Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

17 Jan 2013

Speak My Language

The always-excellent Chris Brown hits on the roots of the Patriots offense over at Grantland.

Posted by: Rivers McCown on 17 Jan 2013

22 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2013, 12:46pm by TC


by Harry (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 5:25am

Very interesting to learn that the roots of the current Patriots system almost accidentally lead back to the great Chuck Fairbanks' Patriots teams of the late '70s. As an older Pats fan, I'm happy to see that Fairbanks-Erhardt-Perkins left some legacy. If the Sullivans hadn't been such idiots, those teams - with Grogan, Russ Francis, John Hannah, Mike Haynes, Darryl Stingley, Steve Nelson etc. - would have probably been up there with the Raiders and Steelers as one of the great AFC teams of the era. But Fairbanks was driven back to the college game, and it never happened.

by Podge (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:06am

Really great article this. Thanks for the link.

by Dean :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 10:58am

Makes me wonder why I'm not reading more of Brown's stuff. I'm probably the last one to the party, but that was good. Walsh and Coryell have been dissected so many times that there's little that's really left unsaid still. This offense has been virtually ignored.

by Karl Cuba :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 11:12am

His book's a pretty good read.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:30pm

The day is going to come when a football coach with an academic backgorund in technical writing is going to get a substantial leg up on opponents, simply by communicating much more efficiently.

Maybe I missed it in skimming the piece (it is deserving of some undivided attention, when I don't have those confounded pesky clients calling me), but a really important constant of the Patriots offense, throughout a decade of change, is the fella coaching the offensive line. I'd attempt a humorous misspelling, but I fear being accused of engaging in xenophobia.

by Harry (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 4:53am

Good point about Scarnecchia. He joined the Patriots in 1982, right after Erhardt left, but he probably does provide some continuity between the Erhardt-Perkins offenses of the 1975-81 Pats and todays teams.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:40pm

Really liked the article as well, but the unanswered question is: what was the play call when Brady audibled to "Alabama"! He doesn't say. I wondered this all game. Also, I know Brady called "Alabama" more than a few times during the game. Was it the same audible every time. If so are their on/off words that turn the audible on? If not, how is it that Houston doesn't audible into a different defense if they know all the routes?

by Kal :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 12:44pm

Alabama may be a variant on Kill. Kill is a common word to switch from one of two plays; you call two and then either execute the first one or kill it and do the second one based on the defensive read.

I know the Ducks don't bother with those kind of audible cues much of the time; when they go to superfast mode (where they hike the ball in 8 seconds) they simply line up and do the exact same play or a variation of it again. It might be a run or pass (that's dictated by the personnel count) but it's still the same formation, people and play.

by Chappy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 1:34pm

Interesting. Seems reasonable, but, Brown seemed to imply in the article that there would be a word that would substitute for a whole play concept.

by Kal :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 2:49pm

Yeah, there is that too. But that's usually called in the huddle or something like that. Yelling Alabama at the line multiple times may be a playcall - or it may be a killing of a playcall. It's hard to say - though one reason that they may not want it to be a playcall is that you can't use it more than once without the other team knowing - unless you also use some kind of inutteral or other concept to make that transform the call.

If you watch a bunch of Pats games you would probably be able to figure it out; if Alabama is used all the time it's probably a kill word. If it's used only a bit it's a playcall.

by Anonymous3737 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:54pm

Patriots were among the earliest NFL teams to use "Omaha." Now that half the teams in the league use Omaha as their kill, the Patriots switch it out. What was interesting in Sunday's game is that the Microphone's were picking up everything. After a decade, I know Brady's slightly nasally voice, and during the broadcast there was another, much deeper voice. Figured it must have been the center Would be great if Ben Muth could get an extra credit assignment and try to re-listen to that NE-HOU game and let us in on the conversation.

by dryheat :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 4:51pm

"Omaha", as far as I can tell by watching, is a call for the ball to be snapped on the next sound. I don't know if it denoted the same thing to different offenses. It is likely used because it is short, yet distinct enough that it wouldn't be mis-heard as a different line call.

"Alabama" looked different to me. It actually looked like an audible to a play, Chip Kelly-style. Likely inspired by or a tribute to BFF Nick Saban.

by CBPodge :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 5:57pm

I have a feeling that the Broncos say "Hurry hurry" instead of "Omaha". I say "a feeling". I mean I am absolutely certain because Manning kept screaming it repeatedly against the Ravens.

by TC (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2013 - 12:46pm

According to Ross Tucker's twitter, "Alabama" means snap count is on 1 and either somebody asks or Brady says it just to make sure everyone knows.

by CBPodge :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 6:02pm

The impression I was getting was that "Alabama" was a one word playcall for the hurry up. He didn't seem to be saying it while at the line, more before they got set, which seemed to imply that it was that one word playcall thing that Oregon do.

It might have just meant "same play, they can't stop us". Which is factually honest.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 1:50pm

Hey I found Fido you guys!

by Sancho (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 1:56pm

We ALL know what you did there...

P.S.: By the way, it still much better than the Packers "I would fight for this guy. He has a frisbee."

by dbostedo :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 3:05pm

Also better than Manning's "potion" comment. Brady is clearly much better than Manning.

by anotherpatsfan :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 4:46pm

Along with Pete Carroll's "stop doing heroin", I thought the potion thing was an actual translation -- which makes Brady better because, depite wearing the arm thing with the plays, he don't need no potions -- just chicken rolls.

by Red (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 7:33pm

I'm pretty sure he's moving to beef, 'cause he's buying a pregnant cow.

by anderson721 (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:03pm

Dont know where else to post this, but re the ATL-NE Super Bowl we don't have a special name for- Falcons and Patriots are/were both Air Force missiles. So there's that.

by dryheat :: Thu, 01/17/2013 - 9:58pm

Clever, althoughI'm fairly certain that the Patriot was/is a US Army air defense missile.