Farrar: Paul Brown Made Film Study A Common NFL Practice

Paul Brown innovated football "more than most and as much as anyone," Doug Farrar says

The DA Show
September 26, 2018 - 11:15 am

USA Today Images


Doug Farrar dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss his new book, “The Genius of Desperation: The Schematic Innovations that Made the Modern NFL,” which explains how evolving schemes and strategies over the last century have led the league to where it is today.

If you read the book, it won’t take much time to determine that Paul Brown influenced the game of football as much as anyone.

“It didn’t take any time at all,” Farrar said on The DA Show. “Paul Brown coached the Cleveland Browns though the four years of the All-America Football Conference in the late-1940s. In the 1950s, three of those teams – the Baltimore Colts, the San Francisco 49ers, and the Cleveland Browns merged with the NFL when that league folded.”

The NFL gave Brown a tough opponent in his first NFL game: the two-time defending champion Philadelphia Eagles.

“Paul Brown said, ‘Okay, that’s fine. With the defense you guys are running at this point, you cannot handle slants, you cannot handle crossers, you cannot handle anything over the middle,’” Farrar explained. “Paul Brown deduced through film study – which he kind of invented as a constant thing – that Philadelphia’s defensive linemen always aligned on the outside shoulders of the offensive linemen. So throughout the game, Paul Brown widened the line splits from a foot to a foot-and-a-half to two feet, and by the end of the game, it looked kind of like an Oregon spread offense.”

The Browns won, 35-10, in Philadelphia.

Brown didn’t stop there, and his contributions to the game were many.

“Paul Brown came in and brought the face mask, he brought the draw play, he brought film study as a constant thing,” Farrar said. “This league would look nothing like it does without him. And later in his career, when he was fired by the Browns in ’64 and then came back with the Bengals in ’68, he hired a little-known guy to run his offense named Bill Walsh. That turned out pretty well. Paul Brown has done more innovating throughout the history of the league – more than most and as much as anyone.”

Brown seemed Belichick-ian in his ability to analyze other coaches and teams – and then come up with something better.

“I think Paul Brown was always looking to see what other people were doing, but he was an idiosyncratic guy,” Farrar said. “He kind of kept to himself. He was way ahead of the curve as far as the forwarding and evolution of black players in the game. He saw the social constructs of things. He saw how things mattered to people. But really, he came up with a lot of these ideas on his own. Some people have those minds where they think, ‘Well, this is the way it is, but why isn’t it the way it should be?’ Paul Brown eliminated all the steps between how they were and how they should be. I think that’s just how his mind worked.”