The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 11-12-2007, 03:10 PM
xanthous xanthous is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Where did "quarterback" come from?

Wikipedia says

Quote:
The term quarterback has its origin in Scottish Rugby, wherein backfield players, according to their customary distance behind the forwards, were designated "quarter back" (i.e. ¼ of the way back), "halfback", and "fullback". [cite needed]
Can anybody back this up, cite-wise?

Mostly I want to look cool to my boyfriend who doesn't know the origin of these words.
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 11-12-2007, 03:44 PM
Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party Capt. Ridley's Shooting Party is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Wikipedia is correct - the terms come from Rugby (no idea why Scottish rugby was specifically highlighted, perhaps they held on to the older names for longer - you used to have players like five eighths etc.).

See here: http://www.rugbyfootballhistory.com/positions.html

Last edited by Dominic Mulligan; 11-12-2007 at 03:45 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 11-12-2007, 03:50 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Well, if it helps any, the "backs" on a rugby team are named as follows - scrum half, fly half, inside centre and outside centre, left and right (or blindside and openside) wings, and fullback.

The centres are sometimes called three-quarters (really), and the scrum half is called a half-back in some regions. There's no position called a quarter(-)back, though, at least not in modern parlance... and the fullback doesn't really correlate very well with an American Football fullback.

Also, as far as I know, Scottish rugby uses more or less exactly the same terminology as English rugby.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 11-12-2007, 03:52 PM
The Stafford Cripps The Stafford Cripps is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
I'm Scottish and I like rugby but I've never heard of "Scottish Rugby" unless they just mean rugby that happens to be played in Scotland. I've also never heard of a quarterback in rugby although I don't know what the names of the positions were in the early days when rugby was 20 a side. It's puzzling to me because there's no one between the forwards and the half backs - "quarterback" implies being in front of the half backs, which would be offside nowadays.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:14 PM
xanthous xanthous is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
I don't know if it matters, but I was asking about the American football positions. Do those names coincide with the distances from X point (and what is the X point, exactly), or are they just old-fashioned rugby names that have since become moot with regard to being any distance from anything?
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:35 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
Voodoo Adult (Slight Return)
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Charlotte, NC, USA
Posts: 24,087
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthous
what is the X point, exactly
The offensive line, i.e., the players who line up parallel with the scrimmage line and directly across from the defensive line.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:35 PM
The Stafford Cripps The Stafford Cripps is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
I'm sure the term quarterback will have originated in some form of rugby type game at some point in Britain in the 19th century (you also get half backs and full backs in soccer), but I was just getting geeky about how it relates to modern rugby.

There is a logic to the naming; in rugby the higher the fraction (half, five-eighth, three-quarter, full), the further back the player stands on the pitch. My puzzlement is that in rugby, backs aren't allowed to stand in front of the half back, so there's no place for a quarterback, unless the quarterbacks were actually forwards. Sorry, I'm boring myself now, never mind everyone else.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:42 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthous
I don't know if it matters, but I was asking about the American football positions. Do those names coincide with the distances from X point (and what is the X point, exactly), or are they just old-fashioned rugby names that have since become moot with regard to being any distance from anything?
The X point would likely be the center who snaps the ball.
In really really old American football, like 19th century, the T formation was the most common since the game was almost entirely about running, not passing.
The T formation has the QB line up under center, with the FB behind him and two HBs, one to the left of the FB and one to his right. Often, the FB would be a step back from the two HBs, as well. These days you see this formation deployed very rarely as a "full house" set - I think I've seen the Eagles do it a few times in the past couple of seasons.

So, just to be clear, this old-school formation looks like this:
Code:
XX XX C  XX XX
      QB     
   HB FB HB
Or, sometimes like this:
Code:
XX XX C  XX XX
      QB      
   HB    HB
      FB
The second one makes it kind of clear how the QB is a quarter-back from the center, the HB is halfway back, and the FB is the deepest back.

Incidentally, this is the origin of a couple of other terms you see thrown around. The right halfback was usually responsible for blocking, and was called the "wingback." Eventually, this position moved up to the right end of the line, becoming the tight end. The left halfback was the main runner, called the "tailback." The fullback was responsible for power-running and blocking, a tradition that has lasted until today (although some would argue that the FB is going out of style).
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:43 PM
Bryan Ekers Bryan Ekers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2000
How Chad Kroeger fits into this is anybody's guess.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:44 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
In America, the term apparently goes all the way back to 1879. See Online Etymology Dictionary.


