Cruising The West Coast, Kansas City Chiefs Style

1 Feature From The Bleachers

I grew up on the west coast. It’s truly a sight to behold. Highway One on the west coast has it all. Grand vistas with sculptured foothills sloping downward to the Pacific which stretches past each peripheral horizon.

That pretty much sums up the “west coast” that we know, both geographically and offensively.

The Chiefs west coast is a sight to behold as well and when we last checked in it was producing 44 points and 513 yards of total offense without the services of their best player, running back Jamaal Charles.

Let’s not forget who the Chiefs really are. A west coast offense… with several variations. It’s not only made that way by Andy Reid who’s been dabbling in west coast sculpting for decades but, don’t forget that Brad Childress is in house and he is bit of a mad scientist himself when it comes to offensive approaches (his current title is “Spread Game Analysis, Special Projects”). Alex Smith was asked recently if the whole offense was now installed and he answered in the affirmative. However, when coach Reid was asked the same question he said “No.” And would you ever really expect that to change? I would hope not.

Many of us have mistakenly attempted to breakdown the Chiefs by only looking at one facet or another… when the truth is, you can’t analyse one part in a vacuum. It doesn’t work. The Chiefs offense is a west coast system and every comment we make about them needs to be couched within that awareness: within the whole context of their offensive system. offers that the west coast,

“…offensive philosophy is a finesse, timing offense that emphasis a short passing game to control the ball. Most NFL offenses will use the running game to draw the linebackers and safeties closer to the line of scrimmage to open up the passing game for vertical attacks down the field. The west coast offense does the opposite by using a quick, short, timed, horizontal passing attack to set up the running game for longer runs or longer passes.”

The game against the Colts in the playoffs is a perfect example of how to make the west coast offense work.

Here’s a simple breakdown of the most essential offensive plays from that game:

  • Alex Smith to Dwayne Bowe on a short slant from the right side at the goal line for TD #1.
  • Bowe lines up in the slot on the left this time and runs another slant, catches the ball and takes it 63 yards to the two yard line. A FG ensues.
  • Next Donnie Avery lines up outside on the right and runs a post up the middle and Smith connects with Avery for 79 yards and TD#2.
  • Alex Smith pitches a shovel pass near the goal to FB Anthony Sherman for TD#3.
  • In the meantime Smith keeps several drives alive with his legs picking up one first down after another.
  • Then it’s Knile Davis running it up the gut for TD#4. From the 10 yard line Alex Smith then uses his legs to avoid pressure and runs right and fading away throws off hi back foot to Knile Davis who has broken for the end zone along the right sideline.
  • A perfect touch pass landing gently in Davis lap for TD #5.
  • Smith to A.J. Jenkins on a crossing route for 27 yards with the bulk of those yards earned by Jenkins up the left sideline.

You can see many examples of what calls the west coast offense: finesse, timing, short passes, ball control, horizontal passes to set up the running game and short horizontal passes to set up the verticle passing game.

In that game the Chiefs went long with success. However, many Chiefs fans are calling for them to go long more and laying the burden for the fact that they don’t at the feet of Alex Smith saying “He can’t throw the long ball.” My bologna has a first name, it’s B-U-L-L. Many people seem to simply forget that it’s part of the design of the west coast approach.

The Chiefs overall progress brought them to the point that (almost) everything was clicking that day. Who could ask for more than 44 points and 513 total yards?

The Chiefs were cruising then. And, they’re cruising now.

The game in January is now a template.

The progress made up to that point has been carried over to OTAs. We’ve heard it several times now, most of the offensive players are in their second year. Sophomores. Been there done that. A point of context for those returning.

Yea… but should that matter so much?” Well, yea. Hell yea!

I remember my first year of college many moons ago. My older brother was a senior and I had visited campus many times because of him plus, I was staying with a coach off campus a whole week before all other students arrived. So, I had familiarity with the campus and during the first two weeks of school there I would be approached by total strangers walking up to me and asking for directions. I remember thinking… “don’t they know I’m a freshman just like them?” Somehow they could see that I knew the campus and knew what I was doing.

Familiarity doesn’t just breed contempt. Research shows familiarity breeds “liking.”

The fact that the majority of the Chiefs offense — the players — have been through this before should make a world of difference come training camp and more importantly, on game day this fall.

