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Paul Brown Gets Some Props


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I have to give some big props to my local rag, the New Jersey Star-Ledger, for its '05 football preview in today's edition. It's mostly about the Giants and Jets, of course, but the centerpiece is a big pull-out poster entitled "coaching influences" that traces the development of the modern pro game.

It's set up in a sort of "family tree" style and traces three main "lines" of descent. The first starts with legendary Bears coach George Halas. Credited with being the first coach to introduce daily practices, to have assistants watch game film, and developing the man in motion concept on offense, Halas descendants include George Allen and Mike Ditka.

The second line traces from Giants coach Steve Owen, who coached from '31 to '53. Owen developed the "umbrella defense," which featured ends who would either rush the passer or drop into coverage -- the grand-daddy of the modern 4-3. Guys like Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry appear on this branch of the coaching tree.

But while both these branches bear some big-name fruit, they seem rather bare compared to the myriad offshoots of the third line -- the one that starts with Paul Brown. Cincy fans, of course, are familiar with how little credit Brown seems to get, the classic example being the misnamed "West Coast Offense." But it's a rare day I see anyone outside of the Cincy media hammer home Paul Brown's fundamental role in creating the modern game of pro football. I think a strong case could be made that today's NFL is in essence Paul Brown's NFL.

From the poster:

Brown's success in Cleveland -- a 47-4-3 record in four seasons -- led to the demise of the All-American Football Conference. When the Browns were absorbed into the NFL in 1950 (along with the Colts and the 49ers), many coaching methods now taken for granted were introduced to the league. Year-round coaching staffs, classroom sessions, loose-leaf playbooks, intelligence tests, advanced scouting, grading players from film study and calling plays from the sideline were all developments Brown instituted.

Brown brought organization to pro football. Under Brown, position coaches were teachers and his entire team watched opponents' game films. He was the first to time the 40-yard dash. His scouting reports were detailed and players were expected to take notes in their playbooks.

But preparation wasn't the only area Brown excelled at. Strategically,  Brown invented the pass pocket to protect the quarterback and timing patters to throw the ball more efficiently. Brown developed the draw play to better use 238-pound fullback Marion Motley. He was also the first to seriously scout black players.

Bill Walsh, as we all know, would take that pocket passing game to San Francisco, and refine it into the West Coast Offense. From there, Brown's influence trickles down through the likes of George Siefert, Mike Holmgren, and Mike Shanahan to Andy Reid.

Less well known is the branch that stretches back to Brown's days at Ohio State. His assistant coach there in 1941 was Sid Gillman. Gillman would take Brown's emphasis on film study one step further, studying game film for tendencies, and breaking film down and splicing it by play types, something all teams do today. But Gillman's biggest contribution may have been to add the long ball to Paul Brown's offensive system. Gillman's hybrid would impress a young San Diego State coach named Don Coryell, who would devise his own Dan Fouts-powered variant. Gillman's influence would also rub off on Dick Vermeil, leading to "the greatest show on turf."

In a time when both Bengals and Browns fans still have to slog through stuff like this: http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/topcoaches/010518.html where the sportswriters are clearly smarter than the fans, and this: http://www.patsfans.com/stories/print_stor...p?story_id=2415 where yet another dolt credits Walsh and not Brown, it's nice to know there are some people out there who get it (like Walsh, who admitted he swiped the WCP from Brown, and Belichick, who considers PB the greatest coach of all time).

All I can say is: thanks for my favorite sport, Paul.

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