Patriots

Patriots

Football as we know it would not be the same had it not been for Paul Brown. He helped give two franchises their start -- the Browns (named after him) and the Bengals -- and he introduced countless innovations to the game that remain staples. 

The face mask? That was Brown. Playbooks? Yup, Brown. Full-time coaches? Practice squads? Film study? Brown. Brown. Brown.

Even the communication systems used in players' helmets today were originally thought of by Brown. He stuck a radio receiver on the inside of his quarterback's ear flap, and though the system had its flaws -- as it still does -- it was an idea that was ahead of its time.

Brown is also credited with helping to integrate professional football in 1946, months before Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier, when he welcomed BIll Willis and Marion Motley to his team.

The NFL Network will air its latest "A Football Life" special, featuring Brown, on Friday at 9 p.m. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who often makes references to Brown as one of the great minds in the history of the game, will appear in the episode to share his commentary on the Hall of Fame coach. 

"There's nobody in the game that I have more respect for than Paul Brown," Belichick says in an NFL Network trailer for the special. "The father of professional football."