Defining Kyle Shanahan’s offense

South head coach Kyle Shanahan of the San Francisco 49ers reacts to a call during the second half of the Senior Bowl college football game, Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019, in Mobile, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Kyle Shanahan does not run the freaking West Coast Offense.

Don’t take it from me — take it from Shanahan himself. He educated a local reporter about a year ago. The reporter had requested a one-on-one interview with Shanahan, who rarely grants one on ones with locals. Before turning down this poor reporter, Shanahan asked what the topic of the interview would be.

The reporter said it was simple. He wanted to write a story praising Shanahan for connecting the 49ers to their roots by bringing back the West Coast Offense. They hadn’t used it in decades despite popularizing it during the 1980s under head coach Bill Walsh, the inventor of the scheme. This reporter saw Shanahan as a disciple of Walsh.

“I don’t run the freaking West Coast Offense,” Shanahan explained, except he didn’t use the word, “freaking.” He used a different word we can’t print.

Shanahan could have been more diplomatic, but he didn’t lie. He corrected the biggest misconception about him and the current 49ers offense.

Click here to read the rest of the column.

This article has 217 Comments

  1. Decent Reed. Thanks.

    Would be interesting to get Steve Young’s ‘offensive’ take on the run-up to the ’95 Super Bowl..

  2. “We all originate from the same thing,” Kyle Shanahan said. “If you go all the way back to like, ‘What’s a West Coast offense?’ — we use some of that terminology. So that’s why I think people would say some of this is West Coast. But everybody’s offense is different. And when you go different places, unless you’re just running a playbook, it always changes. And ours has changed every year. It was different from the beginning. And it’s grown a lot different over the years.”

    “Kyle had Andre Johnson in Houston,” Theismann said. “He had Pierre Garcon in Washington. He has Julio Jones in Atlanta. He’s got his guy and he likes to mold the offense around that. Kyle finds a guy that he concentrates on and that’s the guy that the offense goes through. . . . There are vertical aspects to it. The West Coast offense traditionally was not about ‘go’ routes and fades. It was posts and corners. I got into it once with Dwight Clark. I said, ‘Joe Montana can’t throw a fade.’ Dwight said, ‘How many rings does he have?’ ”

    Walsh ran that Packers Sweep to threaten the edge, whereas Shanny uses the OZ to threaten the edge by using uncovered OL to double , while one goes to the next level to eliminate the LB. Especially effective when a lot of teams now have a player coming off the edge, fast and furious. FB was also a key cog in both systems, and gives Shanny the option of changing the OZ play to the opposite side. The ZBS allows Shanny to exploit those Over/Under 4-3 defenses by identifying the DL they want to double. If there’s 8 in the box, the ZBS is supposed to allow Shanny the flexibility to run whichever way is most advantageous….

  3. Good write-up Grant. However, I feel like you missed an opportunity here to show visual aids that highlight the differences between the two offensive philosophies.

  4. Grant, good write up. Shanny said the terminology is similar to the West Coast Offense, and that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. Except that both used a fullback. Walsh liked the Packers Sweep to attack the edge, while Shanny’s OZ uses the fullback to give him the flexibility to run at either side. I think the West Coast Offense was mostly posts and corners, while Shanny’s is a lot of go routes and fades.

    “We all originate from the same thing,” Kyle Shanahan said. “If you go all the way back to like, ‘What’s a West Coast offense?’ — we use some of that terminology. So that’s why I think people would say some of this is West Coast. But everybody’s offense is different. And when you go different places, unless you’re just running a playbook, it always changes. And ours has changed every year. It was different from the beginning. And it’s grown a lot different over the years.”

    1. Razoreater – The difference between KS and Walsh with the “use of fullbacks” is Walsh knew how to develop and to use the FB in the passing game as well as with the run offense. Go back and look at the stats of the FBs during the Walsh era and it is impressive to see their timely and effective contributions. Tom Rathman probably gets more recognition than the others, and deservedly so, but packages were created around each of their skill sets, but we really don’t see that from KS with the highest paid FB in NFL history who in some games virtually is an unknown in the run and pass games other than his assigned blocking role. Walsh was intent on developing all of his offensive players as weapons so the opponent could not just focus on 1 or 2 players. In fact, his first 15 scripted plays intentionally were designed to get the ball in everybody’s hands and to show formations, shifts and motions to reveal how the defense was going to react so he could come back later in the game with a better anticipation of how the defense was going to respond when he would run the play he really wanted and had set up by a play in his first 15. Falling back on his boxing experience as a youth and young adult, not all of Walsh’s plays in the first 15 were intended to be knock out blows but a series of jabs, feints, and exploratory punches intended to set up the big punch later in the game.

      1. Roger Craig, with his high stepping knee drives, was the first to rush for 1000 yards and catch for 1000 yards in one season. He dominated in the SBs, just like Rathman did in their last SB.
        Roger Craig should be in the HOF.

    1. Treastman is at the top of the 49ers OC scrap heap, along with Hostler, Raye, Martz, Modkins, and Chryst.

    2. He was the Bear’s head coach about 5-6 years ago. He then went to the Canadian league. I think he’s now part of the AAFL or XFL.

  5. Wasn’t there some heated debate amongst many posters a few months ago that, essentially, there was no such thing as ‘different schemes’? Not making this up.

  6. KS just does not know what he is talking about. Sure, he does not run the Classic Bill Walsh West Coast offense, but he takes many schemes from it and does some tweaks.
    KS does rely on the short passing game to move the sticks. He scripts the first dozen plays and his system does employ a FB. Short swing passes to the RBs? classic WCO. Yes, he changed the terminology, but he is just copying Walsh’s design. Bill Walsh did not have an OC? KS thinks he can do the same thing, and win SBs? Too bad he freakin’ imploded in the second half of the SB.
    What KS differs from the BW- WCO, is that he has no flocking clue how to instill discipline and finish games. BW was a master talent evaluator. KS thought Hoyer could translate scheme fit into victories. He ended up translating floppin’ gibberish. Bill Walsh was a master tactician. KS gets shaped like flippin’ putty.
    I hope KS can learn from his mistakes, and not repeat them, but his hubris will probably keep him from making any frackin’ changes.

