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Today's Tidbit... 100 Years of Football: 1906-1910
This is the fifth in a series looking back at “100 Years OF Football,” syndicated cartoons published by Jerry Brondfield and Charles Beck in 1969. Today's version covers the period from 1905 to 1910.
As noted last week, the 1900s were the most important decade in football’s history. The brutality of the game and resulting deaths led to a demand for change, resulting in critical new rules, most notably, the forward pass, ultimately leading to a dramatically different, wider-open game.
The forward pass was a dramatic change, but the rules and most football authorities’ imaginations severely restricted its use. Eddie Cochems at St. Louis U pioneered its effective use with the overhand spiral pass. The spiral pass spread quickly, but passing still saw limited use for nearly ten years.
Walter “Eckie” Eckersall was the first football star in the Midwest’s biggest city as the dropkicking and running quarterback for UChicago. His speed on defense helped Chicago end Michigan’s winning streak and win the 1905 national championship.
The rule-makers of 1906 required offenses to gain 10 yards in three downs rather than 5 yards. Six offensive players had to be on the line of scrimmage, new roughing penalties came along, and hurdling was banned.
Yale’s 1909 team was among the game’s strongest yet, with Ted Coy running and punting the Elis to victory. H. L. Williams became Minnesota’s coach, joining Stagg and Yost as innovators outside the East.
H. L. Williams turned Minnesota into a football power during the century's first decade. His Minnesota Shift confused defenses with quick pre-snap movements immediately before the snap.
Walter Steffen at Chicago helped introduce the run-pass option to challenge defenses. Rule changes requiring 7 offensive players on the line of scrimmage, allowing the quarterback to run between the tackles, and keeping teammates from pushing the ball carrier were steps to make the game safer.
Additional rule changes came in the 1910s to make the forward pass. New tactics and formations to take advantage of the less restrictive rules also led to the passing game blossoming in the Teens, further opening up the game.
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