The history of the West Coast offense

Now that Mike Holmgren has his own man in Cleveland with Pat Shurmer, Browns fans are learning more about an offense that has its roots with Paul Brown and the Browns back in their glory days.

Tony Grossi traces the history of the offense in today’s Plain Dealer, starting with Paul Brown, then to Bill Walsh who joined him in Cincinnati and then on to Holmgren and other like Andy Reid. The “West Coast” nickname was originally coined by Bill Parcels.

It’s a great read for anyone who appreciates football schemes and how they evolve through the years. The bottom line for Browns fans is they have a quarterback in Colt McCoy who has the potential to flourish in this system. That said, the West Coast offense relies heavily on timing, so expect some growing pains as the Browns try to install a new system in a year without any off-season prep. I suspect the Browns and other teams installing new systems with play their starters much more in the pre-season.

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Could Browns have hired Gruden if Holmgren wanted to?

Peter King mentioned a pretty interesting quote by Browns president Mike Holmgren about former head coaches Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden in his latest edition of Monday Morning Quarterback:

“Everyone is not privy to the information. I talked to [Bill] Cowher and I talked to [Jon] Gruden and they’re friends of mine. Of course Jon worked for me. There were a lot of reasons why that didn’t happen. In Bill’s case he wasn’t ready to come back and he was very honest about it and we had a very candid conversation. In Jon’s case, he said he would come back for me, but I said I needed a little more than that. You shouldn’t just come back for me, you should want to do this … He really enjoys TV and he’s good at it.”

— Cleveland president Mike Holmgren, to KJR in Seattle via, on considering Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher for his vacant head-coaching job before hiring Pat Shurmur.

Holmgren’s comments about Cowher make you wonder if the former Pittsburgh head coach will ever return to the sidelines. After the 2011 season, it will be five years since Cowher last coached. As King hits on, will Cowher ever have the hunger it takes to return to the sidelines?

I don’t have the faintness idea what it’s like to lose a beloved spouse (Cowher lost his wife Kaye to skin cancer seven months ago), but I would have to imagine that one never gets over it. Maybe Cowher will never have the desire to coach again. Maybe the timing will never be right. Or maybe he’ll be ready to return as soon as next year. Who knows?

As far as Gruden is concerned, I think it was smart of Holmgren not to try and convince Gruden to return to the sidelines if he’s not 100% ready. As Holmgren pointed out, Gruden would have returned to the sidelines if asked, but that’s not what Holmgren wants. He wants somebody that will have the passion to take over a young team in much need of leadership and direction from their head coach. If Gruden wasn’t all in, Holmgren wasn’t going to be either.

Cleveland radio host goes off on Browns

Greg Kozarik, host of Locked and Loaded on the Digital Sports Network, absolutely went off on the Browns on a recent show. It’s a must listen.

We have a couple of loyal TSR readers who are Brown fans, so I’d love to get their take on this rant. I know many fans follow the “in Holmgren we trust” mantra because what else are they going to hold onto? But is Kozarik’s view how the tortured souls in Cleveland really feel?

I like the part at the end when Kozarik mentions how he hopes the Steelers win it all. Most Cleveland fans are openly rooting against Pittsburgh but I like Kozarik’s take: maybe it’ll motivate the Browns to want to win if they have to watch the Steelers win yet another Super Bowl.

“Al Lerner himself is down in hell right now laughing with Satan, because do you know how much money he stole from Cleveland Browns fans?”


(Hat tip to Midwest Sports Fans and Yardbarker for the clip.)

Shurmur not a flashy hire for Browns, but he’s a fit for Holmgren

Not many football fans are familiar with former Rams’ offensive coordinator and new Browns’ head coach Pat Shurmur, but Mike Holmgren is well aware of what the 45-year-old from Michigan brings to the table.

Shurmur was considered the favorite to win Cleveland’s head coaching job since Eric Mangini was fired last week. He runs the West Coast offense that Holmgren will likely implement in 2011 and he’s presided over the development of young quarterbacks like Sam Bradford and Kevin Kolb. Being able to work and develop young signal callers was a trait that Holmgren was looking for in his next head coach because of Colt McCoy.

While he’s never been a head coach at any level, Shurmur has plenty of experience as an NFL assistant. He was the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach from 1998-2008 and was the Rams’ O-coordinator the past two seasons. Again, his ability to tutor McCoy in the offensive scheme that Holmgren wants to implement was the main reason why Shurmur was hired. In the end, he may not wind up being successful but at least he’s the guy that Holmgren handpicked (unlike Mangini). And at this point, Browns fans have no reason to not trust Holmgren’s decision-making.

At the very least, things are starting to take shape in Cleveland. Holmgren has built winners in his two previous NFL stops (Green Bay and Seattle) and given enough time, he could do the same in Cleveland. This will be his second offseason “buying the groceries” if you will, and now he can really focus on bringing in the personnel to fit the WCO. Assuming McCoy showed him enough this season to be counted on as the full-time starter, Holmgren now has his quarterback and head coach in place.

As football fans know, teams can’t be successful unless they have those two pieces in place, so Holmgren is off to a fine start.

Browns fire Mangini – will Holmgren target Fox to replace him?

Cleveland Browns head coach Eric Mangini watches second quarter action against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October17, 2010. UPI/Archie Carpenter

“Black Monday” just seized its first victim.

Following the team’s 5-11 season, the Browns have decided to fire coach Eric Mangini, who had two years remaining on his contract. When the Browns hired him in December of last year, Mike Holmgren retained Mangini hoping that the success the Browns had at the end of 2010 would carry over into 2011. But Cleveland sputtered again under Mangini’s guidance.

There’s speculation that Holmgren will return to the sidelines next season to coach the Browns, but ESPN’s Chris Mortensen believes that he’ll remain the team’s President. If Holmgren does become the Browns’ next coach, he’ll install the West Coast-style offense that guided the Packers to two Super Bowls and the Seahawks to one.

If he doesn’t return to the sidelines, there are rumors circulating that John Fox is at the top of Holmgren’s wish list. Fox was informed last week that the Panthers, whom he spent nine years with from 2002-2010, would not renew his contract. He compiled a 73-71 record in Carolina, going 5-3 in the playoffs and reaching the Super Bowl in 2003.

There are many fans and media members that like Fox and believe he can succeed now that he’s out of Jerry Richardson’s claws. But I’m not one of them.

As I’ve written many times before on this blog, the Panthers were the models of inconsistency under Fox throughout his tenure. Not once did the team finish with back-to-back winning records and while Fox is highly regarded as a coach who gets the most out of his players, he seemed to be lacking in the Xs and Os department. His decision-making was questionable at best, most notably in his loyalty to Jake Delhomme (who was finished years ago but still manages to trick teams into giving him money) and his desire to see receiver Steve Smith get away with everything. Fox is also known for his defenses, but Carolina’s secondary was seemingly an issue every year. (That’s not all on him of course, but he takes a lot of the blame.)

If Holmgren doesn’t want to coach, he should handpick someone young and energetic. The Browns are a young themselves and they’re only going to get younger as Holmgren builds through the draft. Fox wouldn’t be an Eric Mangini-like disaster but maybe Cleveland would be better served not going the retread route.

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