Another criticism is that it is purely a collegiate offense. In college it is much easier to run the "Run and Shoot". First of all, defenses are less complex and easier to read. Also, it's easier to match a big playmaker against a less talented defender. It's also easier to get H-Backs who can compete and make plays. In the NFL, there are few players who have the speed, hands, size and strength to be an H-Back as most players who fit the bill on the surface are often too slow or too weak to match up to fast, athletic professional defenders.
The West Coast Offense is a passing ball control offense. Once thought a contradiction in terms, it achieves ball control by using short, high percentage passing routes. Since the routes are relatively short, and the pass leaves the quarterback's hand quickly, there is less need for additional blockers. Thus all five eligible receivers are (typically) used extensively in the West Coast offense. Spreading the ball to all potential targets can create mismatches, often between a running back and a linebacker, or perhaps the tight end and a linebacker. By forcing tighter coverage between the safeties and offensive players, the West Coast offense can pull the safeties toward the line of scrimmage without running and thus it can set up the long pass play with shorter passes.
By throwing lots of short passes, the West Coast offense gets the ball to the faster players in open space more frequently. The notion of yards after catch (YAC) was invented for west coast offense players. Twenty yard pass plays used to mean long deep out or deep in patterns with a strong armed quarterback but now more frequently the twenty yard play involves a six yard pass to a talented receiver who made a couple of good moves—and perhaps got a block downfield from a fellow receiver.
The West Coast offense, at its best, annoys a defense into foolishness. By consistently completing short passes, it encourages the defensive backs to move closer to the line of scrimmage. The quarterback releases the ball so quickly that the pass rushers are tempted to complacency. Further, it gives the offense confidence. A combination of these factors afford the offense a good opportunity to throw deeper passes.
This is not to say the West Coast offense abandons the run. A running game complements the West Coast Offense because short passes naturally set up situations when the run is more favorable.
In essence, though, the West Coast offense is more of a philosophy and approach to the game than it is a set scheme that demands exact formations, plays and reads like many of the other offenses discussed here. It stipulates that an offense should pass the ball to set up the run, not the other way around. This was revolutionary in the 1970s when Don Coryell and Bill Walsh began tinkering with this concept because football until then had been primarily a 'run to set up the pass' game.
It was generally accepted that a solid running game must be established first. This would force the defensive backs closer to the line of scrimmage and open up vertical passing lanes down the field. But as defenders got bigger, faster, and more athletic, and defensive schemes got more complex, this traditional run-first attack became predictable and bogged down for all but the most talented teams. The West Coast Offense takes the opposite approach: defenses must first be stretched horizontally with a precise, relatively short distance passing attack based on well timed routes and a quarterback that can make quick reads primarily utilizing a three-step drop. This 'stretching' creates gaps in the defense and keeps defenders off-balance, which in turn opens-up running lanes and down-field passing lanes that can be exploited. This approach also reduces an offense's predictability because down-and-distance rarely factors into a coach's decision to run or pass, especially late in games.
Today this philosophy dominates most coaches' thinking and planning, and every team in the NFL and most teams in College incorporate some aspects of the West Coast offense into it's scheme. Though formations, play calling, pass protection packages and personnel combinations will vary wildly from team to team, the basic tenet of the West Coast Offense, the 'pass to set-up the run' mantra, is accepted Gospel. More and more high schools are moving towards this approach, too, though the lack of 17 year old quarterbacks with the necessary arm strength, experience, vision and overall football maturity will keep this growth slow.
Note: although this is the current usage of the term, the actual West Coast Offense was a term applied to the Don Coryell/Bill Walsh offense run by the San Diego Chargers and San Francisco 49ers in the late 1970s and early 1980s. More properly, the above should be called the Walsh offense, as it was perfected under Walsh in San Francisco. The actual San Diego West Coast offense involved much longer timing routes and bore little resemblance to the above.
Paul Brown also deserves mention in any discussion of the origins of the "West Coast Offense." The system was developed by Brown and Walsh and implemented by the Cincinnati Bengals before Walsh's departure for San Francisco. The Walsh-Brown version found notoriety and success in San Francisco, but would more aptly be named the "Ohio River Offense."
The spread offense is a generic term used to describe an offense that operates out of a formation with multiple wide receivers, usually out of the Shotgun, and can be run or pass oriented. One of the goals of the spread offense is to stretch the field both horizontally and vertically, and to take what is normally most teams best defenders (linebackers) out of the game by utilizing three or more receivers.
Today variants of the spread are popular in high school and college football, with more modest versions appearing in the NFL. In college, especially, the offense often depends largely on option and misdirection runs, using all of the skill players on offense. The zone read is often a very popular play in this type of offense because of its flexibility, more so if a team has an athletic quarterback who can run the ball as well as pass. Linemen in the spread are often smaller and more agile so they can block effectively on screens, zones, options, and protect against aggressively blitzing defenses such as the 3-3-5 stack. As the defense, already spread out, begins to focus on stopping the run, the spread creates mismatches and single coverage on receivers, which creates opportunities in the passing game. Utilizing receiver motion along with jet sweeps is also an important part of creating confusion and running a balanced, yet successful, spread offense.
The success of the offense depends on creating mismatches (a linebacker covering a receiver), the ability for the quarterback and the receivers to find holes in the zone, and defensive breakdowns in the secondary (the receiver and quarterback both read that the safety will not rotate over to help the cornerback, so the receiver breaks to the outside or up the sideline with single coverage). Few defenses are able to cope with a well-executed spread run-pass threat, which is one reason why football scores have been rising in recent years.