    1. Actually, Kyle’s system still uses the old clunky Paul Brown system of play calling that Walsh did. I wish they didn’t…but they still do.

      1. Walsh could call a play with 5 words or less. KS seems to use 10 words every time.
        Brent Jones favorite play was the Y-Stick. They could do that play in their sleep because they practiced it over and over, and it was usually good to convert a third down.

        1. I think they still run a Y stick (or some other variation of the stick passing concept). Today’s NFL offenses use so many more personnel groups, formations and motions than before.

          1. I wish the Niners would run more motion plays. When a player goes into motion, then stops, he defeats the whole purpose of being in motion.
            Patriots put Edelman in motion, and he responded with 9 catches and the MVP.

            1. putting a player in motion often does a couple of things. first and foremost it usually tells the offense if the defense is in man or zone coverage. secondly, motion can help to better align certain blockers.

    2. “KS just does not know what he is talking about.”

      So Sebbie….can you trust Shanahan to accomplish anythingbetter than mediocre with his 2019 draft picks? For starters, he’d just squander that boatload of picks Mullens will certainly bring. Lynch won’t be any better, true?

  7. The west coast was unstoppable until Bill Parcells figured it out.
    The NY Giants defense was brutal against us during that era.

    1. They didn’t figure anything out. They just had tough players that beat the crap out of the Niner’s players. They had some supreme talent to match up with the Niner’s supreme talent.

      Lawrence Taylor, Harry Carson, Carl Banks, Pepper Johnson, Leonard Marshall…..those guys were a brutal buzz saw of a defense. But the only thing they figured out was that they had to put Montana on his back (or in Jim Burt’s case…injure it).

      1. That forearm shiver to Montana’s chin should have been called assault and battery.
        It would have been an automatic ejection in today’s game.

    2. AES – Parcells had the brutes in the front 7 and more than just LT up front and also played a very physical Cover 2 concept where the corners got their hands on the WRs. They made it a physical game vs. the Niners and Walsh, although extremely successful for years, never wanted to have the game boil down to a trench warfare style of play because that was not his game or his personality.

    3. AES, that is what made the Niner Dynasty so much more impressive. Their competition was so much more daunting. Cowboys, Giants, Washington, GB were also juggernauts, filled with Hall of Famers. Many said that the real SB was the NFCC Game.
      Steelers dominated with those 4 years, because no other team were equal to them. The new rule changes have allowed Bellichick to thrive, and Brady is the difference maker. This last SB was a good example. Both the Rams and Saints had equal talent, but Belichick was so dominant.
      Hopefully, with a healthy team, KS can learn and evolve, and lead the Niners back to relevance.

      1. Yeah, will be interesting how TB does with a QB that doesn’t have the quick release of Brady.
        But like I said last month, let’s see if Brown can make a ProBowl first before labeling him as a future HOF’R.

          1. Speaking of the “great” Trent Brown, any thoughts on where he might wind up Jack? Hard to believe the Patriots haven’t already locked up the future HOF OT! If a long term deal is a sticking point for the Patriots, one would assume they would use their franchise tag, rather than risk letting Brown get away after giving up 85 points worth of trade value to the 49ers in exchange, according to Draftek’s 2018 Trade Value Chart. Yet, the the Patriots left their franchise tag in their back pocket, while Brown is scheduled to hit the open market in the coming weeks.

            Is it possible that the Patriots never intended on Trent Brown being a long term answer for them at OT? After all, they drafted an OT with a first round pick shortly after acquiring Brown? Perhaps Brown’s lackluster run blocking has factored into their thinking? Even with a presumably better system fit for Brown, he only graded out 31st among qualifiers this past season. And if system fit wasn’t a factor, how in the world could the rookie McGlinchey, end up with the 3rd highest run-blocking grade among all qualified NFL OL.

            Not a huge surprise for most of us who follow the 49ers, after all, it’s widely known that Shanahan was forced to frequently design run plays to the left side of the line in 2017, avoiding Brown’s lackluster run-blocking skills in his zone scheme.

            Where, oh where, will big Trent Brown end up? Maybe despite his struggles in the running game, the Patriots will still open their wallets and make Brown one of the highest paid OL in the league? I guess will find out soon enough.

              1. The Patriots drafted both Wynn and Michael at the bottom of the 1st round in 2018.

                The interesting thing is that Wynn was (is?) initially considered a Guard coming out of college. He’s very short for a tackle at 6’2″. Heck that’s on the shorter side for a Guard these days. I wonder if the Patriots plan to keep him at Tackle? If they’re letting Brown go then I’d assume Wynn is staying at tackle.

    1. “Gonna love playing with Josh Allen instead of Roethlisberger lol”
      “You have the wrong Brown, but carry on.”
      “Nellie and Shanahan, great for entertainment but not much else.”

      So you’ve made 3 comments on this article. Not a single one is about the actual article and all 3 are negative. You spend all your time being a Delta Bravo. Take a break. Have a Snickers bar.

      1. Don Nelson was brought up in the article, hence that comparison.

        Do you think Antonio Brown would like playing in Buffalo? His reaction pretty much speaks for itself.

        Houston, take my nuts out of your mouth.

        1. Jack Hammer says, “Houston, take my nuts out of your mouth”.

          Thanks for that. I almost barfed up my eggs and bacon.

        2. You and Houston are real close to where you are needing to get a room Jack, just like Seb and Prime were told to do.

          1. Isn’t it nice not having Prime hurling insults?
            I sure am enjoying this site more, and I hope many see that I can be civil and respectful to other posters.
            I come here because I like the knowledge imparted, and learn something new every day.

          2. Mid,

            I had a response to you that seems to have played out as correct, and was helping AES since he twice commented thinking you were referring to Trent Brown instead of Antonio Brown.

            Houston has a habit of following me around and sniffing just like we see beta dogs do with alpha dogs at the park.

            1. Yup. I confessed to making a mistake (11:41). Had the wrong Brown.
              Thanks for the somewhat sarcastic help though.
              Carry on.

