, it can be the same for new OL and Wide Receivers. Why am I bringing this up? Because rumors are circulating that Denver is going back to Kubiak’s archaic 1990’s system. The one that made 2015 and 2016 look like a snooze fest. That was a combo of long play calls and stale plays. SLOW and boring.
When Bill Musgrave had below to say about playbooks, and playing fast, how can he go back to what we saw? The only times we had some drives that were not horrid to watch were the few instances towards the end of the season when he let the QB go to a hurry-up, in shotgun.
“One thing I believe in is minimal verbiage, and we’ll make it very streamlined, we’ll make the formations easy to learn for the guys, because I believe in players playing fast,” he said. “We don’t want them out there thinking what word was used for this or that. I know with the group of coaches that Les has put together we’ll put together a system that is easy for those guys to digest, and they’ll go out and cut it loose.”
When Musgrave was asked in an interview in Oakland about his changing formations and tendencies over the years, he said, “No name,” Musgrave said. “Hopefully, just a ‘score points’ offense.”
Before the 2017 season, McCoy said there’d be a blend between what was there and its 180, Air Coryell. That was an even worse failure because Trevor Siemian was the wrong QB for an air raid offense. Remember when Vance said, “I want an offense with swagger and I want an offense that’s up-tempo and has a chance to score a lot of points.” Did anyone see that?
They wanted an aggressive, simple scheme that was tailored for a young guy with lots of potential. McCoy and Kubiak both failed to build around the real talent, or see the need for a ‘less is more’ tactic.
Going to a more traditional power scheme for the Broncos offensive line and a more aerial attack with the QB mostly in the gun, is simpler, if you’ve got the right talent. A WCO is easier for a QB to play once he has the verbiage down because it only uses a 1/4 or so of the field, he throws less and helps the run because the RB has better vision and more time to get going. However, a WCO by nature is a dink and dunk game. If your run game doesn’t work, it’s beyond tortuous to watch.
Musgrave worked with Matt Ryan the year he became a Pro Bowler. Ryan spent 63% of his time in gun. Carr spent 70%, showing he did change towards a more air system.
New England runs a hurry up Erhardt-Perkins System with one word, a number and a direction. Such as Green-21-L. Here’s a typical WCO call: shift to halfback twin right open, swap 72 all-go special halfback shallow cross wide open. That really moves things along, right?
Mike McCoy brought EPS in, then he went and installed a playbook that didn’t fit the players he started. I hope Musgrave doesn’t drop the EPS part because it moves teams faster. However, it doesn’t fit if we’re going back to a WCO since EPS is for a passing team. It’s what the Patriots use.
I’m crossing my fingers that our coaches are going to take what worked in our old playbook, and add to it their own modern ideas. Hopefully one that shies away from a Kubiak style. Not to mention, new QB coach Mike Sullivan came from working with Eli Manning, not exactly Mr. Mobile, a crucial necessity in a WCO offense.
If we’re going back to WCO it’s because of Keenum. Period. He was signed by Gary Kubiak. His completion, TD and interception rate in MN were better when he was UC, than in shotgun. His rate outdoors is worse than in a dome. We only have two dome games all season. If your QB struggles outside, a run game is crucial. However, maybe Musgrave can blend simple language with a newer WCO style of play (provided the OL can perform).
“ a lot of coaches make that mistake too, at least they have historically — of thinking of schemes and plays that they prefer without thinking about the players that have to execute them,” Musgrave noted. “We’re going to do a fantastic job of putting our guys in the schemes that fit their talents.”
I, for one, am asking him to stay far, far away from an old school Kubiak offense. However, if Musgrave can modernize it, trim the language and it works for everyone, so be it. Maybe Denver can try something new and fresh with a WCO that doesn’t leave us dozing off. What I’m truly wanting is the rumor to be false, oh how I miss a passing game.