Try this link if the other isn't working
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:47 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Minneapolis
Posts: 9,510
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthous
Mostly I want to look cool to my boyfriend who doesn't know the origin of these words.
If you want to look smarter than your boyfriend when it comes to football ask him what state the follwing teams play their home games in:

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri (a lot of people say Kansas)

Carolina Panthers: North Carolina (this is a 50/50 and some people say South Carolina)

New York Jets: New Jersey

New York Giants: New Jersey

New England Patriots: Massachusetts (unless your from the northeast a lot of people don't know what state it's in)

Washington Redskins: Virginia (a lot of people say Washington)
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:53 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
In America, the term apparently goes all the way back to 1879. See Online Etymology Dictionary.


Try this link if the other isn't working
That's no coincidence. The rules of American football were set down between 1876-1880, so the standardization of position names dates from the same period.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:53 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
It appears that there is some support for the idea that the term "quarterback" was used in Scotland to describe a Rugby football position. See, for example, About Sevens Rugby..., which uses some prose explanation that is found parroted at numerous sites, the origin of which I cannot yet track down.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 11-12-2007, 04:59 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodenTaco
The second one makes it kind of clear how the QB is a quarter-back from the center, the HB is halfway back, and the FB is the deepest back.
Actually, doesn't the term "quarterback" predate the straight T formation? Earlier formations (or at least more popular) were the Single Wing formation and its variants. In the Single Wing, the quarterback is the farthest back.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 11-12-2007, 05:07 PM
adirondack_mike adirondack_mike is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hampshire

Washington Redskins: Virginia (a lot of people say Washington)
As much as it greaves me to say so, the Redskins play in Maryland. They used to play in Washington, D.C. when they didn't suck so much.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 11-12-2007, 05:08 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoorYorick
Actually, doesn't the term "quarterback" predate the straight T formation? Earlier formations (or at least more popular) were the Single Wing formation and its variants. In the Single Wing, the quarterback is the farthest back.
I don't think Single-wing formations predated T-formations. Single-wing became popular in the early 20th century, up into the 40s, if I'm not mistaken.

A bit of googling confirms it.
Cite (emphasis mine):
Quote:
Originally Posted by http://www.footballresearch.com/articles/frpage.cfm?topic=4-stratgy
Lets's start with what was in vogue at the time the NFL was formed. Nearly every team of the day -- college and pro -- lined up in the T-formation. It is a formation that was the first recognized in football. The early "Treatise on American Football," published in 1893 by Amos Alonzo Stagg and Henry L. Williams included play diagrams that resembled what is today called a "full-house T." That is, a seven-man line, a QB right behind the center and a left halfback, fullback, and right halfback in a straight line. The QB was not up under center as is the case today and the ball wasn't delivered by a direct snap, rather it was rolled back -- but the basic formation was the one that wouldn't change for many years.

Many early NFL teams had as their normal attack formations the Single Wing and Double Wing, but even they came out over the ball in a T and shifted to those various formations.

Last edited by WoodenTaco; 11-12-2007 at 05:08 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 11-12-2007, 05:11 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
On the other hand, this might be more complicated than I thought. I see a link from my earlier cite that contradicts the cite (see bottom of page). It shows the tail back as the farthest back, with the quarterback just behind the line.
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 11-12-2007, 05:18 PM
Argent Towers Argent Towers is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright
Well, if it helps any, the "backs" on a rugby team are named as follows - scrum half, fly half, inside centre and outside centre, left and right (or blindside and openside) wings, and fullback.
On my team it was strong side and weak side wings.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 11-12-2007, 05:47 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Anderson, IN,USA
Posts: 14,061
In present day American football, "halfback" is outdated, and "fullback" is rare. At Purdue University, "fullback" was dusted off for Mike Alstott. Every morning, he pushed his Jeep up a hill, and he was nearly unstoppable on short runs.

Now, you'll see "running back" and "wide receiver."
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 11-12-2007, 06:12 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodenTaco
I don't think Single-wing formations predated T-formations. Single-wing became popular in the early 20th century, up into the 40s, if I'm not mistaken.

