Vick Has To Learn The West Coast Offense If He Wants To Succeed In The Playoffs

By Gregory Moore
Updated: January 24, 2005

Marcus Beasley
Michael Vick will learn the West Coast offense. It’s just a matter of time for him to trust his arm as much as he trusts his legs.

SAN ANTONIO – It wasn’t too long ago that I was trying to teach a bunch of 11-year olds how to play in the West Coast offense. Yeah that’s right I was teaching kids how to win football games in an offense that on the outset is as complicated as all get out. How complicated? Try the fact that I have playbooks, complete with slides, on the original system that Bill Walsh and others had developed some 25 years ago or more. It was a system that I took from hundreds of plays and formations for various situations, and scaled it down to a fifty play, 12 formation book that made up my call sheet. How long did it take me to install ‘my’ offense on a Pop Warner team? Not long enough in my opinion. If I had really wanted to succeed at the endeavor, I would have stuck it out for four more years and groomed me a team of eleven to fifteen players who understood the intricacies. I look at what I was trying to do and I can feel for Jim Mora and the Atlanta Falcons. I can feel for Michael Vick as well. I can feel for them because when you are coaching a player so talented, whether he is an 11-year-old or an NFL player the caliber of Vick, you want him to succeed in a system that you believe will benefit him. Mora believes in the West Coast system and with Vick’s arm, he can be another Donavan McNabb or Brett Farve, two prolific signal callers who have mastered that complex system. Yet Vick has to trust his quarterbacking abilities and let his arm do his talking and the only way that he can do that is when he truly learns the offense during the off-season.

VICK’S PLAY REMINISCENT OF WHAT McNABB WAS IN THE BEGINNING With Mora installing this offense, NFL pundits knew that it was going to be a matter of time before the Falcons’ offense would learn it and pick it up. Let’s not discount anything that happened on Sunday. For the Falcons to come back from having one of the worst seasons they have had last season to go to the NFC championship under a first year head coach and in a system that Vick didn’t understand is not only admirable, it’s down right commendable. This isn’t an easy system to learn folks. Ask any football coach who is implementing this offense on any junior high or high school team and they will tell you this can be a bear of a task. So imagine trying to teach a grown man this system in the NFL? Under normal circumstances if you have a traditional quarterback you can get over the difficult learning curve but when you have scramblers like McNabb, Vick and Daunte Culpepper, you are asking them to lay down the very tool that has given them success throughout their playing careers; their legs. That is why watching Sunday’s game between Philadelphia and Atlanta had an eerie feeling to it. What the Falcons were on Sunday was an Eagles team of about five seasons ago; raw. What the Eagles were on that day are what the Falcons may become in two seasons; a polished team that understands its identity. In other words when Vick truly learns that offense, he will be making decisions that win him games, no just make him plays.

Vick’s play was erratic at times and it was frustrating as a fan to watch. Watching him try to make plays that I knew were not possible was infuriating because I understood why he was doing it. For him, he trusts his legs. He knows he is the fastest thing outside of the tackle box and that defenses would have a hard time trying to contain him. Yet I think what he and the coaching staff failed to realize is that the Eagles defense goes up against such a player every day in practice just like Vick. That player is McNabb and that is why the Eagles defense was succeeding in containing the Falcons’ MVP. It is the play of Vick that was frustrating that also showcased what he is capable of doing. When he made great decisions on the field, the Falcons were unstoppable because he could temper his running ability with the plays that Mora and his staff implemented. Keep in mind that a true West Coast offense doesn’t have that many quarterback keepers, sprints and rollouts that Vick was using. In a traditional system like what the Eagles run, McNabb has a series of three, five and seven step drops for different formations and rarely is a pass play longer than 25 yards down the field. A traditional WC offensive scheme has tight ends catching a lot of balls on hot routes and the running back is a dangerous weapon. All of that happens because McNabb has learned how to become a quarterback in the system; something that Vick will eventually become.

If there is some solace in watching Vick grow, it comes in the fact that he will eventually have a Vince Lombardi trophy in his hands soon. Once Vick realizes just how easy the system is past learning the lingo and what decisions can be made, he will become more comfortable in being able to stand in the pocket and let that left arm throw spirals that are accurate and on target against ANY defensive scheme thrown at him. The Falcons’ success this year will continue to climb because for their team make up, this is the system that works best for them. While the team lost a heartbreaker on Sunday against a very good Eagles team that was ready to take the next step, it was very apparent that once the Falcons and Vick learn the offensive scheme that Mora wants ran, they will be as formidable as any team out there. Yet time is what will help make that dream a reality for Vick and his teammates. Once he has time to learn the West Coast system, Michael Vick will indeed be able to claim a spot at being one of the best young signal callers in the league. Right now he can look at Donavan McNabb as his guiding light for that attainable goal because at one time, McNabb was like Vick in his playing abilities and we see what time and patience in the WC system has done for him; it was witnessed on Sunday.