The Patriots, Oregon and a football revolution

Jonathan Ferrey - Getty Images

How did the Tom Brady and the Patriots dominate the Broncos on Sunday? It all started in college, and it's happening all over the NFL.

After the Patriots overwhelmed the Broncos on Sunday, the Boston Globe's Greg Bedard took a closer look at the new no huddle offense that the Patriots and others are using to revolutionize NFL offense this year. In today's Globe we get a look at how that happened, and what it looks like. To answer the second part?

One word play-calls. No huddle. Speed takes precedent over everything.

As for the first part ... a few lessons from Bedard's column:

1. Like everything that happens in the NFL, this was all predicted by Bill Walsh:

In his seminal out-of-print book Finding the Winning Edge published in 1998 — Belichick has called it the coaching bible — Walsh had a section on page 308 titled, “Determining the Future Dynamics of Offense in the NFL.”

First bullet point: “Teams will huddle only when the clock is stopped.”

Second: “Teams will use single-word offensive audibles.”

That's exactly where we are now. And how did we get from a 1998 book to 2012? Oregon helped.

2. Oregon football is insane.

Kelly’s practices are the stuff of legend. There is no need for wind sprints because no one stands around. At all. Not the players, not the coaches. Music is blaring. The defense sometimes plays with 25 players so the offense can get more precise.


“I remember the first day he came as offensive coordinator, we started one of his drills,” [former Oregon TE Ed Dickson] said. “And he said, ‘I’m going to show you how fast I want to go. Your two-minute that you’re running here is going to be nothing compared to what I teach you.’ It was insane. I thought he was insane. I was like, ‘Nobody moves that fast.’ The only way you’re going to simulate that speed, you have to practice that way.”


That’s why when Kelly walked into Gillette Stadium two years ago — and he’s been there three times total — ears perked up among the Patriots’ coaches, including Belichick.

Well okay, first let's take a moment to appreciate the sheer lunacy of what's happening in Eugene. Ducks practice sounds like one of those Hard Knocks montages, except on fast-forward, and for two hours.

As for the NFL discussion, Kelly helped teach Belichick the dark art of Oregon offense, and the rest is history. The Patriots are the most successful example, but it's happening all over the league. Doug Farrar at Yahoo! Sports reports on the trend over here, and according to National Football Post, almost 15 percent of NFL snaps have come from the no huddle this year.

“It’s a trend,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told National Football Post. “A lot of people are doing it."

"You see Baltimore starting to do it," Carolina coach Ron Rivera told Yahoo!. "Atlanta does some of it. So the game is changing and the league is changing and as coaches go, if you don't adapt and get an understanding and feel for what's going on, you're going to get left behind."

The ultimate NFL cliche always reminds us "it's a copy-cat league", but as we talk about trends and such, it's important to remember who they're actually copying. And that brings us to the final lesson.

3. The NFL revolution begins on Saturdays.

For years, NFL coaches have been borrowing the deadliest elements of college offenses and bringing them to the pro level. Four years ago the spread offense was turning the college game on its head and Sports Illustrated was doing cover stories on it, and four years later, NFL offenses have borrowed some of those concepts and the league's become more pass-happy than ever, with packages that would make Mike Leach proud. This isn't coincidence, and Bedard's work in the Boston Globe confirms it. Look no further than most successful coach in the NFL:

If you want to see what’s next on the pro level, look to the colleges. That’s what Belichick does, with his alliances with coaches such as Nick Saban (LSU and Alabama), Urban Meyer (Florida and Ohio State) and, now, Kelly. ... Belichick has learned that if it’s going on in college, then it’s coming to the NFL. That’s the talent pool, and you should accentuate the strengths and minimize the weaknesses of that talent.

We may have known this before, but it's rare to see the NFL's evolutionary process spelled it out so clearly--and it's refreshing here. Because if the entire NFL is slowly transforming itself to look Oregon football and their radioactive schemes... Well, the entire NFL is about to become a lot more fun.

Now we just need someone to incorporate Puddles and/or De'Anthony Thomas.

Check out Bedard's entire column here.

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