              1. AES,

                I haven’t been commenting much lately because the draft talk has become a bit stale since it’s been ongoing since before the 1st quarter of the season was even done.

                But thank you, I will continue to do my thing unapologetically.

            2. You crack me up Jack. That you see yourself as an alpha dog is absolutely hysterical. All you do on here is spew stupid little negative replies to people or follow Grant around and post “Correct” after he says something. You have your head so far up Grants butt you can tell us what he had for lunch. You humor me. my little chihuahua friend.

              1. Jack seems to have devolved from blog maven, to snark master. He really needs to up his game.
                Maybe he should go to NN. They hired a Chargers fan to run their site. Jack would fit right in, and he could try to wrest control like he did when he established his own blog.

              2. Next time, when all of the Combine numbers roll in, try to make some cogent comments.
                Franchise tag designations, Free Agency is about to unfold, cuts being made, trades are occurring and things are stale? Oooookkkkkaaaayyyy.

              3. With the draft, I don’t care for the underwear Olympics. These guys show they can play or not in games.

                FA tags? Almost nothing there that wasn’t expected.

                Guys re-signed? Almost exactly what I said months ago.

                When the draft gets closer, and free agency has moved on I might engage.


                In the meantime, keep doing you Seb. You’re awesome.

              4. Your loss is my gain. I plan on at least 7 more mocks before the draft.
                I actually think you have a good football mind, but if you want to restrain from posting, that is your call.
                However, you can be wrong, and as stubborn as me, but we all are human. Sometimes you let your emotions dictate your responses. Hope you can see that getting into a peeing match with Houston just gets you both covered in urine. He is another poster who has good football acumen, and I try to leave him alone because he seems to let me blog in peace, too.

              5. For Sebbie and his his many mock drafts (Seasons Of Love — RENT)…

                Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred mock drafts
                Five hundred twenty-five thousand variations so dear
                Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred mock drafts
                How does Seb measure, measure a year?

                In trade-backs, in bundles
                In boatloads, in cups of ‘o joe
                In hand-size, in 40s
                So he can crow….

              6. Cassie, I have done 7 since the SB. I plan on doing one per week, with changes due to changing circumstances.
                That is 14 total, but go ahead and freak out.
                I am content. Grant put out a mock with 2 trade backs. My cup runneth over.
                I do plan on crowing, while you will have to eat crow, being so afraid of putting out a mock.
                No wonder you have bad breath.

  8. Grant,

    I think you need to clarify West Coast Offensive PHILOSOPHY, the WCO SYSTEM and WCO PASSING CONCEPTS.

    Nobody runs the WCO system in it’s entirety and in the way Walsh did. But aspects of the system are in place in pretty much all NFL offenses today. The timed footwork that was a big part of the original WCO (that Walsh took from Sid Gillman) is part of every offense. The scripted plays are part of most if not all offensive game plans….which includes testing out parts of your offense and testing out parts of the opponent’s defense and modifying your game plan based on those results in game.

    The WCO philosophy is essentially how you described it. Precision high percentage passes for a ball controlled passing game is pretty much at it’s heart. Also part of the philosophy was in getting optimal match up advantages. You’d be surprised how static offenses (and defenses were) before Walsh. I mean sure players were moved around to beat one guy or another but it wasn’t a well orchestrated scheme to beat scheme thing all the time. Finally, do you remember that Jim Harbaugh said he ran the WCO but was really running Bo Shembechler’s ground and pound offense? Roman and Harbuagh had a power run game and play action passing (at least initially before they moved on to more zone read stuff). Harbaugh and Roman had their “shot” plays. Deep plays that tested the defense. This is essentially what Shanahan tries to do (with a different blocking scheme) on a more regular basis in his offensive system. But it’s not that different than how Walsh wanted to run things.

    The Play-Pass is the one fundamentally sound football play that does everything possible to contradict the basic principles of defense. I truly believe it is the single best tool available to take advantage of a disciplined defense. By using the play-pass as an integral pant of your offense you are trying to take advantage of a defensive team that is very anxious very intense and very fired-up to play football. The play-pass is one of the best ways to cool all of that emotion and intensity down because the object of the play-pass is to get the defensive team to commit to a fake run and then throw behind them. Once you get the defensive team distracted and disoriented, they begin to think about options and, therefore, are susceptible to the running game. -Bill Walsh

    WCO Passing Concepts are staples in every NFL passing game. When and how teams want to employ those passing concepts is going to vary from team to team. But those Walsh WCO triangle passing concepts (a high low stretch with a horizontal stretch built in ….and usually a man coverage beater on the other side of the formation) are still everywhere. Mike Shanahan utilized WCO passing concepts. Just as I believe Kyle does to a slightly lesser degree. These passing concepts are there for when the team is in obvious passing situations and when the match up dictates that passing the ball is more optimal than running it and trying to establish play action.

    I think over the years changes to the game in terms of rules (receivers able to more easily run freely, offensive tackles backed off the line a bit able to pass protect a bit easier, hits to QBs being heavily regulated….) as well as helmet radios/player specialists and substitutions…. IMO all have made the passing game much more heavily used in the modern game compared to the Walsh days. All have which have led the Shanahans to move further away from the original WCO philosophy and system.

    So philosophically and systematically the Shanahan’s offensive scheme is not the WCO. But it (like all NFL offenses) have many aspects of the WCO still in it. And the WCO passing concepts that are still in the offense still require a QB to be able to read a full field of coverage (unlike the half field reads from roll outs and the paired down receiving options in play action passes and the almost singular option in RPO/Package plays).

    1. Your post is a reason why I like this site so much.
      Another concept Walsh used was to create and exploit mismatches. It was done before, but Walsh turned that into an art form. He also liked to set up plays. He would show something, the defense would react, then another play, he would take advantage of the defense’s reaction. It was a chess match where he would be thinking 3 moves ahead, while others were playing checkers.

  9. I like Josh Allen (both, but referring to the Bills QB here), so I think it’s an interesting move. Somewhat underwhelming, though. When this started I was all in on the Niners getting Brown, but after the “the team plays by my rules” comment it was impossible to justify any longer. I hope the Niners spare no expense for Collins.

