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January 20, 1998|BOB OATES

What: "Finding the Winning Edge" by Bill Walsh with Brian Billick and James Peterson.

Price: $29.95, Sports Publishing Inc.

This book shows how you, too, can operate the West Coast offense to win five Super Bowls and 11 of every 15 regular-season games for two decades--as the San Francisco 49ers have done in the '80s and '90s.

In theory, one or both of this week's Super Bowl teams, Green Bay and Denver, could match the 49ers someday. In recent years, both have been winning with the West Coast system, developed by Bill Walsh during his 1979-89 tour as 49er coach.

The champion Sunday will be the sixth consecutive using Walsh's principles.

The essential West Coast principle replaces ball-control running with a symbiotic blend of ball-control passes and runs--more passes than runs. All plays are precisely timed, and quarterbacks are coached to throw the ball quickly, often on first down.

"You commit to a willingness to pass on first down," says Brian Billick, offensive coach of the Minnesota Vikings. "But [this book] is much more than Xs and O's. It's a full-dimension approach to football."

Every detail from organization to execution is covered. For instance, Walsh commands: "Every receiver's every route must be run exactly as practiced."

Citing an example of non-Walsh football, he says: "Turning conservative after a big play."

This isn't a book for the casual fan. Readers who will get the most out of it are young coaches aiming for a winning career in college football or with the pros.

It also will interest sports fans who want to know exactly what Walsh specifies in an offense that has been so widely adopted by successful coaches. As the NFL heads for a new century, his way is proving to be the game's most effective.

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