The spread offense can also be used to energize the running game. By splitting out three, four or five receivers and employing a fast, athletic offensive line, the spread opens running lanes for the tailback, fullback and quarterback. Also, linebackers may be taken off the field to cover the receivers, resulting in ability for the defense to effectively tackle the running back. The primary responsibility of receivers in this case is downfield blocking, rather than pass-catching, as they spring backs for long runs. The offense relies on a quarterback who can call plays at the line of scrimmage, read the intentions of the defensive end, and keep the ball or pitch it to a back. The offense also uses short passes like a running plays, executing "bubble screens" that begin with a short, nearly-lateral pass to a speedy wide receiver to get him into open space. No-huddle spread attacks are also popular.
One popular variant of the spread is the "Air Raid" offense (pioneered by Hal Mumme), in which the offense may pass on over 80% of its downs. The offense is seen as being complex, though receivers need to know relatively few routes. The complexity comes from the different formations the routes are run out of. The running back in the Air Raid offense serves a useful role as well by catching passes out of the backfield, on screens, and carrying the ball on draw plays.
Popularized in the wishbone offenses of Oklahoma and Alabama, the Option is a timing-based run offense that requires a quick-thinking quarterback and running backs and blockers able to react quickly to defenses. In a typical option play, the quarterback will take the snap and, based on the defenses formation and play, can decide whether to keep the ball himself and run it around the end, or pitch it to a running back following behind him. In contrast to an audible, where the quarterback reads the defense before the snap, an option requires the quarterback to read the defense during play, often while he himself is running with the ball. By making the defense commit to stopping either him or the running back, the quarterback makes the defense show its hand first. Though the wishbone has fallen out of favor, the option offense is still used in conjunction with the flexbone, wing-T, and even spread and shotgun formations. The service academies, especially Air Force and Navy are well-known for heavy use of the wishbone and flexbone offenses, to great degrees of success. In high school football it is called Veer and has been used with some success over the years (De La Salle High School of California recorded the nation's longest ever winning streak, 151 games, using the veer). Although a majority of high school players typically lack the skill and talent to run it effectively, most defenses in high school are unable to stop it properly all the time. While it is a popular maneuver in College Football, it is beginning to fall out of favor as defensive players become more exposed to it and are better trained to deal with it. The Option is almost never used in the NFL because it exposes expensive and highly skilled quarterbacks to a huge risk of injury as defenses are generally far too fast and well disciplined to allow it to work.
A newer form of the option offense, the spread option, combines an option running offense with a spread formation. Spread option offenses generally run out of the shotgun formation, usually with a single running back. Depending on the quarterback's read, he will generally hand off to the running back, run the ball himself, or pass. This offense was primarily devised by Rich Rodriguez, the current head coach at Michigan, and has been adopted by several other important college programs. Notably, Urban Meyer adopted the offense to add more passing elements, and has used it successfully first at Bowling Green, then at Utah (becoming the first team outside the BCS conferences to participate in a BCS bowl game), and now at Florida, where he won the 2006 national championship with it. It also has fueled Appalachian State's run to 3 straight national titles in the former I-AA and now FCS subdivisions. The speed required to run the spread option is considered a main factor in ASU's upset of the University of Michigan on September 1, 2007 in which the Mountaineers used their speed to outrun the much bigger Michigan defense.
The Coryell offense has the ability to both "eat the clock" with the ground game but also to strike deep and fast without warning. Thus the Coryell offense is ill-suited for coming from behind, as the deep pass attack will be predictable and therefore easy to stop. However, when evenly matched, the Coryell offense can produce big drives and big scoring efficiently. If teams sit back to cover the deep field, offenses should be able to run the ball on them. If the defense tightens down to stop the run, the offense can go deep. If a defense hedges its bets by using three-deep setups with an eight-man defense up front, the QB can pick apart the defense with 10-20 yard passes.
Most Coryell offenses and vertical offenses tend to rarely use a tight end, except in the red zone. The offense also sometimes features an 'F-Back', a hybrid tight end/wide receiver/fullback/running back. An F-Back is a multi-purpose, unpredictable tool for the offense. On any play he may carry the ball, lead block or pass block, play as a wide receiver, or run a tight end route. He is also part decoy, as his unpredictable role forces defenses to keep an eye on him, thereby opening up other opportunities for the offense.
In both types of the Wing T, the key to the offense is the linemen. A large majority of the plays are done by trapping or pulling one or more of the linemen; this includes passing as well as running plays. This offense also carries out extreme fakes. The Bay City will sometimes have the QB and all three RBs carrying out run fakes well past the line of scrimmage. The Delaware, when run properly, will do the same, but only the HB and FB will do the run fakes and the QB typically fakes a pass play. In both offenses, teams are power rushing plays, with the Bay City better suited due to its personnel makeup.
Variations of the Wing T include having the WB move as a WR in a pro set, the WB moved next to a WR on the weak side to create a Trips look, to having two WR and the WB and HB next to the OTs. Any number of formation changes can be done as long as an HB and FB are in the backfield.
The primary weakness of the Delaware offense is its age. Due to its long history, most coaches know how to defend it, and upper-echelon teams can stop it easily. In the high school and small college levels, it is still used, although most teams have added a large amount of passing formations and plays to revivify the attack..