One wideout who’s had a good spring is A.J. Jenkins. Do I expect big things from A.J. Jenkins? No, but I do expect him to make significant contributions. If you don’t like him and think he’s going to be a total bust at some point then ask yourself if GM John Dorsey did the right thing in trading for him and dumping Jon Baldwin? Jenkins skills are made for the west coast offense. Baldwins? Not so much. I’d be willing to bet Baldwin exits the league before Jenkins does. Perhaps you should go back and take a look at the play he gained 27 yards on in the game against the Colts. 24 of those yards are because of him. Go to the 6:20 mark of this video to see Jenkins run.

Every year the Chiefs have one player or another who has a “breakout year.” It was Eric Berry in 2010. 2011 Derrick Johnson (1st Pro Bowl). 2012 Justin Houston. 2013 Dontari Poe. If I had to choose someone on offense I would choose De’Anthony Thomas first and A.J. Jenkins second. However, the whole offense looks poised for a breakout year.

Chiefs fans should expect a very good year from TE Anthony Fasano too. In his 7 years as a pro prior to last season when he missed 7 games, Fasano only missed 4 games total. And he’s reportedly having an excellent spring too.

No one will be more responsible for the Chiefs offense “cruising” this year than Dwayne Bowe.

Following OTAs head coach Andy Reid was interviewed about the Chiefs #1 wide receiver Dwayne Bowe and Reid went further to point out the importance of familiarity,

“I think it’s two things. He’s (Alex Smith) more familiar with all of his receivers… Dwayne included. And then um, he’s more familiar with the offense, uh they all are. And so you hope that that’s the next step that takes place there that they can all pick their game up even a little better than last year.”

Everyone recognizes that Dwayne Bowe is cruising this off season. Alex Smith spoke about Dwayne Bowe on Radio 810, The Border Patrol program this past week. He said,

“I think if you look at Dwayne’s numbers over the last 6 or 8 games of the season period, I think they stack up with the best in the league. And I know early on, he wasn’t getting as many touches as he probably would have liked. And the thing I think I respect the most about Dwayne is… I’ve been around a lot of receivers and he is absolutely the most team-first receiver I’ve ever played with. Umm, the most selfless receiver, I mean he more concerned about whether we’re winning than how many catches he gets. Uh, it’s fun to be around as a quarterback, cause I’ve been around a lot of other guys and it’s been the other way.”

“The most selfless receiver.”

Wow. How many of you have that perception of Bowe? In any case what should be taken away from Alex Smith’s comments is that Bowe is likely to have his best year yet.

Smith goes on to talk about how Bowe will be used,

“…you know Dwayne was put in a lot of different situations… we were putting him in the slot, putting him outside, moving him around, finding matchups for him and he was handling it and doing such a great job with it, and I think that’s what you saw at the end of the season and then in the playoffs and if you happen to watch the OTAs you’re seeing the same thing, that he’s a guy that can do so many different things… he can match up against a corner, a linebacker and a safety and he’s going to win all those battles because of his size and strength and speed.”

Smith also gave credit to Andy Reid and the coaching staff,

“I think its more having to do just with the entire offense kind of getting a feel for each other, but mainly I think coach Reid and the offensive staff really feel and understand what were good at.”

Maybe that includes knowing their own players well enough to “not” draft a WR when everyone outside of the organization was clamoring for them to do just that.

You can do that when… you know and have confidence in what you’ve got.

When you’ve got confidence… you’re cruising.

Totally dude.

What do you think Addict fans? Ready to see some cruisin’ at Arrowhead?

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  • berttheclock

    In reality, the Chiefs West Coast offense was designed originally in Ohio. It is the old Ohio River offense designed by Paul Brown, where Bill Walsh honed his skills under that tutelage. The main reason it is referred to as the “West Coast” is due to Bill Parcells sarcastically calling it that after his Giants defeated Bill Walsh’s Niners in a championship game.

    But, no matter what one calls this system, it is a system based on short crisp routes and it has never been a bombs away type offense. Yards after the catch are a big part of moving the chains. Al Davis even brought it to Oakland, but, tried to insert long passes to go with his new system. For those who continue to deride Alex Smith for his check offs and short passes, they have little understanding of anything in football, er, strike that and just say they have little knowledge of the West Coast offense.

    • ladner morse

      I’ve heard these stories many times before so I don’t go into repeating them but, what I do find interesting is that Andy Reid and Alex Smith have some fairly similar roots. Both grew up in So. Cal. and both went to Utah schools. Both had a west coast background there. Very interesting.

