At one time the Single Wing Offense was like the Spread Offense of today. Invented by Pop Warner in 1907, it was the most common offense in its heyday. At one time there were more teams running the Single Wing than not, at every level of football. In the 30’s and 40’s over 80% of College and Pro teams were running the Single Wing Offense.
Why do we see so few teams running the Single Wing Offense today?
Why Did It Die?
There are many theories here are just a few of the more popular and logical ones:
With so many teams running the Single Wing, the “familiarity factor” led to it being easier to defend. Just like today, the first time you see something like a 5 wide Offense it takes you by surprise but after you’ve played 5 wide teams 4-5 times it becomes much easier to defend. Imagine defending the same offense 8 of 10 games for 20 years in a row and practicing against it every day (assuming your team ran the Single Wing on Offense). The familiarity factor would be quite high.
The Platooning Theory
The move to two platooning football gave rise to specialization which in turn allowed for “finesse” players to play the game at Quarterback and Wide Receiver. Back in the 50s and before, most players played both ways. Even the great quarterback YA Title played both ways, leading the NFL in interceptions playing at safety. Title also excelled as a punter, playing special teams as most starters did back in those days. Players in that day had to be tough, physical, durable football players that had to excel in many facets of the game. Todays College and NFL players play one way and are very specialized. Today even many High School teams platoon. This specialization allows more practice time to be devoted to intricate offenses and the development of less physically dominant players.
The Sinking of the Titanic
The 1940 NFL Title Game factor. With the largest ever nationwide audience tuned in, the Chicago Bears using it’s new fangled Straight T offense, beat the Washington Redskins and the Single Wing 73-0. This sound thrashing on the national stage led many to think the Single Wing was as good as a slingshot in a gunfight, it was thought to be antiquated and “old fashioned”. Horse and buggy stuff in the days of air travel and indoor plumbing. This may have been the nail in the coffin for the Single Wing, as many teams started abandoning the Single Wing for the next greatest thing, the T Formation. Just like today, coaches are bandwagoners, they jump on board with the next greatest thing that has caught their eye and the fickle hearts of their fans.
The Keepers of the Faith
Fortunately the Single Wing never really died. There were college teams running the Single Wing right into the 1960s. A number of very successful High Schools never stopped running the offense including Menominee Michigan’s Ken Hofer. The Maroons have been running the Single Wing for the last 40 years and have gone to the playoffs in each of the last 13 seasons and won 3 State Titles with it in just the last 9 years. Giles in Virginia is another one who has stuck with the Wing for the last 20 years plus and has won 2 State Titles in just the last 6 years. There are a handful of High Schools like these that kept the offense alive along with some forward/backward thinking youth coaches where the offense has really started to catch fire in the last decade. Add in what Urban Meyer has done with the Single Wing and you have a stampede of coaches jumping back on the Single Wing bandwagon. There were 25 or more Division I College teams running at least one Series of Single Wing plays in their offenses this season. Heck even the Miami Dolphins got in on the act with the Single Wing in their amazing turnaround this season.
Modern Day Single Wing
While the Single Wing of today still contains many of the core principals of the 1940s Single Wing; Overwhelming at the point of attack, using angles and leverage, deception and great ball fakes, motion and great play action passing. The Single Wing many of us run today also includes some new bolted on features like: Jet or Fly Sweep Series, Trap and screen games, Mesh or Air Raid passing concepts and much more.
Youth Single Wing Football
How wide spread is the Single Wing at the youth level? Is the familiarity factor going to kill my chances of being successful with it?
Our latest research from marketing executives of several very large companies and polls of over 1,000 youth coaches tells us:
There are about 2,500,000 kids playing youth football today.
There are about 120,000 youth football teams in existence today.
About 2,400 of those youth teams are running the Single Wing Offense.
So us Single Wingers are still in the minority and the familiarity factor is still low as about 2% of youth football teams are running the Single Wing. But those adopting the offense is growing and will continue to grow in the advent of seeing it on TV on both Saturdays and Sundays. Same goes for the success a number of our teams have had at the National Pop Warner National Championships and other big Tournaments. With so many teams having so much success with it at the youth levels, interest is bound to spike up. But don’t fret about that, my teams have been doing consistently well with it over the long haul. We have been running it for 11 seasons against a lot of the same teams and a lot of my competition has bought my book, has my DVDs and comes to this very web site daily. We have a tracking thing on the web site that shows me which towns hit the web site every day.
Coaching Youth Football
The moral of the story is to expect to see more Single Wing Football wherever you are. But don’t worry, we are still a minority, they still have to stop it and if you bought the book you have the countermeasures at your fingertips for the most commonly used techniques and schemes used to stop this offense.
One last thought: Do you platoon? Do your best players play both ways? Are you able to devote 5 days a week practice time to just offense, no defense or special teams? Boy the youth game and dynamic seems to fit more of the mold of the constraints the teams of the 40s and 50s had, doesn’t it?