A bit of googling confirms it.
Ah, many thanks. I guess I had always associated "T-formation" with "modern," and "Single wing" with "old fashioned." (Although I do thoroughly enjoy watching the rare single wing team).
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 11-12-2007, 07:55 PM
asterion asterion is offline
2012 SDMB NFL Salary Cap Champ
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Guilderland, NY
Posts: 10,049
And to add to the confusion, these days in any I-formation the fullback is between the quarterback and the halfback.

I still think a fullback is needed. Especially if you can get one that can catch the ball.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 11-12-2007, 08:10 PM
xanthous xanthous is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hampshire
If you want to look smarter than your boyfriend when it comes to football ask him what state the follwing teams play their home games in:

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri (a lot of people say Kansas)

Carolina Panthers: North Carolina (this is a 50/50 and some people say South Carolina)

New York Jets: New Jersey

New York Giants: New Jersey

New England Patriots: Massachusetts (unless your from the northeast a lot of people don't know what state it's in)

Washington Redskins: Virginia (a lot of people say Washington)
My boyfriend took this quiz and got 100%. He knows his stuff. I think the only thing he didn't fully know was the etymology of the terms and how they relate to the positions of today. Hence my desire to look like a badass!
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 11-12-2007, 09:02 PM
jtgain jtgain is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Quote:
Originally Posted by asterion
And to add to the confusion, these days in any I-formation the fullback is between the quarterback and the halfback.

I still think a fullback is needed. Especially if you can get one that can catch the ball.

I thought in the I formation, you had the QB, then the FB, and the Tailback behind him. No halfback in the I formation.

As another poster said, a halfback is rarely used in football anymore, but a fullback is used quite often..
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 11-12-2007, 09:17 PM
asterion asterion is offline
2012 SDMB NFL Salary Cap Champ
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Guilderland, NY
Posts: 10,049
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtgain
I thought in the I formation, you had the QB, then the FB, and the Tailback behind him. No halfback in the I formation.

As another poster said, a halfback is rarely used in football anymore, but a fullback is used quite often..
Hmm...must be a terminology thing. I'm used to thinking of the #1 running back as the halfback, no matter what the position.
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 11-12-2007, 09:19 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by jtgain
I thought in the I formation, you had the QB, then the FB, and the Tailback behind him. No halfback in the I formation.

As another poster said, a halfback is rarely used in football anymore, but a fullback is used quite often..
You're correct, but in the Madden era all running backs have become halfbacks in the minds of many fans.

Last edited by WoodenTaco; 11-12-2007 at 09:19 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 11-12-2007, 11:24 PM
Triskadecamus Triskadecamus is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hampshire
If you want to look smarter than your boyfriend when it comes to football ask him what state the follwing teams play their home games in:

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri (a lot of people say Kansas)

Carolina Panthers: North Carolina (this is a 50/50 and some people say South Carolina)

New York Jets: New Jersey

New York Giants: New Jersey

New England Patriots: Massachusetts (unless your from the northeast a lot of people don't know what state it's in)

Washington Redskins: Virginia (a lot of people say Washington)
The Redskins don't play in Virginia. They play in Maryland.

The practice field, and the team offices are in Virginia. FedEX field is in Landover.

Tris
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 11-13-2007, 12:33 AM
aktep aktep is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoorYorick
On the other hand, this might be more complicated than I thought. I see a link from my earlier cite that contradicts the cite (see bottom of page). It shows the tail back as the farthest back, with the quarterback just behind the line.
The wikipedia image uses QB in the modern definition, ie "the guy who gets the ball first" to make the image a bit more understandable, rather than including a long description about how all the snaps are to the tail back and the QB is just some guy up front.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 11-13-2007, 01:52 AM
saoirse saoirse is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by asterion
Hmm...must be a terminology thing. I'm used to thinking of the #1 running back as the halfback, no matter what the position.
There's still a fullback. He just lines up in front of the halfback.
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 11-13-2007, 03:12 AM
Malacandra Malacandra is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Just to enlarge on an earlier reply about rugby, wing backs as well as centres are three-quarters. I don't think positions were especially differentiated before the 15-man game emerged - prior to that you had forwards and backs, nothing more, and it was mainly a forwards' game. In some circles the fly-half (a.k.a. outside half or standoff half) and the inside centre are known as first and second five-eights. In practice, the very existence of "inside" and "outside" centre as opposed to "left" and "right" centre implies the use of a five-eighth system regardless of nomenclature (because one particular centre is the first to receive the ball from the fly-half).

