The godfather of the modern passing game is 73 years old and 11 years removed from the sideline. He spent last weekend watching one of his quarterbacks, Steve Young, join him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It would be easy to assume that Bill Walsh's passing acumen is of another era. But from his office at the Arrillaga Sports Center at Stanford University, Walsh misses nothing. He understands and appreciates how the passing offense has changed.
"A lot of the passing game is like what we were doing," Walsh said. "The game evolves. What I was doing, people adapted to other formations and receiver groups. Teams are using more multiple-receiver sets. The patterns end up pretty much the same. The extra receiver runs what a running back would have run. The game is faster now."
The student in him delights in the offense that Urban Meyer has developed and ridden from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida. Walsh calls himself an "advocate" for Meyer. But the coach in Walsh sounds a little cautious.
"That's the fringe, the outer edge of offense." Walsh said. He hesitated. "Fringe is not a good word. It's extreme football. He lines up to throw. You line up in the shotgun every play. In the NFL, people would tee off every play. You have to spring a run."
Walsh wondered aloud about Meyer's offense once it gets out of the Mountain West Conference.
"I don't know how it would have done if he were in the Big 12 or the Big Ten. I don't know how it will work. Maybe it will work at Florida. What [former Gator coach Steve] Spurrier was doing was similar. He is going to have personnel that every week will outman the other team. In only a couple of games will he be up against similar personnel. It's a matter of, can you win each week? It did at Utah. Maybe it will at Florida."
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer at ESPN.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.