Andy Reid expected to employ West Coast offense with Chiefs
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
Published: Friday, Jan. 4, 2013 - 12:00 am
The Chiefs' hiring of new head coach Andy Reid, who is expected to bring his West Coast offense from Philadelphia to Kansas City, conjures memories of the mid-to-late 1990s at Arrowhead Stadium.
That's when coach Marty Schottenheimer and general manager Carl Peterson, frustrated by falling short in the playoffs, ditched their smash-mouth offense in 1993, brought in offensive coordinator Paul Hackett, acquired Joe Montana, signed Marcus Allen, drafted Tony Gonzalez and implemented the West Coast offense made famous by Bill Walsh with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Chiefs didn't win a Super Bowl with that system, but they reached the AFC Championship Game in 1993 and went to the postseason in 1994 as well as 1995 and 1997, when they posted 13-3 regular-season records.
Reid had similar success and frustration after bringing the West Coast offense to Philadelphia from Green Bay, where he was an assistant to Mike Holmgren. His Eagles reached the playoffs nine times in a span of 10 years, including five NFC Championship Game appearances and one Super Bowl loss.
The offense is a quarterback-oriented attack based on a progression-type passing game with mostly, but not exclusively, short and intermediate routes. It is dependent on the quarterback's ability to read coverages quickly, identify the progression of receivers and throw in rhythm so he hits the receivers in stride, enabling them to gain yards after the catch.
"It's the same offense," said former Chiefs offensive lineman Rich Baldinger, now an analyst for Metro Sports and Channel 5. "Now you have to find a quarterback who can hit all those short reads and understands all those different routes.
"Reid is going to use the pass to set up the run. A flare pass to them is the same as running a toss sweep. Think of Jerry Rice running slants, quick in-routes, curls . . . Whatever you call it, that's not the point. You have to look at the roster and see if you have the pieces of the puzzle. When you look at a team that had only eight passing touchdowns and nine rushing touchdowns, do we have anything to fit whatever offense he wants to run?"
From 1993-97, the Chiefs featured San Francisco-trained quarterbacks in Montana, Steve Bono (1995-96) and Elvis Grbac, plus Rich Gannon (1997). They threw to Allen and Kimble Anders out of the backfield, and to quick wide receivers Willie Davis and J.J. Birden in the mid-1990s and bigger targets Andre Rison and Derrick Alexander later in the decade.
The West Coast offense is also very tight end-friendly, which took advantage of the skills of the Hall of Fame-bound Gonzalez, who played in the same system in college at California under Steve Mariucci, another Holmgren disciple.
The Chiefs would seem to have some parts that can make the transition to the West Coast offense, starting with running back Jamaal Charles, who has good hands coming out of the backfield. If the Chiefs can re-sign wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and if tight ends Tony Moeaki and Kevin Boss can stay healthy, they would be good fits.
The question is at quarterback.
"This team is unique because both your quarterbacks don't show you a whole lot in either the short passing game or the deep passing game," Baldinger said of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. "It's (difficult) to think either one of these guys are going to lead that style of offense."
Reid will have the first overall pick in the April NFL Draft �" as well as the top pick in each of the seven rounds �" to find a quarterback. In Reid's first draft with the Eagles, in 1999, he selected quarterback Donovan McNabb with the second overall pick. McNabb deftly operated the West Coast offense, leading the Eagles to more postseason wins (seven) than any quarterback in Eagles history while earning NFC Player of the Year honors in 2004. McNabb went to six Pro Bowls in his 11 seasons with Philadelphia.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who broke into the league with Green Bay when Reid was an assistant to Holmgren - and led Seattle to a Super Bowl under Holmgren - said no two West Coast offenses are the same.
"I've never heard Mike Holmgren use that term; I've never heard Andy Reid use that term . . . I've never heard Bill Walsh use that term," Hasselbeck said. "To me, that's just a language and a way of calling plays. It's like saying we're speaking Spanish. But there's a huge difference between Spain, Mexico and all the other places that speak that language.
"I've had seven head coaches, and six used what people say is West Coast terminology, but I had to learn a different offense every time it changed."
How a team attacks from the West Coast offense, Hasselbeck said, depends on the personnel.
"If you're feeling good about your quarterback's skill-set, and you're feeling good about your pass protection and about your wide receivers' opportunity to win one-on-ones downfield, then you'll try to push the ball down the field," Hasselbeck said. "If not, then you're going to try to find creative ways to help your guys get open.
"One of the things Michael Vick does really, really well is play-action, take a deep shot - play-action bootleg, deep shot. And (Eagles running back) LeSean McCoy is a great runner . . .
"McNabb was a similar type player. He was good at taking a deep shot on a post route . . . those plays are run by a lot of different people. It's a matter of putting your own personality on each player."