Wing three-quarters are usually referred to as "left" and "right" rather than "open" and "blind" as it's not normally practical for them to swap positions at each set-piece; of course, after any impromptu breakdown (ruck or maul) near one touchline, one winger is temporarily the "blind-side winger" by default.

Other codes of football have half-forwards as well as half-backs - a logical system.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 11-13-2007, 09:44 AM
xanthous xanthous is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Quote:
Originally Posted by Triskadecamus
The Redskins don't play in Virginia. They play in Maryland.

The practice field, and the team offices are in Virginia. FedEX field is in Landover.

Tris
With that said, I guess my BF got 83% right. He guessed VA.
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 11-13-2007, 09:50 AM
anson2995 anson2995 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 2,720
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoorYorick
Actually, doesn't the term "quarterback" predate the straight T formation? Earlier formations (or at least more popular) were the Single Wing formation and its variants. In the Single Wing, the quarterback is the farthest back.
The wikipedia article you cite describes variations of the single wing as they are played today. The single wing offense played in the teens and twenties had an unbalanced line (2 linemen to one side of the center and 4 linemen on the other side) and four backs. The backs were named (from front to back) "wing back," "blocking back", "fullback", and "tailback." The tailback received the snap and usually ran with the ball. The single wing was developed by Glen "Pop" Warner and popularized by his star player, Jim Thorpe.

WoodenTaco's description of the modern-T formation is spot on, and that's where the term quarterback first came into use.

Last edited by anson2995; 11-13-2007 at 09:51 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 11-13-2007, 12:00 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tysons Corner, VA, USA
Posts: 9,776
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthous
With that said, I guess my BF got 83% right. He guessed VA.
Probably confusion with the airport. Washington Reagan National Airport is in Virginia.
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 11-13-2007, 12:53 PM
The Chao Goes Mu The Chao Goes Mu is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hampshire
If you want to look smarter than your boyfriend when it comes to football ask him what state the follwing teams play their home games in:

Kansas City Chiefs: Missouri (a lot of people say Kansas)

Carolina Panthers: North Carolina (this is a 50/50 and some people say South Carolina)

New York Jets: New Jersey

New York Giants: New Jersey

New England Patriots: Massachusetts (unless your from the northeast a lot of people don't know what state it's in)

Washington Redskins: Virginia (a lot of people say Washington)
And if you want to look smarter than me never admit that you didn't know until 6 months ago that the Washington Redskins were not out of Washington State. My SO still won't let me live that down.

Last edited by The Chao Goes Mu; 11-13-2007 at 12:53 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #34  
Old 11-13-2007, 02:33 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by anson2995
The wikipedia article you cite describes variations of the single wing as they are played today. The single wing offense played in the teens and twenties had an unbalanced line (2 linemen to one side of the center and 4 linemen on the other side) and four backs. The backs were named (from front to back) "wing back," "blocking back", "fullback", and "tailback." The tailback received the snap and usually ran with the ball. The single wing was developed by Glen "Pop" Warner and popularized by his star player, Jim Thorpe.

WoodenTaco's description of the modern-T formation is spot on, and that's where the term quarterback first came into use.
Again, the term "quarterback" goes back in America at least to 1879, which is long before a modern "T"-formation had been developed. See my links posted above.
Reply With Quote
  #35  
Old 11-13-2007, 03:19 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
Again, the term "quarterback" goes back in America at least to 1879, which is long before a modern "T"-formation had been developed. See my links posted above.
No. In 1879, teams used the "flying wedge" and the T formation almost exclusively. See my links also posted above.
Reply With Quote
  #36  
Old 11-13-2007, 03:44 PM
zut zut is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Detroit, MI
Posts: 3,650
From this article on Walter Camp:
Quote:
At the next intercollegiate football convention, convened at Springfield October 12, 1880, [Walter] Camp came loaded for bear. [...] For starters, Camp renewed his motion to reduce the number of players on a side from fifteen to eleven, and this time the motion prevailed.

[... (discussion of the disorderliness of rugby) ...]

Camp wasn't the only one to see the vast improvement which could be obtained by establishing a method of putting the ball in play which would give to one side its undisturbed possession, thereby permitting a strategic and tactical preparation to advance it. But he was the one who figured out how to bring it off.

