There are two things you'll often hear about the NFL whenever a long-forgotten strategy or scheme is mistaken for innovation: All things are cyclical and and it's a copycat league.
A few years ago, it happened with the wildcat, and now the read option is all the rage. These aren't new ideas -- they've been around for decades -- but with the success of young, athletic quarterbacks, not to mention Chip Kelly finally bringing his fast-paced, high-scoring offense to the NFL, it's back to the future.
Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick are all part of this movement towards strong-armed quarterbacks who can adeptly run the option. But this youth movement is nothing new. Coaches have been doing it for 50 years. We know this because we stumbled across this Sporting News article from September 4, 1961.
Click on the image below to get a better look at up-and-comers Norman Snead, Sonny Jurgensen, Don Meredith, John Brodie and Fran Tarkenton -- all young, mobile QBs who were phasing out the old-timers ahead of them on the depth chart (sound familiar?). And for your convenience, we've transcribed most of the text from the original story.
|Click image to englarge. (Photo by Sporting News Archive/Sporting News via Getty Images)|
(By the way, you have to love the headlines: "Kid Tossers Grabbing Old-Pro QBs' Jobs," "Throwing their weight around … as Pigskin Prodigies," "Passer must be ready for sudden dash," and "Stepped-up defenses forces coaches to bench gaffers who can't turn on speed.")
By Joe King
The brilliant debut of Francis Tarkenton of the Minnesota Vikigns, a 21-year-old rookie quarterback from Georgia, keynoted a general restlessness in the National Football League over the signal-callers. The old boys are being shuffled around and are passing out, with many changes being made to install younger men.
Aside from John Unitas at Baltimore and Bobby Layne at Pittsburgh, it may be said that there is some question attached to all holdover passers, even Milt Plum at Cleveland. As Paul Brown has said, Milt has to prove he can win a title.
Red Hickey at San Francisco boldly disposed of the popular "old general" of the 49ers, Y.A. Tittle, to play Johnny Brodie in the "shotgun" offense. They said the Philadelphia Eagles were through when Norm Van Brocklin quit, but bench-warmer Sonny Jurgensen ran a stylish game to beat the lordly Browns and check a suspected runaway by the Cleveland club.
At Dallas, Tom Landry is pushing spectacular second-year Don Meredith as fast as he can, with old pro Ed LeBaron the Cowboy balance-wheel to ease the kid's progress. Rookie Norm Snead of Wake Forest is getting a wide-open shot at QB with the rebuilt Washington Redskins, with veteran Ralph Guglielmi traded.
49ers' Big Experiment
The most significant experiment of all is the "shotgun" by Hickey at S.F. If successful, the formation will be copied extensively to lend some variety to the pro offense which has, in the main, been stereotyped for years in the "slot" attack." Jim Lee Howell and Vince Lombardi with the Giants won the NFL title with a hard-hitting "belly series" running offense and Frank Ivy with the Cards introduced an imaginative double-wing (or triple-wing) setup. However, innovations were scant until Hickey.
The average offense depends mainly on whether the passer has time to throw. The coach with a squad of 36 men is captive of a passer in a formalized system.
However, it is getting more and more difficult to block for the passer, because defense has taken the initiative with massive rapid weight. If a coach cannot match the trained tonnage and reaction speed in his offensive line and pickoff back, he must have a QB who can shift for himself.
Today, an NFL passer must be able to run for his life because he may bob out of the T with a half-a-ton of ornery Brahma bull linemen bearing down on him, and an amazingly mobile "midget" linebacker of 235 plummeting at him in their wake. …"
You'd never hear it described this way today -- "...an NFL passer must be able to run for his life because he may bob out of the T with a half-a-ton of ornery Brahma bull linemen bearing down on him, and an amazingly mobile ... linebacker of 235 plummeting at him in their wake..." -- but awkward phrasing aside, it doesn't sound that much different than the NFL in 2012.