  10. Grant,

    When Shanahan told you “I don’t run the freaking West Coast Offense,” did you still continue with the interview?

  11. Interesting news, but kinda expected. Broncos traded Keenum to Washington. Swapped 6th and 7th round picks, and got a reduction in salary to make it work. Denver gets more cap space, and Washington gets a huge upgrade from McCoy.
    Hmmm, I wonder if this will facilitate a Mullens trade to Denver?

    1. Come on Seb, nobody wants a QB controversy, certainly not a first time Head Coach! They certainly didn’t trade for Joe Flacco, and his over bloated contract, to sit him on the bench. Why in the world would the Broncos set themselves up for what has all the makings of a classic QB controversy?

      The Broncos are going to draft a QB to groom behind Flacco over the next couple years, you can take that to the bank!

      1. Elway better copper all his bets. Trading for Flacco has not won universal acclaim on the MHR. Elway failed with Osweiler. He failed with Seimian. He whiffed on Lynch. He failed with Keenum. He better have a good fallback plan, and throwing Lock to the wolves is not a shrewd plan.
        I guess I am factoring in Scangarello, who would love to be able to coach Mullens. Fangio will concentrate on the defense, and give Scangarello wide latitude.

        1. Yah, I’m certainly not saying I have confidence in Elway’s QB choices. Hah, you would think for a 9-time Pro Bowl QB and NFL MVP, he’d have a better eye for QB talent, am I right?

          Like I said, look for the Broncos to select a QB to groom this year, and it will probably be another epic – swing and a miss. In another years time, Mullens might look like the better option, but not this year. Besides, I’d be a lot more comfortable with Mullens at back up this season, maybe looking to move him next season.

            1. That’s why the Ravens traded him, not why the Broncos decided to take over his contract. Flacco will start for the Broncos this year!

              But I’m not sold on Lamar Jackson as a passer either. And we all know that “running QB’s” have a very short shelf life.

              1. I think it will be a healthy competition, and Flacco does not have any guarantees. He will have to earn the starting job.

              2. Sure, the Broncos need to rework his deal, but he’s going to get his fair share, and I’d be surprised if they then brought in an up and comer like Mullens who already has starting experience, setting up the perfect storm of a QB controversy, but hey, I guess we’ll see. For the Niners sake I think holding onto Mullens for another year makes way more sense. They can pump up his value with a good preseason this year, he’ll still be in demand next season. And who knows, maybe he’ll get a spot start? Hopefully not, unless the Niners are firmly in the postseason going into the final game, but I’ll breath easier having a competent young backup QB who knows the system like a wiz, warmed up and on the bench this season.

                I’m not taking anything less than a mid-2nd round pick for Mullens this year.

              3. I was hoping for a second round pick, but a 4th or a 5th would be more realistic. That is why I want to bundle players, to get as high a pick as possible.

        2. Seb

          I’m sure that Elway is aware of Mullens and his relationship with Scangarello, and has been since before he pilfered him from from us. If he had the pull that you attribute to him…Elway would have at least tried to trade for Mullens by now. ….Let’s hope the Raiders still want to trade…

          1. No, I believe they had to wait until they traded away Keenum, first. Now that is done, they have the cap room to make more acquisitions.

      1. I beg to differ. Elway knows that his window is closing fast, and Von Miller will turn into a pumpkin. He needs to win NOW. He can still get his QB later on, but he knows Mullens can lead an NFL team to victory, since Mullens defeated the Broncos last season.
        There was a reason Flacco got benched. Mullens could out compete Flacco, easily.

        1. I cannot remember where I read it (PTF I believe), but it was stated that the average NFL fan sees Mullens as a starter, while the NFL teams see him as a good backup.

  12. The reason people call Mike Shanahan’s offense the “West Coast Offense” is because he literally learned it when he came to San Francisco and mostly left the 49ers offense unchanged. The 49ers still ran the split back “gap” blocking scheme for runs. They still ran the short pass, ball control offense, they still used draws and quick play-actions that looked like RPOs, they still motioned backs out of the back field.

    The only real changes I notice looking at the 1992-1994 (Shanahan) offense versus the 1989 Mike Holmgren offense is Brent Jones lined up wide and in the slot more, there were more empty formations, and 11 personnel was used a little more (but it was still almost always two wrs, 2 backs and a te). Otherwise it was the same offense (and by the way, it looked nearly idential when Marc Trestman took over, with small differences such as run/pass ratio – although Trestman had neither Ricky Watters nor William Floyd, due to one leaving and the other being hurt, which is probably why the run/pass ratio changed).

    Mike Shanahan didn’t really display today’s offense until Denver (but looking at that 1995 and a few years later offense, many staples of the 49ers offense made their way into that).

    My point is that while by now they are fairly different, there IS a bit of a hereditary relationship, or at least was, and that is probably why Mike Shanahan is lumped in with the WCO. He learned it and RAN it in San Francisco, and when he first went to Denver he brought some of the concepts with him.

    1. Shanahan lifted a few concepts from the 49ers, as most coaches have, but most of the things he did in 1994, he also did in 1991 when he was the OC of the Broncos.

      1. Grant I have complete games of the 49ers from 1989 to 1998 and the 49ers offense is almost identical every single season. In fact the biggest change came when Mooch arrived, not when Shanahan did. Which means if Shanahan were doing the same things in Denver, then Denver completely ripped off the 49ers.

        1. A lot of people ripped off Walsh, but that doesn’t mean everyone who has WCO pass concepts runs the WCO. Shanahan’s offense looked the same with the Raiders, too. Shanahan always used play action and naked bootlegs more than Walsh and Holmgren, who preferred waggles.

          1. I’m not trying to be contrarian, but I’m telling you…

            Just watch:


            Running the same sweep play the 49ers ran through the 1980s, and then the very next play was the quick little waggle you were just talking about. Then the very next one was another gap blocking sweep. Shanahan did not facelift the 49ers offense when he arrived in 1992. He just threw a few tweaks into it.

