Early Criticism of the Forward Pass

Around 1906, before the forward pass was legalized, the game was fairly monotonous, “Every play was a run, which meant all 11 defenders crowding the line and piling atop the ball carrier.” 1 This run-heavy offense was subject to countless injuries and avoidable deaths. In 1905, 18 college football players died on the gridiron. This was not only bad the players, but also the reputation of the sport. Theodore Roosevelt responded to calls to ban the game entirely by creating the NCAA, which changed rules to legalize the forward pass with the intent to make the game safer. Early skeptics were football traditionalists, the best example of this is from a September of 1906 article from the New York Times titled “New Football a Chaos, The Experts Declare”, it wrote “There has been no team that has proved that the forward pass is anything but a doubtful, dangerous play to be used only in the last extremity”. 2 A person studying this time could see why there was some opposition to the forward pass at first. It took away from the rough and tough version of football where you ran it up the middle crashing into other players every time. However, the great success of the forward pass soon after the rule change kept many skeptics quiet. While traditionalists of the previous run-centric game were around, however, the pass justly became an essential part of any college or pro game. One would struggle to find anyone who would agree that the forward pass ought to illegal again. 

Image result for don hutson catching pass
Don Hutson catches a pass downfield
  1. ”Was the first Forward Pass in Football Thrown at Saint Louis University?” N/A. SLM Media Group.
  2. N/A, “New Football Chaos, The Experts Declare,” The New York Times (1906).