Whenever Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes take their first snap in a professional game, there won’t be any of those big signboards used to send in plays from the sidelines. You know, the ones with weird logos and emojis and photos of cats on them. They don’t exist in the NFL for one reason: the quarterback helmet radio. While it was invented in the 1950s by two Cleveland Browns fans — secretly, in the woods, at the request of the head coach — the sideline communications system we’re all familiar with was banned by the NFL for almost 40 years.
Warren Moon, Brian Billick, and Trent Dilfer were all part of the 1994 NFL season, and the first to use the QB radio system league-wide. They told us about the advantages and challenges the technology presented at the time. Helmet radios have changed the game for offenses and defenses (thanks, Spygate!) alike. This is the story of how they were born, forgotten, reintroduced, and evolved.