            If you watch 1995 film of the Broncos, you immediately see what looks like a different, albeit sometimes similar, scheme.
            In fact it shows some immediately differences, as the Broncos start right off with a seven step drop, which with the 49ers it was very often three step:


            Here’s some from the 1991 Broncos.


            The 1991 Broncos scheme is closer to the 1995 Broncos scheme than it is the 1992-1994 49ers scheme. Moreover, when I see the 1991 49ers offense, it looks closer to the 1992 49ers offense than the 1991 Broncos offense.


            In fact, one thing I had thought was something Shanahan brought to the offense I rediscovered was already there before him: lining up Brent Jones or a wide receiver wide wide and motioning him inside right at the snap:



            The difference is that Shanahan often had Young snap the ball as soon as the motion guy crossed the other wr, and in 1994 he started using that in a spread set.

            In fact by 1994 things had really changed. Many more spread concepts were added, such as this very common 1994 49ers play:


            Floyd or Watters motioning out of the backfield and running a flat route, while the wide receiver runs a slant. This was the second play they ran in Super Bowl XXIX and it gained 12 yards to John Taylor, just like it did here to Jerry Rice.

            But you didn’t see this under center empty backfield stuff with the Broncos. This was a unique thing that Shanahan did with the 49ers. But you DID see variations of it in Denver, out of shotgun, with 21 or 11 personnel. THAT is really what Shanahan brought to the 49ers, and what he took with him to Denver, but it wasn’t really there at the beginning nearly as much.

            Just for fun, here is the same qb waggle the 49ers ran through the eighties being run in 1994:


            Shanahan didn’t drastically change the 49ers offense. He kept most of it and added some wrinkles. He definitely took some with him when he left, but he continued to evolve, and what he was running in Denver in 1998 through the 2000s wasn’t the same thing he ran from 1992-1994.

          2. I just lost a massive post- TWICE- losing countless examples showing the 1991 49ers offense was closer to the 1992 49ers offense than the 1991 Broncos offense was.

            But okay, here is your quick waggle, except it’s 1994:


            Same one in 1992 sandwiched by two gap blocking scheme runs that the 49ers ran before Shanahan arrived:


            Compared to the 1995 Broncos, where they start in a single back set and immediately run a 7 step drop:


            Anyway I’m not going to redo all the stuff I posted earlier, but what I will post something that is symptomatic of the actual change in the 49ers scheme that came with Shanahan, but it was something that kind of evolved while he was here, becoming much more prominent in 1994: the spread and empty stuff:


            He did take this with him to Denver, except it was shotgun stuff. However, the actual route combinations and quick rhythm passing out of it wasn’t the same. What survived the transition to Denver on a frequent basis, however, was 21 personnel coming out in a spread or empty formation.

            Anyway, bottom line is that the 49ers offense did not drastically change in 1992. Many of the same concepts remained. Terminology remained very similar as well (brown right was still brown right, etc).

          3. Let me just add this, since my posts with video evidence don’t seem to be posting. You can find the 49ers offensive playbooks online, and the terminology is largely the same between 1991 and 1994. Shanahan did not overhaul the offense. He tweaked it. Brown right was brown right in both. Much of this terminology was still there with the Broncos in the 2000s. Wish I had access to earlier Bronco playbooks, but what I can say for sure is that terminology wise the 1991 49ers and 1994 49ers are very similar.

            1. Thanks for all your research, Johnson. Good work.

              Shanahan did keep the WCO verbiage and used some of the concepts, but so did lots of teams by the early ‘90s. Even the Raiders used Brown right, and they did not have the WCO.

              Using the verbiage and some of the concepts doesn’t mean Shanahan ran the WCO. His offensive philosophy ran counter to Walsh’s, who was much more conservative. If you go back and watch the 1992 49ers, you’ll see lots of play-action, lots of seven-step drops and lots of intermediate passes beyond the chains, just like Shanahan called for Elway, and just like Kyle calls these days. The goal was to create explosive plays. Walsh and Holmgren were not this aggressive with Montana. They featured a three and five-step drop-back passing game with short passes. The goal was to control the ball and the clock.

              Last example: Jim Harbaugh also used WCO verbiage and concepts, both in the run game and pass game. But the philosophy of his offense had nothing to do with the WCO. He always ran a Bo-Schembechler-style Big-10 smash-mouth ground-and-pound offense.

    2. Lots more bootlegs and rollouts. Lots of plays built off of those those plays too all look similar….much like how he would later try to have all the plays even more so look the same when he switched to zone blocking with the Broncos. There was a much heavier emphasis on play action which we still see today in Kyle’s offense. But all the passing concepts were still WCO based. That all stayed the same I think. Just how he implemented it was much different. In fact I’d say IMO that Mike Shanahan’s 49er’s offense was more balanced than Kyle’s offense because he still had Walsh’s WCO still installed and had the option to lean on it more effectively when the match up dictated it.

      1. Weirdly the change in the running game based on what I’ve seen of the old games I have when Shanahan arrived is that it incorporated less broken I-formation stuff and more split back stuff. But all of it was there between the 1991 49ers and the 1992 49ers.

        If you watch carefully those three years, the real difference that Shanahan brought to the 49ers, especially by the time 1994 rolled around, was spread concepts. It was still mostly three step drop stuff with WCO concepts, but now it was out of empty formations and spread formations.

  13. My understanding is that the Bill Walsh WCO was first instituted when he was OC with the Bengals because their QB, Virgil Carter, had a weak arm. The focus was changed to quick, short, timing patterns to accommodate Carter’s weak arm. While the 49ers were very fortunate to have several HOF types playing in the glory years, Walsh to me epitomized the idea of playing the hand you’re dealt and maximizing the talent he had available. Personally, I think we saw some of that in JG’s first year when Kyle had to modify his full scheme to get JG on the field. So when evaluating the current offense, the question that remains unanswered is, will Kyle ever have the special talent in the right place to make his system work? This question goes hand in hand with Grant’s argument (a sound one IMO) that KS has a major difficulty getting his teams to play well on the road. Is it talent or preparation? And if it’s preparation, is the problem the talent or the scheme/coaching? It was a terrible loss to lose Jimmy G in the 3rd league game. But I could see how if he wasn’t hurt the 49ers could have very easily been an ugly 0-3 – and aside from the loss of McKinnon that horrible start falls right on the coaching staff. I’d like to see a resolution of the personnel excuse ASAP.