      • berttheclock

        Yes. the U of U for Alex Smith. There used to be a great bar in Salt Lake City (Gone with urban renewal). It was on State Street and the owner was an alum of the U of U. There were several white toilet seats on the walls, all adorned with strips of blue paper.

        But, the real reason I mentioned the history is so many excellent coaches learned this system and ended up honing and perfecting. Now, stay tuned for tomorrow’s lecture on the Split T and Don Faurot of Missouri.

        • ladner morse

          Ahhhhh… the days of the Split-T. I can’t imagine many fans here would recall that formation. That’s the original formation I learned on offense. I played fullback, which in those days was the featured back. Sometimes I miss those days so much.

  • berttheclock

    Interesting how a former offensive lineman at Utah State by the name of Lavelle Edwards, decided to install the West Coast at BYU when he became their HC in 1972 and taught an offensive lineman, Andy Reid, the system.

  • Wes McDougal

    Great read Laddie as usual and I agree 100%. Bowe, Jenkins, Hemmingway will be fine. Then you throw in Dressler that alone is a lot of options for AS11. Also our TE’s will be huge this year with Kelce and Fasano healthy plus now Harris. Not to mention Charles. I can’t wait to see this offence this year. GO CHIEFS

    • berttheclock

      Yes, but, don’t forget DAT.

      • Wes McDougal

        I almost thru him in there but I’m not sure how much he will contribute this year in offence. I think this year he will have a big impact in the return game . But would love to see him in the slot.

        • ladner morse

          I think DAT will do all that DEX did and much more. He’s brings such a dynamic that McCluster never had.

    • mnelson52

      Harris has not taken McGrath’s job yet and we don’t know if he will. Considering that they didn’t sign McGrath till less than a week before the season started, I think he did an amazing job. He had to learn Reid’s system while being thrown in the games with little knowledge of the system. Do I think he is a top ten TE, no, but I think he will be better this year.

      • Wes McDougal

        McGrath did do a great job and should make the 53 man roster. It may take Harris another half a season to get up to speed but I think he will be a beast.

        • mnelson52

          I wish I could be at practice to decide for myself. I remember them telling us how good Baldwin was doing when Bowe wasn’t there, so sometimes I believe they brag on people to try and make them play harder. We all know when it came game time Baldwin couldn’t get separation from anything but the football.

          • Wes McDougal

            They have several open practice’s in St Joe for training camp. I went to one last year and will go again this year.

          • mnelson52

            Yes I know, but 4 years ago I had might leg removed, so I’m on a fixed income and 7 hours away. I did however watch the Chiefs play the Titans last year that is 3 hours away and it was the most exiting thing I’ve done in a long time. I do live and breathe Chiefs 24/7.

        • ladner morse

          I agree that McGrath deserves to be on the roster because he was the one they could count on last year but…. what do you do with Harris in the mean time? He can;t go back on the practice squad. I’d like to see the Chiefs carry 4 TEs. Then they’ll have some hard decisions to make elsewhere.

          • mnelson52

            That would be good, but I think you would also need multiple people to play multiple positions in other areas to do that. Same goes if they try to carry 4 QBs. Whether it be TE or QB, we will/would lose them if they go to practice squad. Of coarse they could possibly put someone on IR. I could be wrong but I think they want to keep a lot of DBs. I think Dorsey has built our competition strong enough that we could lose almost anyone sent to the practice squad, even though some of our players aren’t proven yet. I do think though, that any of our top 4 TEs and/or QBs, would disappear quick.

  • Deaudrey Dre-Mac MacDonald

    I agree Laddie good read, still hurts to watch those highlights!! I still can’t wait for football tho!!

    • ladner morse

      Yea… but if you can bear through it… there are so many positive Chiefs moments in that clip…. and in that game.

      • mnelson52

        That game, and the first Charger game, proved to me that Alex can put the team/offense on his shoulders if need be. He put up 80 something points against two playoff teams. Defense failed him both times.

  • Stan

    One season RB Roger Craig of the 49ers had a 1,000+ yards rushing and a 1,000+ yards receiving. First time in NFL history that a RB did that. QB was Montana in a West Coast system. I guess Montana was a game manager that won 4 Super Bowls. The Chiefs use Charles the same way the 9ers used Craig. But of course the 9ers had Rice, John Taylor and Brent Jones as receivers also. Alex really only had Bowe and he was doubled a lot. Go Chiefs!!!

