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What exactly is the West Coast offense? Browns coach Pat Shurmur explains

By Nate Ulrich Published: February 27, 2011

The term "West Coast offense" goes hand in hand with Browns President Mike Holmgren and members of his coaching tree.

With Pat Shurmur, a member of Holmgren's fraternity, now in place as Cleveland's head coach, the Browns will convert to a West Coast system. So what exactly is the West Coast offense?

"Well, the West Coast offense, if there's 300 people in the room, it may get defined 300 different ways," Shurmur said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "But it's really what you tell the quarterback. It's how you train the quarterback from footwork and timing and decision making. It's a passing game that's highly efficient, which really banks on accuracy, so you can get it to the receivers, so they can run with it. There are throws down the field, which are very important.

"And then a little bit of a broader definition is how you practice. When you're in pads, when you're not, so as you go through the length of an NFL season, you're trying to play your best football at the end of the year. So it's about efficiency. It's about the quarterback. But any offense obviously starts up front with the offensive line."

How are running backs used?

"The West Coast system obviously starts with a two-back (set)," Shurmur said. "Because we will throw the ball, the halfback has to be able to catch the ball out of the backfield as well as run with it. The fullback is a guy that needs to be able to block, win one-on-one battles on linebackers and then be able to catch the ball out of the backfield.

"So it sounds trite, but we're going to hand it to them and throw it to them. It's important that they're able to beat linebackers in one-on-one coverage and catch the football -- that's the important piece. And when they're asked to pass protect, (they need to) be able to do that as well. The running backs in this system, they're key positions because they're going to touch the football."

What formations will be employed?

"It starts in two backs and it obviously will work itself into three receivers, one back," Shurmur said. "There's going to be a considerable amount of four-receiver sets. It's very multiple from that standpoint. But when you teach the system, it starts with a two-back set."

How will the tight ends be used?

"He needs to be a pass receiver," Shurmur said. "I think it’s important when we throw him the football, he catches it. Some are outstanding blockers and some are outstanding receivers. We feel good about Ben (Watson) as our starter. He can play three downs. He can block and he was obviously extremely productive as a receiver.

"Those are the guys we’re looking for. You can have a guy that’s a little bit more of a pass receiver and use him in certain situations and a guy that’s a little bit more of a blocker in short yardage and goal line when you’re obviously going to run the ball. Those guys are critical to the success of our offense. You’ve seen through the years West Coast style type ends be very productive."


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