I received a tweet recently wondering if Brock Osweiler is suited for the West Coast Offense variant that head coach Gary Kubiak runs. It was one of several. Many folks apparently believe that since Brock was drafted during the Manning offense years, he’s not suited for Kubiak’s WCO variation. How, he wondered, did I feel about that?
I feel that in every case, you have to look at the system and the athlete and determine how well they should interact. A quarterback may fail in one system and thrive in another. Let’s look at the system, then how Brock might (or might not) fit.
Osweiler was chosen in 2012, while Peyton Manning and Mike McCoy installed their first Manning variant offense. To those who scream that it’s always the same offense, it isn’t. You may not recognize the changes, but they’re always part of each year’s preparation. Brock’s seen that in action. Kubiak, Manning, John Fox and John Elway have all discussed this.
Bill Walsh, Al Davis and Don Coryell studied under Sid Gillman. Gillman established many of today’s passing approaches. He also worked at a movie theatre at one point and talked the owner into letting him use the equipment to create practice and game film. He was one of the first to use it in practice and games.
Walsh’s focus was to emphasize the horizontal aspects of the field. Creating mismatches, overloading zones and exploiting holes in the defense were among his many keys.
Bill Walsh had been at Stanford and saw some things there that caused him to muse on ways to better run an offense. When he was in Cincinnati, the starting QB was injured. The backup, Virgil Carter, was very accurate throwing to about 10 yards. Beyond that, he was useless. Paul Brown told Walsh to come up with a solution.
His solution was a short-yardage, pass-oriented, horizontally-based, timing-pattern intensive offense. It was aimed at a single QB and it worked well.
Walsh was later offered the head coaching job for the San Francisco 49ers. He nurtured his approaches in everything from practice systems to scouting the waiver wire. He expected to find players to fit in his approach. In San Francisco the term 'West Coast Offense' first became synonymous with Walsh.
I covered many of the myths and truths of the system here. After you’ve perused it, you’ll know what kind of QB the system seems to best fit. But here’s a Bill Walsh story that can give one pause.
Complexity is a central hallmark of the WCO. That makes it essential to get Brock all possible reps this year. Doing so will help establish a range for his new contract. It will also help get him familiar with every part of the offense. Perhaps that is as important as each game’s outcome. Osweiler must be fully conversant with the scheme as he moves into 2016 training camp.
Coach Kubiak wants a quarterback who has good pocket poise and feel. He needs mobility in and out of the pocket and accuracy when throwing on the move. Brock’s shown some of that already. If — or, I think, when — it’s established that Brock is the now-and-future at QB, they’ll be working in even more plays that fit him best.
Brock has to learn to avoid throws where the defensive line can deflect them. You also want to keep your outlet route available. The defense might send someone into your passing lane on a stunt.
Staying aware of the outlet receiver is something that a lot of young quarterbacks have to work on. There will be a voice in their subconscious telling them to make the bigger play, the longer pass. Sometimes it’s better if you take the five yards and know that you can get them next play, too.
Outlet receivers are often running backs — on the right play, they can get you long yards after the catch. It’s funny — former Broncos fullback Howard Griffith always come to mind when I think of those.
Tight ends are essential in the WCO — they can block, chip or run routes for you. 3-TE sets have become more common, although I think there’s a lot more that could be done with them. Walsh considered the tight end the linchpin, the position holding his passing and rushing attacks together. Denver will need to upgrade their corps, but getting TE Jeff Heuerman back will be like a free draft pick in the offseason.
As I consider the film I’ve done on Brock’s work over the last four games, I can see no reason to think that Brock is unsuited to the Kubiak system. Quite the opposite — if anything, I think it may suit him better than the Manning/OC approach would. That was the outcome of years of finding out what worked best for Peyton.
The future is going to be about finding out what works best for Brock.
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