Football of Tomorrow
by Stub Harrison
Article taken from the November 1947 edition of Pittsburgh's Huddle magazine

Steelers at Giants 1949There’s is a chance, the way football trends are running this season, that the gridiron attack of the future may have died a'borning in Pittsburgh last fall. Editor’s note: “borning” is a word used in a song or book.

In 1946 the "T" was supreme, and nobody paid much attention to the system Coaches Steve Sinko and Al DeLuca were trying to work out with an informal squad at Duquesne.

This year things are different. A few brilliant die-hards like Jock Sutherland have started a trend back towards the single wing, and the "T"-conscious mentors are groping fitfully for some way to keep ahead of the onrushing defense.

The problem was foreseen years ago by Sinko and DeLuca, a pair with 40 years of combined coaching-playing experience. Gridiron history told them plainly that no attack system ever stayed ahead of the defense for more than a few years.

They were, as a matter of fact, boredly watching Navy Corsairs and Hellcats zoom over the wind swept plains of Iowa at the time. Lt. Sinko turned to Lt. DeLuca at the Ottumwa Naval Air Base - and their thoughts automatically went back to football.

They had been teammates at Duquesne when Elmer Layden, the Old Horseman of Notre Dame, gave the Dukes their first big ride at the turn of the 1930's. They had been through the tough mill of pro ball, high school coaching and now the war.

1944 US 8th Army EnglandThey were thinking, like every other football man, of what was going to happen to the "T" boom when the sport returned to post-war normal. But unlike most coaches they decided to try to do something about it.

Sooner or later, they knew, the defense would catch up. That had been the history of the game… with Knute Rockne's Notre Dame box… with Pop Warner's double wing… with Jock Sutherland's single wing... eventually it would come to George Halas' front-running "T," too.

Each system could do something a little better than the other - and that was the basis Sinko and DeLuca used for their new idea. Why not a system that combined the best features of all these successful systems of play?

So they developed the "Adaptable T," the untried system that both still think combines the strong points of every historical football formation.

For a year it looked as though the system was going to get an early chance to operate. Sinko was given the tough job of restoring Duquesne's football fortunes after a wartime blackout. DeLuca came along as his first lieutenant.

But in football, like war, the fortunes change fast. On the eve of his first formal season Sinko got a call from his old boss, Buff Donelli, to come help with the plush new job at Boston University. It was too good to turn down. Donelli, of course, has his own system - and a good one. So did Kass Kovalchek who took over at Duquesne with DeLuca remaining as assistant.

So the "Adaptable T" went back in the little black bag, but its sponsors keep it well dusted off for the day when the revolution against the standard "T" reaches major proportions. Then they think they have an attack that no team can stop with an over­specialised defense.

Basically, there's nothing new about the "Adaptable T." And it has the fault of sounding complex on paper, although Sinko and DeLuca claim it isn't on the field.

Adaptable T formation

Right half adapts himself to short punt, single wing or flanker
(positions shown by dotted circles - for larger image>>>)

By shifting a single player - the right halfback - Steve claims the "Adaptable T," in turn, can achieve the effect of the Notre Dame box, single-wing, double-wing, T, short punt. Everything but Lana Turner. Editor’s note: Lana Turner was an actress from before even my time.

The right half is a free lancer - the Orson Welles of the party. He plays wingback on certain formations, flanker or man-in-motion on others, tailback on short punt. But the other 10 players are set. The right half pulls the strings on the fast-change act.

The line is balanced. Guards take their positions six inches from the center, tackles 12 inches from the guards, ends 36 inches from the tackles in the basic formation. It's a graduated spread.

early football photoLeft half and fullback play four and one-half yards directly behind the guards. The quarterback is in the '1'-slot to the right of the center. His left foot is - directly behind the right foot of the center. This allows the pass to go to either of the other two backs (left half and full) at all times. Or to be handed up to the quarter. Sounds complicated, but read on.

Basically, the "Adaptable T" is a Notre Dame box, offering versatility and the ability to exploit the short-side attack. However, the team is always ready for those key "hand-oft" plays.

Sinko-DeLuca say the "Adaptable T" quickly can be transformed into the single wing. Simply by swinging the right half to his customary single-wing position outside the end. Get it?

By splitting the line on one side and closing it on the other, they gain the effect of an unbalanced line. It thus, gives the power of massed interference and downfield blocking to the outside that a normal single wing provides, the Sinko-DeLuca firm claims. Uh-huh!

The same goes for the double-wing. By shifting the right half again - spinners, fakes, double passes and pass-throwing power of the double-wing can be unloaded.

And the short punt - offering the threat of the variety of passes on any down, reverses and spinners - can be exploited too. Merely by swinging the right half into the tailback slot, they say. Now are you properly confused?
"At first glance, this may seem too complicated (right) for boys to learn easily. But once the basic formation is mastered, you can give the stuff to the boys just as fast as they are ready to handle it," Sinko explains.

"As a team develops, a new series or 'system' may be added without changing the basic alignment," he points out. There will be a slight pause here for a seventh-inning stretch.

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