Well, I was feeling pretty good about the WCO until I read this article, which is from September 2012 and includes analysis of Flacco:
West Coast offense: Past its time
by Jim Corbett, USA TODAY Sports | Updated 9/21/2012 2:41 PM
Originally Posted by USA TodayOWINGS MILLS, Md. -- In a city best known for defense and running the football, the Baltimore Ravens' Joe Flacco has star tailback Ray Rice setting up play-action deep passes to his fleet of speedy receivers and tight ends. Flacco has suddenly become the epitome of the new wave of NFL quarterback, a deep-strike passer with a no-huddle offense.
After two games, Flacco and the Ravens are averaging 33.5 points a game, tied with the Atlanta Falcons for second best in the NFL.
"There are a lot of things set up these days to attack downfield and throw the ball a lot," says Flacco, named the AFC's top offensive player of Week 1. "That's what football is becoming."
And it's those vertical passing attacks -- especially by formerly run-heavy teams like the Ravens -- along with record scoring and passing yardage, that have people wondering:
Is the West Coast offense dead?
Popularized by late San Francisco 49ers innovator Bill Walsh, the high-percentage, short-passing, ball-control system produced five Super Bowl titles for the 49ers from 1981 to 1994. Have teams abandoned Walsh's baby, the short-pass, ball-control offense, used for decades, to heave the ball downfield for quick strikes or big chunks of yardage?
"To answer your question point-blank about the death of the West Coast offense: Yeah, people are looking to get bigger chunks of yardage now because it's become a passing league and you get your points in the passing game," said former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, now coaching in the United Football League.
Fassel used the West Coast offense as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the NFL. The dink-and-dunk offense took his Giants to a Super Bowl in the 2000 season. Today, it's difficult to find.
"More wide-open, spread attacks in the college game have developed these quarterbacks faster," he said. "And coaches are more adaptable to the spread."
A record 1,556 points were scored in this season's first two weeks. Last season, three quarterbacks eclipsed 5,000 yards passing. Three hundred-yard games, once rare, are almost the norm. There have been 18 in the first two weeks of 2012, topped by Eli Manning's 510 yards vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2. Quarterbacks have thrown 92 touchdown passes.
A comparison of the passing numbers last season with the those of a decade ago support the notion that the deep passing game has taken over. When New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 5,476 yards to lead the league in 2011, he averaged 7.8 net yards per pass attempt. When Peyton Manning passed for an NFL-best 4,413 yards in 2000, his net yards per pass attempt were 7.2, the same number Warren Moon put up when he led the NFL with 4,689 passing yards in 1990.
Of course, throwing deep with impunity against defenses handicapped by rules changes makes high-percentage sense.
"Teams are trying to score, get matchups, get quick strikes," Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher says. "The rules are probably making it more conducive to go downfield with the pass-interference calls, not being able to be as physical with receivers as you want, illegal contact."
And change is the NFL's constant: Adapt or lose.
There are other factors, too: Passers are bigger and stronger and have been throwing the ball since high school in pro-type offenses, and prototype receivers, such as 6-5 Calvin Johnson of the Detroit Lions, are as big as the NBA's top rebounders.
"The quarterbacks have the arm strength, but more so, they have the accuracy," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome says. "When our veterans saw Joe throwing deep in minicamp, they went, 'Wow!' That's when they started embracing him."
Newsome adds: "The receivers coming out in the draft are bigger, faster, with the ability to become vertical threats right away."
The Ravens' example: 2011 second-round pick Torrey Smith. The University of Maryland product stands 6-1 and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the 2011 combine. Five of Smith's seven touchdown catches last season went for 25 yards or more.
"When you're a former secondary coach like myself, all you can think about is how the quick-strike ability in this league is amazing. It's the way the game is played now," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said.
The formula is simple, with deeper passing translating into more touchdowns. The stats are stunning: In 2011, three quarterbacks threw more than 40 touchdown passes and two others threw more than 30. In 2000, when there were no quarterbacks with 40 TD passes, only three eclipsed 30 TDs. And in 1990, the 30-TD club had only two members.
So, there's a perfect storm for offenses: Stronger, more accurate passers; bigger, stronger receivers who can wrestle the ball away from defensive backs; and rules that make it tougher for the secondary to shadow them closely.
"One of the leading reasons we have more downfield passing is we used to have just pass interference and unnecessary roughness," says former coach Bill Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl winner. "Now we've got pass interference, unnecessary roughness, illegal contact, defenseless receiver and helmet-to-helmet hits."
Throw in replacement officials from the lower levels of college football struggling to adjust to the speed of the NFL game, and, hey, why not take more shots? Though two weeks, the replacement refs have called 51 defensive pass-interference or illegal-contact penalties. There have been six offensive pass-interference penalties, according to the NFL.
"Veteran quarterbacks like Brady, Drew Brees, the Mannings (Eli and Peyton) and Ben Roethlisberger know if they throw it down the field now, there's a real good chance something good is going to happen," Parcells says.
This season's record five rookie starting quarterbacks owe their shots to how well rookie of the year Cam Newton and the Cincinnati Bengals' Andy Dalton performed in 2011. Newton had a rookie-record 4,051 passing yards for the Carolina Panthers, and he and Dalton (3,398) emerged as the first pair of rookies to throw for at least 3,000 yards in the same season.
"It's become a pass-first league, and it's all about getting your best athletes in space," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says. "Some teams are doing it with two or three talented tight ends, some with four receivers and a back. The common denominator is teams trying to exploit passing game mismatches."
Still, Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell says West Coast passing remains a staple for some quarterbacks -- the Dallas Cowboys' Tony Romo, for instance.
"Maybe a different way of saying it than, 'The West Coast is dead,' is 'the traditional rules of offense are changing,'" says ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer, who beat Fassel in the Super Bowl for the Ravens. "I live in the Silicon Valley. And the conversation around here is, 'The old rules no longer apply.'
"That's what you're seeing with offensive football right now. The ball is in the air more with teams being hyper-aggressive downfield."
So put the West Coast offense on the endangered species list. But remain mindful that reports of its demise might be premature.
"I believe there is and always will be a need for elements of a West Coast offense," Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley says. "When I think West Coast, I think progression reads. It depends on the talent you have on offense. That dictates what you do as much as defense."
Washington coach Mike Shanahan has rookie Robert Griffin III leading the Redskins' suddenly high-scoring attack by implementing elements of the shotgun-spread, read-option offense that Griffin ran at Baylor. Shanahan says the West Coast is in the eye of the beholder.
"I'm not sure what the West Coast offense is anymore," he says. "Everybody adjusts their system to what they do, or what they want to do, or they adjust it to their personnel."
Contributing: Robert Klemko, Mike Garafolo