He had personally penned the following revolutionary change in the rules: "A scrimmage takes place when the holder of the ball puts it on the ground before him and puts it in play while on-side either by kicking the ball or by snapping it back with his foot. The man who first receives the ball from the snap-back shall be called the quarter-back and shall not rush forward with the ball under penalty of foul." In one brilliant move, he'd created the the "scrimmage" and the "quarter-back," creating a way for one side to hold possession of the ball and a way to put the ball in play.

When this proposition was accepted unanimously, American football began.

[...]

Camp's innovative scrimmage immediately sent strategists to the drawing board. The question was how to disperse the eleven men on offense. Harvard came up with a formation having seven men on the line, one fullback, and three halfbacks, who alternated at quarterback. Princeton preferred six men on the line, one quarterback, two halfbacks, and two fullbacks. At Yale, Captain Camp came up with the definitive formation: seven on the line, the quarterback a few yards behind the center, the halfbacks further back and spread to either side, and the fullback set deep behind the quarterback. In other words, he created the T-formation.
Also, note this book on Yale athletics has a "quarterback" position starting in 1880.
Reply With Quote
  #37  
Old 11-13-2007, 07:53 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodenTaco
No. In 1879, teams used the "flying wedge" and the T formation almost exclusively. See my links also posted above.
Well, I don't see a LINK in your post. I do see a reference to an outside source, but it references a book from 1890s about something that "resembled" a T formation. So, with respect, you have not shown that the "T" formation as we understand it today existed in 1879 when the term was coined. Now you may have reference to some other piece of information that extends the true "T" back to the 1870s, in which case I'd be happy to reconsider my statement (and truly interested in the material, btw).


And, btw, in a "T" formation, there would be no "quarter-back", "half-back" or "full-back" because there would only be two layers of player; the cross of the T and the player in front. So I think your idea that the "T" formation gave rise to the "quarterback" term is faulty.

The more so since there is information that the term was being used in 20-a-side RUGBY back in the roughly 1860s.

Last edited by DSYoungEsq; 11-13-2007 at 07:55 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #38  
Old 11-13-2007, 07:58 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by zut
From this article on Walter Camp:

Also, note this book on Yale athletics has a "quarterback" position starting in 1880.
That's a very helpful reference, zut, thank you.


BUT, although the writer accredits Camp with the formation of the "T" offense, every other mention I've seen of the "T" offense describes a formation consistent with the capital letter, not the one described by the author in your quote, or by Wooden Taco as being like a small-"t" with the fullback deeper than the half-backs. So I guess what I need is some contemporary authority stating that that was a true "T" offense.

Last edited by DSYoungEsq; 11-13-2007 at 08:03 PM..
Reply With Quote
  #39  
Old 11-13-2007, 09:10 PM
zut zut is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Detroit, MI
Posts: 3,650
Well, there are a few places that credit Walter Camp with devising the T-formation:
Quote:
Walter Camp, known as the ‘Father of American Football,’ began experimenting with the T-formation in the mid 1880s at Yale.

At the time, it was referred to as the ‘regular formation’ and used by every collegiate team.
I chose this particular cite, because you can see how Walter Camp himself drew the "regular formation" in his book (diagram 2), and it does indeed look like a capital T, with the half- and full-backs all at the same distance from the line (although the diagram two pages earlier shows the fullback behind the halfbacks).
Reply With Quote
  #40  
Old 11-13-2007, 09:47 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Quote:
Originally Posted by xanthous
With that said, I guess my BF got 83% right. He guessed VA.
Not to mention that even if the Redskins did play in Washington, D.C., it still wouldn't be a state.
Reply With Quote
  #41  
Old 11-13-2007, 11:20 PM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Lots of great research, zut. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by zut
Well, there are a few places that credit Walter Camp with devising the T-formation: I chose this particular cite, because you can see how Walter Camp himself drew the "regular formation" in his book (diagram 2), and it does indeed look like a capital T, with the half- and full-backs all at the same distance from the line (although the diagram two pages earlier shows the fullback behind the halfbacks).
If you read the commentary on Diagram 2, that's a kickoff formation. Later you find Diagram 6, which he calls "The formation of the side which has the ball in a scrimmage," that is, a team lining up for a normal play. In this diagram, the backs are lined up in a triangle, and his references to a "goal tend" as the fullback make it quite clear that this deepest man is the fullback. Diagrams 8 and 12, the other ones of teams prior to a snap when they aren't kicking, show a similar backfield.

