Not long ago grizzled, gray and wise Clark Shaughnessy, the man who souped up football's Model T back in the early '40s, was doodling with checks and circles on a yellow paper pad. The old man now is a vice-president of the Chicago Bears in charge of defense; the doodles, however, pertained to his first love—attack.
"The defense has almost caught up," he said, his gnarled fingers drawing quick, precise checks and circles. "The slotback has been taken care of, the big four-man lines plug up running. The next move is up to the attackers. I think you'll see short passes out to the flank, with quick laterals. That should open the way a little."
As the Scouting Reports on page 58 indicate, this probably will be a year of dramatic change for the National Football League in terms of strategic and tactical warfare. Although the new American Football League is far behind the National League in the number of good players it has, the new clubs can match the NFL in excitement and might even produce a more wide-open game—possibly with more scoring. This is not because they have better runners, passers or receivers; it is because it is almost impossible to develop a cohesive, intelligent and dependable defense using 11 players who met as strangers on the opening day of training camp.
The NFL defenses have been welded over the years and they are good. A unit like the one which protects the Baltimore Colt goal line is very nearly impenetrable on a good day. If this should hold true throughout the NFL, as it probably would if the offenses were static, then NFL football would degenerate into the low-scoring, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-boredom football which almost killed the college game.
Fortunately for everybody, there are people in the NFL who abhor the idea of low-scoring games. Brilliant young tacticians like the New York Giants' Allie Sherman, Red Hickey of the San Francisco 49ers, Tom Landry of the new Dallas Cowboys and Vince Lombardi of the Green Bay Packers have worked on refinements and changes which should make this one of the most exciting years in the long history of NFL.
Here are a few things to look for: the quick, short pass out wide with an almost immediate lateral, described by Shaughnessy; more liberal use of a Sherman tactic using a man in motion toward the middle of the line of scrimmage; and variations in backfield formations designed to provide running room up the middle for shifty backs like Cleveland's Jim Brown (page 53). The Sherman man-in-motion presents a terrible problem for the corner linebacker, who will have to watch for blocks thrown from his blind side.
The new attacks will pose interesting problems for the defenses in 1960 and—to the delight of everyone who likes scoring football—some of them will not be solved for a couple of years.