    1. Some say it all about the players and the talent. That may be true in many cases, but I think the coaching can be the difference between winning and losing.
      Look at Mike Singletary. At the end of each loss, he had this bludgeoned look on his face. His teams always under performed. Then along came JH. He took AS, and made that team compete for the NFCC Game. Once he got the QB he liked, they went to the SB.
      ‘Walsh epitomized the idea of playing the hand you’re dealt and maximizing the Talent he had available.’ I totally agree. KS changed his system to fit JG, and they went on a 5 game losing streak, after losing 9 games in a row. Then he forced JG to fit his system, and we were starting out 1-2. Then the wheels fell off with the injuries, but also the poor coaching.
      Trent Brown is a good example. They got rid of him, and the Niner O line struggled all year. Then Brown did his job, and helped win a Super Bowl because Belichick knew how to utilize him correctly. KS refused to adapt his system to the player. He did the same thing with JG. He forced JG to be only a pocket passer, the defense teed up, and rushed to a spot, and he was battered and rattled that first game against the Vikings. Patricia did the same thing. He took away the receivers, so JG had no one to pass to, and they collapsed the pocket for 6 sacks. Andy Reid was schooling the Niners. JG ran for his life, and tore his ACL. KS needs to be less rigid, and design some more controlled rollouts.
      AFFP brought up the fact about the importance of the position coaches. KS made the Niners wait until after the SB, so the Niners did not have elite coaches, he got the second string. His DC was a LB coach, and Hafley was just drek. Zgonina did not know how to effectively utilize Thomas. Hopefully, Woods and Kocurek will turn things around.
      Benton needs to be more innovative and flexible. He insisted on putting Tomlinson at LG, but Garnett excelled at LG, so now he sat a first round pick. He put the 2 strongest players at left, and 2 weaker players at right, so the line was unbalanced, and the defense schemed against the stronger side. Yes, if his O line had performed effectively and competently, he should deserve no criticism, but the interior line was porous, and I think Grant said they let the QB get 113 pressures. Benton should have been moving players around so they would become more versatile, like the Patriots do. Playing an injured Center? That’s smart.
      Yes, there should be no excuses now. They have the players, and will be getting more. Now, it is up to the coaches.

      1. Hey Sebbie–renaissance guy, raconteur…

        You’re a huge fan of Bay Area sports. No doubt there. Some say you could take any franchise to the top. Single-handedly. Easily. Anyway, let’s more on…

        Question (don’t panic). Did you follow the Bay Bombers of roller derby–especially back in the late 60s? Remember Joanie Weston, Ann Calvello, Charlie O’Connell?

          1. Cassie

            You bring back memories …I would always announce “Joanie Weston of the Bay Area Bombers’ whenever I would play Jim Croce’s “Roller Derby Queen”…The clubs liked it and the audiences remembered her….thanx

        1. The Bay Bombers used to play at Kezar Pavilion.

          I used to live a short walk from there. Kezar Pub and North Beach Pizza are across the street.

  14. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported Friday morning that linebacker Malcolm Smith restructured his contract and will remain with the Niners, per a source informed of the situation.

  15. No Shanahan doesn’t run the WCO and I’m surprised someone who reports on football would make that mistake. Kyle runs a form of his fathers offense but he has definitely changed it up. I contend that if Bill Walsh was developing an offense from scratch in today’s NFL he wouldn’t run the WCO either. I remember a quote from Walsh many years after he retired. Walsh had attended a practice of some team, not sure who, and he noted that they were still running the same drills and concepts in practice that he ran when he was coaching. He basically said teams should evolve to always improve techniques and drills. The same concepts that work against a 1981 NFL defense wouldn’t work against a 1991 NFL defense.

        1. Houston 9er

          I was going to add that there was only one Fred Dean with his speedy powerful rush…but then I saw that the Chiefs had released Justin Houston whose bull rush reminds me fondly of Fred Dean. If even possible, I would love to see him in Red and Gold….UFA Whaddya’ think

              1. Hey Oregon, Houston had 22 sacks in the 2014 season. Since then his highest number of sacks was 9. He has been top 20 in Sacks only once since 2014. He was ranked 19th once. Houston is a good player but he is not the same player he was 5 years ago.

      1. Houston…

        I stand corrected…I have to go off memory for a lot of these guys until I can get some .’draft books’…I didn’t realize that it was as far as ’14 that he had the monster sack year…still, that only means that teams are double teaming (and more) on him I just read that the Chiefs DID release him….On the same Dline as Buckner, Armstead, Blair, and Jones…There will be no double-teams

    1. The whole league has changed and evolved. With the new rule changes, it has become a much more pass happy league. Now, one cannot even touch the shoulder pad, or a roughing the passer will be called (AFCC Game). DBs used to maul the WRs, now they cannot touch them.
      Back then, concussions were shrugged off. Now, they realize the consequences and repercussions, and are protecting the players better.
      Yes, Walsh said that things will change and evolve, but I will say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Both things can be true, at times.

  16. Grant,
    Your basketball analogy should have been Phil Jackson is to Bill Walsh as Steve Kerr is to Mike Shanahan. Kerr has just taken Nelsons concepts to the next level. My point being either system can be equally successful.

      1. Grant,
        Not when it comes to system. He runs nothing like the triangle. Tom Tolbert said the other day that what they were doing on the Warriors when he played was very close to what they are doing know. The big difference, talent.

        1. True, but the Warriors used the triangle offense in the playoffs last year with Durant in the mid post a lot until it stopped working.

          1. KS should be compared with Luke Walton. Walton ran off a big string of victories subbing for Kerr, and KS had the Falcon offense tops in the league.
            But then both struggled with adversity. KS with the injuries, and Walton at LA.
            Yes. all football concepts were devised years ago, and it is just a matter of tweaking the system, and adding new wrinkles. But yes, the West Coast Offense was a revelation, and every team uses some form or iteration of its concepts and principles. KS- ‘I do not run the freakin’ WCO.’ Hmm, but then why do you use a fullback?

