Cleveland Browns: Colt McCoy and the West Coast Offense

Joe HunleyContributor IJanuary 25, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 21:  Colt McCoy #12  of the Cleveland Browns is chased down by Larry Hart #59  during a game agaisnt the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on November 21, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Numerous articles have been posted on blogs, websites, and on-line newspapers regarding the Cleveland Browns and the West Coast Offense.

These articles express different views and opinions on the possible success or failure of this offense in Cleveland. Many of which have stated that Colt McCoy does not have the arm strength to successfully run the West Coast Offense.

McCoy has played eight games as a Brown; therefore, it is to early to determine whether he can or cannot be effective in any offense. He has shown, in his limited playing time, qualities that are vital to such an offense.

The West Coast Offense is a complex system that relies heavily on a quarterbacks accuracy, his mobility, and his ability to make decisions quickly. These qualities are more vital than arm strength.

Run first is the mentality of most conventional offenses, attempting to draw defenders closer to the line of scrimmage, opening up passing lanes for a vertical air attack. This type of offense can be very effective, especially with a strong armed quarterback.

The West Coast offense uses a horizontal air attack, done quickly, to open up the running game. The quarterback is required to be mobile, as he often will perform bootlegs and roll outs in conjunction with the patterns of his receivers.

It is a short passing attack, somewhat of an extension of the running game designed to maintain possession, and create mismatches due to the number of receivers. This larger number of receivers is due to using running backs as receivers more-so than other systems.

Peyton Hillis has proven to be very effective coming out of the backfield, running routes and making vital receptions.

Downfield speed is not of utmost importance in the West Coast Offense. Precision and timing, along with running precise routes, is required of wide receivers. A wide receiver capable of making yardage after the catch is a welcome addition (Jerry Rice).

Arm strength is definitely a plus for any quarterback, provided he has no problem with accuracy. The West Coast Offense is built on high percentage, short yardage passes; therefore, using arm strength as a gauge for failure is speculation backed by little research or facts.

So, where does McCoy fit into this equation?

The quarterback must be football smart and mobile. Being the field general, he must have authority in the huddle—he is the leader. The ability to make a three or five step drop quickly is highly important, along with accuracy and the ability to read the field. Quick release, along with touch is vital.

I have not seen enough of McCoy to declare him successful in the West Coast Offense, nor has anyone seen enough to declare him a failure.

What he has shown is poise under pressure, the ability to scramble out of the pocket and make plays, and what seems to be a thirst for winning.

He has a quick release and has shown to be accurate in short yardage passes. As a rookie, he has taken the field, gained respect from the veterans, and seems to have command of the huddle. He has also shown the ability to run the hurry-up offense and be effective.

The key to a quarterbacks success in this type of system is his ability to make quick reads and sharp, precise passes. For a rookie, McCoy has thrown numerous sharp and precise passes, quick reads will develop with experience.

Will Colt McCoy be successful in the West Coast Offense? Who knows; however, he does possess a few vital requirements.

Quote from NFL Combine Report:

"McCoy is a natural leader with high character. Played with a lot of intelligence in Texas’ system which he mastered. Was extremely productive. Possesses a quick release. Displays great accuracy in the short passing game and puts the ball in a position to set up his receivers for run after the catch. Has the foot-speed to avoid the rush and buy extra time."

(Also Posted at Cleveland Browns Report)