    • berttheclock

      Yes and Steve Young learned the West Coast under Lavelle Edwards at BYU, then, after spending some very unquality time in Tampa came to the Niners and perfected that system.

      • ladner morse

        Can you imagine the career Steve Young would have had if he didn’t have to wait for what seemed like a decade behind the greatest to ever pitch the pigskin?

    • ladner morse

      I think JC is capable of the two way 1,000 yard season but I’m hoping that doesn’t happen because he’ll be spent much like Larry Johnson the after he had all those carries.

    • berttheclock

      Plus, Dwight Clark, the TE a KC scout scouted in South Carolina, but, came back raving about Steve Fuller. The Chiefs left both Clark and Montana on the board after taking Fuller. Another Steadman debacle.

      • tm1946

        Thanks for reviving a bad memory,

      • Michael Shaw

        Ok. Could have done without that tidbit of nasty info!!

  • berttheclock

    For the year of BYU’s run for the national championship in ’84 in which they defeated Michigan, Edwards used Kelly Smith as a RB with 50 rushes for 376 yards and 5 TDs and as a receiver with 46 catches for 598 yards and 6 TDs. In fact against Michigan, Smith had one rushing TD and one pass catching TD. The West Coast uses a running throwing balance for RBs.

    • Chris Tarrants

      Dude how do you know this crap? You’re like the walking encyclopedia of everything sports! Part of me is jealous but the other part of my is afraid my head would explode with all that stuff packed in there

  • Reggie Flenory

    We mos def got the better of the jenkins baldwin deal jenkins will have a great yr the best thing about this is our wide outs are gonna fly under the radar for most of the yr before people look up and say oh crap we gotta game plan for these guys now

    • ladner morse

      And I also hoping part of that game plan includes Hemingway being used in many of the ways Bowe is used because I see him as quite capable.

      • Reggie Flenory

        Yesir i agree i think hemingway will definately take a step forward he showed goood promis last yr he like jenkims and kelce will benefit the first few games because nobody knows who these guys really are from the opposing team

  • Chris Tarrants

    If there is going to be any “cruising” this year then I hope like hell that Reid waits until we reach 90 mph before he sets the cruise

    • ladner morse

      All I know is… you do not want to go 90 on Highway One.

      • Michael Shaw

        Hard not to if you are on a HOG!!! LOL!!!

        • ladner morse

          EXCEPTION #1: HOGS can do as they please. :)

      • berttheclock

        Nor head south from Monterrey driving a Winnebago with a broken front right shock, nor descend from Yosemite to Mono Lake in the same vehicle.

  • Michael Shaw

    Great read Laddie!! What part of Cali are you in?

    • ladner morse

      I grew up in the San Gabriel Valley in a town 30 miles east of L.A. with 8 colleges in it called Claremont. An idyllic little community that to this day will not allow bulletin boards of any kind and fast food places like McDonald’s can’t put up a sign taller than 15 feet high.

      At the moment I live in the Dallas area but will be spending plenty of time in So. Cal in July.

      • berttheclock

        So, you do miss “In N Out”, eh?

        • ladner morse

          Yes… for a long time I did because Claremont had one of the original In-N-Outs and it was a regular stop for us kids as teenagers. Now… I believe it was 3 years ago… that the Dallas area built three In-N-Outs. So… I appreciate the reminder as I will head there this afternoon to get one “Animal Style.”

  • Stan Colbert

    If you recall Joe Montana ran WCO in KC with a set of WR that wouldn’t be on anyone’s great list and he had some success. He was Joe and he hit a number of said receivers in the head before they learned the offense. Alex is not Joe, but these receivers fit the description. The key is knowing and reading the defender running the correct route as crisply as possible and catching the ball. These OTAs are made for this kind of work. Reid also runs practice at speed! One reason is to get as many reps as possible because he knows every time you run the route you gain info. The more knowledge the better the route the better the excecution. That is also why every coach has bemoaned the fact DAT isn’t able to attend.

    • berttheclock

      The major problem Joe had in KC was in not having a pass catching TE. Jonathan Hayes was an excellent blocker, but, he possessed stone hands. By the time King Carl realized that need and picked up Tony G, Joe was gone.

      • ladner morse

        Tony wan’t drafted until three years after Joe left so I’m not sure it’s appropriate to connect those dots.