      2. Kerr is also tough because of his past.
        Beginning with his early life in Beruit, Lebanon.
        It’s worth a look if you have some time.

    1. So?….

      Steve Wyche also thinks Trump is a doochebag… you agree with him?

      Not a fan of signing a safety recovering from injuries…..but I won’t be mad if they did sign him…..

          1. Ha! Actually I didn’t find that out until the other day. I want to add The Bosa Contrictor so our defense can suffocate the opposition!

  17. Media reports that Smith has restructured his contract and will remain with the team.

    Details of the reworked deal are not included in the report. Smith was set to make $3.75 million in 2019 with a cap hit of just over $5.4 million.

    Why this guy is still on the team….i dont understand… just reinforces the thinking personnel decisions are being made on feelings and likes….instead of just focusing on players that can actually get on the field….

    1. Sounds like we’re running the Facebook defense – don’t forget to post your feelings and likes on our site.

    2. I hope they bundle him with another player to get as high a draft pick as possible, to a struggling team that needs help. Lee makes him expendable.

    3. There’s a lot of depth at ILB on this team with decent guys. Just not sure if any of them are play makers.

    1. Well, I’m a Varanus Komodoensis–or at least I started out that way, changed forever by all the A and H bomb testing in the Marshall Islands.

    2. I’m in that group, Razor. Why? Are you giving senior senior discounts for something?

      Btw, what are your thoughts on dealing for Michael Bennett? I don’t know what he/they want, but it’s enticing if he’s willing to take some risk, like Sherman was.

      1. George, from my standpoint, you have cart blanche to post as much as you want. Thanks for your links, they help get the ball rolling.

      2. George, congrats on making it! Yes, Press Democrat T-Shirts are 15% off!👕

        Michael Bennett? I’d pass mostly because he doesn’t want to play coming off the bench, and that might be a problem. Plus, I feel like he has some attitude issues, although I have nothing to substantiate that feeling….

  18. Looks like all the good pass rushers were franchise tagged, so I hope JL signs a couple lower tier guys, with lots of potential.
    Both Moseley and Preston Smith would be nice pickups, but I think they will go to a playoff team. That is why winning is so important. JG with the 5 game winning streak helped attract FAs. Niners, at 4-12. cannot expect a player to be happy to dwell in the cellar, no matter the price. Winning will attract talent. Losing begets more losing.
    Thomas may be a decent pickup, but not at the price he wants. Glad AB is going to the Bills, and not the Niners. OBJ will require a boatload of picks, so he is unattainable at his price. Giants will not give him away.
    I hope JL throws money at Tyrell Williams, and out bids other teams. Looks like the QB situation is getting sorted out. Still think some teams will want to move up to get the player they covet.

  19. The Bills backed out of the trade deal for Brown, and the other teams are appear willing to wait for the Steelers to drop their asking price. Brown has really hurt his stock.

  20. Jags cut Hyde. No surprise. He had one move and once LB’s figured it out he was nothing special in this league.

  21. Nick Saban, appearing on SiriusXM NFL Radio, stabilizing Murray’s stock:

    “I think he’s a very dynamic player, probably the most difficult player to defend that we played against all year,” Saban said. “And, you know, we played against some really good players. I think like the Clemson quarterback [Trevor Lawrence] is really, really a good player but when you are talking about a guy that is an effective passer and has the quickness and speed and versatility of Kyler Murray, I mean it is really, really hard on a defense. It takes you out of almost everything you want to do. We didn’t get a lot of pressure on the guy because we rushed three guys a lot because you have somebody spy the guy all the time, and then the spy can’t get him on the ground. So it’s like, ‘Why are we even doing this?’ But when you don’t do it he pulls it down and runs it for 25 yards. So it’s really, really difficult and this guy is a really dynamic player. A fine young man, too, really sharing some time with them in the playoff game and some of the things that we do, he’s a character-quality leader on his team as well.”

    1. I like Murray, he has a very bright future. Saban was being very gentlemanly.

      Final score (12/29/2018): Alabama 45 , Oklahoma 34.

      Murray’s game stats — Passing: 19 of 37, 308 yrds, 2 TDs. Rushing: 17 carries for 109 yards and 1 TD.

      Alabama (Saban) held Murray in pretty good check. Pretty good….

  22. Nice read Grant, thanks.

    We can add another decent FS option to the FA list – Tashaun Gipson. He should definitely be a consideration along with Thomas and Boston. All three guys have played well as single high safeties in the same system.

    1. Tevin Coleman is available. Wouldn’t you expect KS to be interested in signing him as a complement to McKinnon and Brieda (Jeff Wilson notwithstanding).

        1. I thought Coleman was a bigger type of back that complemented the smaller Freeman. McKinnon and Brieda are small backs.

          1. He’s a bit bigger, but again, he’d still be the 3rd back, or replace one of McKinnon/ Breida. Shanahan has shown no desire to replace either of them, and they won’t overspend on a 3rd RB that won’t contribute as a STs player.

          2. He is 6′ 1″ 205 lbs. I bet KS would like him, but he may be eyeing a spot in Philly. Guess he thinks the Falcons have little upside, with the Saints in the division.

            1. He’s listed at 210 lbs. But he looks bigger. He’s an inside runner despite not being a really big guy.
              Gore was 210 – 215 but was a good inside runner despite being sub 220 lbs.

              I’ve always wondered at using Juszczyk more as an inside runner. But he has fumbling problems so that worries me.

        1. Good question. Gipson is older and more expensive. Both are good. Hard to go wrong with either guy. Who do you prefer?

          1. Gipson has a longer history of good play in the same system, and he won’t count against the comp formula. So I would go that route. But as you say, can’t go too far wrong either way.

              1. Justin Houston could be a smart signing partly for the same reason. Only a shortish term solution, but still playing well at 30. If their big signings are guys thaf have been cut they stand a decent chance of at least getting some comp picks next year.

