THE "T" PUTS NEW BURDENS ON PLAYERS MEMORIES
by Sid Luckman
If you see a big husky football player staggering along the campus this fall, think twice before you tap your head significantly and say, "Punchdrunk." The gentleman may well be buckling under a mental rather than a physical strain. Yes, the day of the corn fed boy from the sticks who could not write his name, is over. Present-day football demands intellectual as well as physical giants.
When a full-fledged T-Formation is operating there are anywhere up to four hundred plays and variations for the gridders to know! That means exactly four hundred different assignments for any one player be cause, even if some plays seem to call for loafing, there is a reason behind this strategy, too, and the player must be convincing in his performance. One missed block, one tipped off charge or pull-out from the line, one failure to move with the exacting precision demanded by the T-Formation can mean a back hit unexpectedly and unceremoniously dumped, a ball fumbled, a whole sequence of plays utterly spoiled, even a game lost. "T for eleven" calls for the complete integration of all the men working as a unit, and if a player's memory is faulty someone is going to pick up a few lumps-and they won't be of the sugar variety!
Perhaps the main reason for the migraine head aches some linemen may have this fall is the fact that they will be expected to know more than just the information, say, that an opposing player is to be hit to the right on a particular play. The lineman will also have to memorize exactly when the gentleman is to he "brushed off." Since the "T" attack is geared to a split-second precision, any slight hesitation can scotch an otherwise perfectly performed play, or a premature movement can tip it off and thus dissipate the vital element of surprise. So, the "T" attack demands of the player that on any given play he know both what to do and just when he is to do it.
Not only is the alert T-Formation player expected to know his own assignments, but he is also expected to have a pretty good idea of what is taking place all about him. He should sense where he fits in as a cog in a machine. This football sense is a very important asset in a T-gridder. For instance, if a lineman has a clear idea of the possibilities open in the T-attack, his suggestions may be invaluable to the quarterback. He may notice certain habits of opposing linemen which make them vulnerable to a particular type of play. If he remembers his sequences well and is cognizant of the opportunities each one affords, his heads-up grasp of the situation can make the difference between a winning and losing football game.
Because of the complete dependence of one player on another, the accent on split-second timing, and the painstaking care used in the setting up of play sequences, the Chicago Bears squad holds a skull session every Wednesday and Friday night during the football season. Excellence in mental performance is expected. To fumble a ball is regarded as human; to fumble a direction inexcusable.
As for the quarterback's burden in the T-Formation, some day soon I expect some harassed T-field general to sit down and write a Ph.D. thesis on some topic like "The Multifarious Ramifications and Deviations of the T-Formation."
I select the quarterback for this epic making piece of work because it is upon his sagging back that a great portion of the load of the T-attack rests. Besides knowing the various plays and player assignments, the quarterback must understand when to call a particular set of plays.
Like a doctor, he must diagnose the defense. He must be fully aware, too, of how well or how poorly his own team is living up to its potentialities. As if all this is not enough, the quarterback handles the ball on every play and in slipping it to his fleet-limbed backs he must remember just how (at what height and in what position) he is to hand the pigskin to his team-mate. Because of the vast complexities the T-system embraces, the coaches of the Chicago Bears have a daily skull-session with their quarterbacks.