Vertical game (vs. West Coast offense)

Benjamin Zimmer bgzimmer at RCI.RUTGERS.EDU
Mon Jan 10 22:32:55 UTC 2005

On Mon, 10 Jan 2005 15:59:42 -0500, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>

>I'm not sure "horizontal" is used as the opposite of "vertical" for
>passing games.  If anything, the antonym of "vertical offense"
>appears to be "West Coast offense" (don't ask).  In fact, I think the
>popularity of "vertical" to describe styles of offensive passing
>arose alongside the trendy use (since at least the 90's) of the
>phrase "West Coast offense", and was especially associated with, of
>all people, Al Davis's Oakland Raiders, which last time I looked are
>located on the west coast.  Antedates on "West Coast" in this sense,

The offensive style was associated with Bill Walsh's 49ers in the '80s,
but the actual name "West Coast offense" was apparently only popularized
when Wade Phillips began coaching the Broncos in 1993:

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Mar 13, 1993, p. 1C
"Gibbs, Bill Walsh and Dick Vermeil come from that same Sid
Gilman-passing-game, West Coast-style football. Bill went one way with it,
with the quickness and movement approach, and Joe went the other, by going
with brute force that would set up the passing game. But they are from
that same school."
Los Angeles Times, Aug 8, 1993, p. 7
Some call it the West Coast offense.
Others, the Bill Walsh offense.
Still others, the Joe Montana offense.
Those who have been forced to play against it have been known to call it
things unprintable in a family newspaper.
The basic elements are simple: Use split backs, two wide receivers and a
tight end. Spread the offense out evenly, using all five as receivers.
Stick to a short dropback by the quarterback, a quick attack and short
passes. And make the personnel fit the game plan rather than vice versa.
St. Petersburg Times (Florida), Aug 27, 1993, p. 6G
Coach: Wade Phillips (first season).
1992 record: 8-8, 3rd in AFC West.
Will win division if: The new "West Coast" offense lets Elway go coast to
Seattle Times, Sep 2, 1993, p. D5
For instance, X's and O's. They're overrated, Phillips said. Yes, the
Broncos have gone to the "West Coast" offense popularized by Bill Walsh.
But the main reason is to better utilize Elway, the team's best player.
New York Times, Sep 5, 1993, p. S11
The reins have been loosened on quarterback John Elway now that Wade
Phillips, the former defensive coordinator, is coaching the team. Phillips
took over for Dan Reeves, who was fired at the end of last season, and
installed what he calls the "West Coast" offense, which is a short passing
game similar to what San Francisco runs.

--Ben Zimmer

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