Jerome and the West Coast

If there's one player who could benefit the most from the new regime and a new offensive system, it could be the one who's been the best RB in the NFL the past two weeks...

A lot of changes could be on the way in a lot of different areas, so who knows how the Browns will look next season, or what current players may benefit, or be hurt, by what takes place?

However, in this early, early glance ahead to 2010, one player who could be helped substantially is running back Jerome Harrison.

As good as he's been these last two games – and he's been very good, as all Browns fans know – he could be even better next season, at least theoretically.

That is, if the Browns, as expected, go the West Coast offense.

That's the scheme used so effectively by new Browns president Mike Holmgren when he was a head coach with both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers, and for that matter when he was an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.

There's no guarantee that the Browns will implement that offense, but in his first conversation with the Cleveland media during a conference call last Monday, Holmgren made it clear he believed strongly in the West Coast and would try to convince the new coach to use it.

When your new boss would really like you to do something, it's a good idea to do it.

So it's a pretty sure bet that the West Coast could be coming to the North Coast, and also quite possible that Harrison, a Kalamazoo, Mich. native who played on the West Coast in college at Washington State, could be one of the key cogs.

At 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, he's the right fit – size-wise – for the West Coast, which uses smaller backs than in a conventional pro offense. And skill set-wise, he's the right fit as well, possessing quick feet and elusiveness, and being a good receiver who can catch a four-yard pass while on the move and turn it into a 14-yard gain.

"I keep hearing from people that I fit the West Coast, but I really don't know that much about it," he said the other day as the Browns continued preparations for Sunday's season finale against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Cleveland Browns Stadium. "I think we did something a little similar to it when I was in college."

And he was a smashing success.

In two years at Washington State after spending a pair of seasons at Pasadena City (Cal.) Junior College, he played in 22 games, including 16 starts, and rushed for 2,800 yards (fifth-best in school history), averaging 5.8 yards a carry. He rushed for 100 yards or better in his last 14 contests, a PAC-10 Conference record, and had four 200-yard efforts. He also had 34 receptions for 275 yards.

He finished his career as WSU's single-season rushing leader with 1,900 yards in 2005, was second in career rushing touchdowns with 25, second in single-season all-purpose yards with 2,113 in 2005, sixth in career rushing attempts with 482, and sixth in all-purpose yards with 3,267.

Not bad at all considering he played only half a normal four-year college career with the Cougars.

Two weeks ago in Kansas City, Harrison had his coming-out party – and then some – by rushing for 286 yards, the fourth-highest total in NFL history and the best in Browns history, breaking the mark of 237 by Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown, and three TDs in a 41-34 triumph.

Last Sunday in a 23-9 win over the Oakland Raiders in Cleveland, Harrison added 148 more rushing yards and a score, becoming the first player in Browns history to follow up a 200-yard rushing effort with a 100-yarder. More importantly, his 434 yards rushing over the last two weeks is the fifth-best in NFL history for consecutive games.

O.J. Simpson leads with 476 in 1976 with the Buffalo Bills, followed by another Hall of Famer, the late Walter Payton, with 467 with the Chicago Bears in 1977, Mike Anderson with 446 with the Denver Broncos in 2000, and Ricky Williams with 444 for the Miami Dolphins with 2002.

Despite Harrison's off-the-charts performances the last two weeks, Browns head coach Eric Mangini seems only mildly impressed. Right after last Sunday's game, when the Raiders were still picking themselves off the turf after Harrison had run over, around and past them, Mangini was asked point-blank if the first of the Browns' two fifth-round choices in the 2006 NFL Draft had done enough over the two games that he would be comfortable going into next season with him as the team's feature back.

Mangini was completely non-committal.

"I think he's shown a lot of good things," the coach said. "I think that's something that we'll have to discuss with Mike (Holmgren) and see what he feels.

"I think there have been a lot of positives from Jerome and a lot of growth from him in areas aren't just on the field, but rather as a pro in the classroom and at practice.

"It's nice to see, and I've been able to see it from the beginning."

But will Mangini be around to see it next year? What will happen in 2010 across the board?

Nobody knows for certain.

The answers should start coming soon, though.

And the best guess is that somehow, some way, Harrison will have an important role come next season.

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