Walter Camp also says this in that book, in a chapter titled "Development of the Names of the Various Positions:"
Quote:
Originally Posted by Walter Camp
As the game, after starting with eleven players, was then altered to fifteen, there was an opening made by these increased numbers for more positions. It was in the first days of fifteen men that the quarter-back play and position first acquired proper form. There was not only a quarter-back, but also a three-quarters back-- that is, a player who stood between the half-backs and the backs. With the return to eleven men the three-quarter back disappeared, but the quarterback, or man who received the ball from the scrimmage, still remained.
This seems to pretty conclusively show that the name "quarter-back" originates from position on the field, since Camp explains that the "three quarter back" was based on position on the field. I don't think it's much of a stretch to say he is implying the same about the quarterback.

In addition, the article that zut linked to says this:
Quote:
At Yale, Captain Camp came up with the definitive formation: seven on the line, the quarterback a few yards behind the center, the halfbacks further back and spread to either side, and the fullback set deep behind the quarterback. In other words, he created the T-formation.
I think it's clear from this, as well, that the fullback is set deeper than the halfbacks.
Reply With Quote
  #42  
Old 11-14-2007, 05:24 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodenTaco
Lots of great research, zut. Thanks!
Agreed!!
Quote:
I think it's clear from this, as well, that the fullback is set deeper than the halfbacks.
Again, please note that the article in question is written much later, and that it makes that statement despite the fact that the book to which zut has given reference does not use the name "T" formation for it. A "T" formation, in every contemporary reference I've been able to find, refers to a formation where the "fullback" is lined up square with the "halfbacks", thus making a "T" when the quarterback is considered the downstroke.

And as for the origin of the names, again, let's point out that the term "quarterback" appears to have been involved in naming a position used in 20-a-side rugby football in Scotland even prior to the use in America, if the links I gave above are to be believed. It is likely the American use of the term derived from its already accepted usage in Rugby football, though confirmation of this fact would be nice.

Where is samclem when you need him?
Reply With Quote
  #43  
Old 11-14-2007, 07:24 AM
zut zut is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Detroit, MI
Posts: 3,650
Hum. I poked around some more, and the best I could do was Scottish Football Reminiscences, which was written in 1890. Talking about a 1872 rugby match, the author says in passing, "If ever a man could handle a ball and kick a goal as a quarter-back in a Rugby game, it was Chalconer." There's the clear implication Chalconer was playing a "quarter-back" position in 1872 (before the term was introduced in American football), but since the book was written 20 years later, that's hardly conclusive.

Also, from 1901 Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine: "Sometimes three full-backs, invariably two, were played; sometimes there wer e two three-quarters, sometimes only one; and originally there was only one half-back--called "quarter" in Scotland, a position said to have been invented by a current occupant of the Scottish Bench, who played, and played well, in the first international." Again, not conclusive, but suggestive.

ETA: "Three quarter back" was certainly used in rugby before "quarter back" wasa used in American football.: THe Gentleman's Magazine, 1873

Last edited by zut; 11-14-2007 at 07:28 AM..
Reply With Quote
  #44  
Old 11-14-2007, 11:18 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
I think it is pretty clear that the concept of designating a back by what portion of the whole he is back from the line comes from Rugby. American football, being a Rugby offshoot, simply adopted the terminology. I suspect that the "quarter" back, being a term that was not universal in Britain (limited, perhaps, to Scotland), didn't make it into the lexicon until around 1879, when someone used it to designate the position that Camp wanted to mandate the existence of (ball receiver on restarts).
Reply With Quote
  #45  
Old 11-14-2007, 11:57 AM
WoodenTaco WoodenTaco is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Quote:
Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq
I think it is pretty clear that the concept of designating a back by what portion of the whole he is back from the line comes from Rugby. American football, being a Rugby offshoot, simply adopted the terminology. I suspect that the "quarter" back, being a term that was not universal in Britain (limited, perhaps, to Scotland), didn't make it into the lexicon until around 1879, when someone used it to designate the position that Camp wanted to mandate the existence of (ball receiver on restarts).
So sort of a combination of the two - rugby and positioning? Sounds pretty reasonable to me. I'll go with that.
Reply With Quote
  #46  
Old 11-14-2007, 02:23 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
I just wanted to mention that there's been some damn fine scholarship in what could have been a trivial thread. Kudos to you all.

Last edited by PoorYorick; 11-14-2007 at 02:24 PM..
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 02:05 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.