  23. Adrian Amos, Tre Boston, Ha Ha Dix, Clayton Geathers, Lamarcus Joyner. Kenny Vaccaro, Landon Collins and Earl Thomas are all good FA options.
    They are good, but maybe 2 safeties who seem to be squeezed out due to superior starters, could be main targets for the Niners. George Iloka has talent, and Adrian Phillips was called the heart and soul of the defense by their GM.

    1. I like your optimism. However, I would pass on Bosa if Gruden gave up 3 picks. Then at 4, the Niners could get Allen and 2 starters. Jets will gladly trade back with the Giants, to let the Giants secure Haskins.

      1. The Rams window is quickly closing. Weddle despite his age is still a decent safety. His signing makes sense for a short term solution.

  24. Freaking Patriots. Give up next to nothing to add Bennett at well below what it would cost to re-sign Flowers, and will likely get a 3rd round comp for Flowers next year. Typical BB.

  25. Teams are strengthening around the League and the Niners sign a kicker. And Malcolm Smith. I’m getting so tired of this.

    1. Oy vey. Smith restructured his contract in order to remain with the 49ers. If you are going to complain about something in regards to the team, then at least make an effort to get the facts right. 😥

        1. Maybe they will trade Gould……it is an interesting sign tho…..

          The 49ers announced they have signed kicker Jonathan Brown to a two-year deal.

        2. And? The team tagged Gould with the non-exclusive tag, so if a team is willing to sign him and (like an idiot) give up two first round picks, then the 49ers would be without a kicker Renas.
          The signing of Brown could also be an indicator that the team is fixing to deal Gould, which is a scenario that Oneniner suggested.

            1. I’m sure he is. It says a lot about the team that when the Rams add Weddle and the Pats add Bennett, the Niners focus in adding a camp body. It says two teams are interested in making a deep run this year, and another is aiming at a ceiling of 8-8. Guess which one.

              1. No Renas. It says that the Rams made sure that Weddle would not visit the five other teams he was interested in playing for.

          1. Firstly, can I just point the humour in you demanding I get the facts right, then quickly realising you didn’t have the facts in regards to the kicker signing, and promptly editing that part out of your replay? Provided a good chuckle or two I must say.

            Moving on, the point, MidWest, is that other teams, including the two super bowl teams, have made moves to improve their teams already, while the Niners, who need those types of moves more than either, sign a kicker despite having one on the franchise tag. It’s a bad look. No team is giving up two first round picks for a kicker. And if they did, being without a kicker for the few days it would take them to pick another one up from somewhere is a price I would happily pay for two first round picks.

            If the Niners are trying to trade Gould, then that too supports my point. Brown is worse than Gould. The Niners would have used this opening day to worsen the team, rather than strengthen in like it so desperately needs.

            This sends an awful message to the fans. They’re not interested in winning. They don’t have the chops to get the best players here. Sure, it’s early on, but what an awful start.

            1. Maybe the team doesn’t feel they need to make “trades” and give up precious draft capital (and this year it is more precious than ever) to get the players they want. Now, if the team does nothing substantial when free agency opens up next week, then I will most likely join you in your discontentment.

              As Archie Bunker once said: “Patience is a virgin” :)

              1. Renas – the 49ers have a plan. It’s a very long term plan and so far none of the very smart people who post here have been able to figure it out. The only thing that people seem to agree on is that the latest iteration of the plan has Kyle Shanahan methodically planning the course to our next Lombardy Trophy. There has been a significant change in the historical plan though. From “Wait until next year” we have transformed to “Wait until Kyle’s 6 year contract has lapsed”. We are watching a genius at work and we need to have patience. Please be patient – and, above all, keep a good sense of humor.

            2. Moving on, the point, MidWest, is that other teams, including the two super bowl teams, have made moves to improve their teams already, while the Niners, who need those types of moves more than either, sign a kicker despite having one on the franchise tag.

              You are literally complaining about a team not making moves in the off-season before free agency. That is the same as complaining about a show’s ending before it has even aired.

              1. I mean, if everything leading up to the ending sucks, it’s a good bet the ending will suck too. Niners are, once again, passive and stagnant, all while their rivals are aggressive and proactive.

              2. ‘if you complain about something just to complain…’
                It just means you are a fan of the team that is sick of seeing them at 4-12, and thinks they will never improve until they figure out where they went wrong, so they can learn, and not repeat those mistakes.
                If you do not complain about a 4-12 team, it just means you are complacent and are so beaten down, you do not care if they keep losing. Front offices that do not like any criticism, while they richly deserve it, will just keep losing.

  26. Any ideas on why the 49ers did not include compensation if he signs with another team?

    Is this a rule thing?

    Mostert is a restricted free agent, and Matt Maiocco is reporting the team used the lowest tender ($2,025,000). This gives them the right of first refusal on any contract offer, but no compensation if he signs an offer sheet and they choose not to match it.

    1. An easily replaceable position. If someone offers a good contract to him more power to Mostert. But why would anyone do that? If someone offers a reasonable multi-year contract to him, 49ers can easily match.

          1. Rocket got called out for being a fraud, so he left in a huff. He was the one who derided me for deigning to postulate about trade backs. Thankfully, he got his comeuppance when the Niners traded back, and still got the player they coveted.

          2. Saw Rocket hanging out with Elvis the other day.
            Think they both have a bone to pick with Grant.

            Actually, I miss my old poster pal. Hoping he gets back on soon. Maybe Grant will show him leniency – although Rocket would never ask for it.
            Um, Seb, doubt you had anything to do with Rockets departure.

            1. I doubt that, too. Grant called him out. he left in a huff.
              I was just pointing out my history with rocket. He, too has tried to engage with me, but learned his lesson. He is certainly free to come back and post, I am not banning him.

  27. I suspect Rocket tired of the overwhelmingly pessimistic tone.

    IMO, come for Grant’s more informative and rational approach to the 49ers offseason coverage and personnel transactions, and skip over the more questionable, jaded, and consistently pessimistic approach to schematic breakdowns, and coaching / front office analysis.

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