Football has come a long way since the days of leather helmets and goal line field goal posts. A game that was once predicated entirely on brute strength and running the football has since developed into a complex chess match of offense vs. defense, in which the game is played at much faster speeds and largely through the air. The sport of football didn’t transition to today’s game overnight, but rather through decades of innovation and experimentation of football minds. Knowing how the game grew is an important part of understanding the current landscape of the NFL.

The Birth of the Passing Game

It took a long time for NFL offenses to get off the ground. The forward pass didn’t become a legal part of the game until 1906, at which time it was primarily used to trick defenses. Green Bay Packers’ end Don Hutson is largely credited with bringing the passing game into football. Hutson was a dominant force, creating many of the game’s first passing routes and abusing NFL defensive backs. From 1935 to 1945, Hutson led the NFL in receptions eight times. His presence in the league prompted other pro teams to replicate this offensive style, and the passing game became a major part of football.

The West Coast Offense

The passing game had become a major aspect of professional football and was further crafted by Bill Walsh in the 1970s and 1980s. Walsh had instituted many of his philosophies in Cincinnati as an assistant coach. His concepts took full form in San Francisco, where it became known as the “West Coast Offense.” With Joe Montana under center, Walsh implemented an offense predicated on short, safe passes. These quick drops were capable of beating strong pass rushes and relied on yards after the catch by the receivers. Few teams run true West Coast systems in today’s NFL, but many of the concepts and innovations of Walsh are still prominent throughout the league.

Modern Passing Era

Rule changes over the years have shifted the balance of power in the offenses favor, and today’s NFL is an aerial show based on high velocity offenses and precise quarterbacks. With the development of the passing game, passing yards have exploded and passer ratings have inflated. The 2011 season saw an unprecedented number of 5,000 yard passers, and Super Bowls have become increasingly dependent on a team’s quarterback.

Evolution of the Defense and the 3-4

As NFL offenses evolved, defensive coordinators schemed to keep pace. To combat the developing passing game, defenses needed new ways to get after the quarterback and hurry throws. Bill Walsh’s defensive counterpart in the 1980s was Bill Parcells, who developed the 3-4 defense with the New York Giants. Even fronts were the norm among defenses of the time, but by using pass rushing linebackers and larger defensive linemen, defenses could disguise their pass rush. Lawrence Taylor was the prototype for outside linebackers: a combination of strength and agility too difficult for tackles to handle. Concepts were further developed for the 3-4 in Pittsburgh, where Dick LeBeau created the zone-blitz scheme. Both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses are used in the NFL today, but the underlying theme of success is the ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.

Cyclical Nature of the NFL

Offenses tend to reign superior in the modern game, but the NFL is a constant pendulum that swings between the two sides of the ball. As defensive coordinators learn how to pressure the quarterback, blocking schemes and more athletic linemen counteract the phenomenon. Each side of the ball is in a constant race to out-scheme the other. While the passing game may be prominent today, nobody knows what developments will bring to football tomorrow.

NFL Betting Today

Knowing the history of football and how the game has become what it is can help bettors reach a deeper understanding of the game. can keep you up to date on how a dynamic game continues to grow. Following trends of NFL offenses and defenses can help you stay ahead of the curve betting on the pro football.