And for my next musical trick--as Satchmo used to sing--I figure whenever you’re down and out the only way is up and out, so here in these precious days before Mankato, I wonder what it is the Vikings will try to do next.
Since Coach Frazier has replaced Mr. Pagac with Alan Williams (Mike Tomlin’s former teammate at William and Mary’s) as the Defensive Coordinator, I expect the plan is to make the defense rooted in the Tampa 2 school work, not to scrap it and start somewhere else. It’s not the pass rush that is lacking, so it must be the zone coverage that needs tweaking. Adding the 4.3 speed of Josh Robinson sounds like a good deal, even though it does mean having more delightful conversations with agent Drew Rosenhaus, which is easy for me to say, since I don’t have to be involved. With the addition of Harrison Smith and the return of Antione Winfield, I almost think that they can polish this thing up.
What is needed is more turnovers. I suppose that similar kind of thinking is revealed in the signing Corey Gatewood as a cornerback, a guy who also played wide receiver at Stanford. If we catch those balls rather than make volleyball moves on them, that is a good thing.
In my view, it was the offense that had the wheels fall off last season, and I know of no sane person who thinks Matt Kalil from USC is not an upgrade over some former Miami guy whose name I happen to forget.
So, let’s talk offensively, in a good way, of course, regarding the Viking variation of the West Coast Offense.
Break now for the Bat Room, Robin, where we'll call Commissioner Gordon for our Bat Poll!
Bill Musgrave is a sprout from the Bill Walsh coaching tree. Having played with Fred Flintstone as a kid, I know a lot about the West Coast offense, which as I’ve said before was accidentally named years after its origination through a misunderstanding of a 1993 conversation between Bernie Kosar (whose Brown’s era T-shirt I still sleep in and whom I used to watch quarterbacking for Boardman High back in Ohio) and the sports writer Dr. Z. Kosar was in Dallas then, backing up Troy Aikman. Bernie was explaining how the Cowboys offense was a form of Air Coryell, which he referred to as the "West Coast" offense. Someone in the Bay Area (which is out across Mount Diablo from me now) heard the term and thought he meant the offense of Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, which had no catchy name, and the mistake just stuck.
Actually, being a Browns’ fan, I know exactly where the "West Coast" offense originated, with the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals, thanks to Chiefs’ linebacker Bobby Bell, who had demolished Bengal quarterback Greg Cook on a roll out that had been called by then Offensive Coordinator Bill Walsh, and which had actually given Cook a rotator cuff injury, which in those prehistoric days, sports surgeons did not yet know how to fix. So in training camp in for 1970, the Bengals had a quarterback named Virgil Carter, who unlike the strapping Cook, unfortunately did not throw the ball very well over 25 yards. So Walsh came up with this silly scheme we then derisively called the Dink and Dunk, at which I laughed upon seeing, until I realized the divisional rival Browns and even the vaunted Steelers could not stop the infernal thing.
Eddie DeBartolo, Jr., son of a Youngstown, Ohio, mall developer, later bought the 49ers in the 1980’s, and they won Super Bowls with this crazy thing , with Walsh as their head coach. How could this silly thing work?
The idea is you don’t stretch the field vertically; you stretch it horizontally and find the gaps in coverage width-wise. It works on timing and ball control. The quarterback takes at most a five-step drop, checks down with a single scan across three potential targets (with a fail-safe fourth being dumping it short to a back) and as soon as his back foot sets, he fires immediately and precisely. There is little time to sack him. The receivers must to run their routes with the precision of an old Swiss watch and hit their target reception points like clockwork for it to succeed. Get yourself someone who can get yards after the catch (yes, Jerry Rice will do quite nicely, thank you) and viola! You control the ball, eat the clock, and score. Your need patience and perfection to execute ten-play scoring drives involved, but when done properly, this thing perks, while also keeping your defense daisy fresh and wearing theirs out.
Brian Billick once brought this scheme to Minnesota, and also won a Super Bowl with it in Baltimore.
Former Oregon Ducks quarterback Bill Musgrove learned it as the quarterbacks coach with the Denver Broncos from a Walsh disciple, Mike Shanahan, who added running game wrinkles to it. Actually, Adrian Peterson, for all his greatness, is not an ideal West Coast running back, since pass catching is not his forte, but then Eric Dickerson did rather well in the scheme with the Rams, so it’s all a matter of tweaking things for the talents which are available. So I wonder, what will Bill Musgrave do now?
One of the base plays in the West Coast is the X Shallow Cross. You have your tight end run a crossing pattern horizontally 10 yards out. Underneath that, the X receiver runs another cross pattern, past the linebackers, who are distracted by the tight end.
Anyone see how Harvin or Wright and Rudolph or Carlson might make a go of this puppy?
It’s all a matter of adding appropriate bells and whistles and polishing them up in camp. American football (and admittedly all my coaching experience is in that other football which we call soccer) is like boxing, in that people can get hurt and that counterpunching is important. It’s not that you have to come up with something radically new, just combination punches that fit together and set your opponents up for something else that you have ready in your bag of tricks.
As I said, West Coast requires clocklike timing, which requires hours of prep time to master. Just because Ponder and company didn’t make it click right in 2011 does not mean it will not work with more practice and some new parts to the movement. Old watchmakers work slowly for precision.
I really don’t mind the Vikings not being seen on the radar of preseason "Super Bowl" contention. It gives the team the element of surprise. It’s a team sport, meaning all the pieces need to mesh synergistically. That’s where the proof is in the pudding. It takes dedication to make the most of it.
I’ve got some ideas, but then this is all Mr. Musgrave’s job, and if my ideas were any good (or even if they were just totally bonkers), I wouldn’t want Packer fans reading them. Would you? I think I’ll quit while I’m ahead.
(Let’s see. What’s that address for Winter Park?)