American football - only team sport with specialized offense and defense players

In just about any team sport - be it soccer, hockey, basketball, baseball, etc., most players are expected to play some mixture of offense and defense. Is American football the lone exception, where there’s an entire team unit dedicated to offense only, and an entire team unit dedicated to defense only?
Someone may bring up the designated hitter in baseball, but that’s just one guy.

Probably not, as American (well, and Canadian) football is pretty much the only sport where the game stops and gives the teams the opportunity to switch between their offensive and defensive units when possession changes.

Baseball and cricket stop even more than American and Canadian football when offense and defense switch. There is absolutely no way for the team on defense in baseball or cricket to score akin to an interception or fumble recovery. There certainly could be completely separate offensive and defensive units, though apart from the pitcher/DH in baseball, neither game is constructed that way.

To be fair, American football was played for several decades by players who lined up on both the offensive and defensive sides of the line.

When my mom was in high school, she said girls’ basketball was played six-on-six, with three players in the offensive zone and three in the defensive zone and no player allowed to cross the half-court line. That was back in the 50s, but I believe that version of girl’s b-ball survived in parts of the Midwest for a while.

Netball which is very popular in Commonwealth countries (Australia, New Zealand, West Indies etc) works like that with 7 players with designated attacking and defending positions. They wear bibs with letters to show their position so the umpires can ensure that they stay within their allotted zones.

In baseball the rules for changing the team members during the game is heavily ingrained. There have been suggestions that baseball have separate offenses and defenses, but it is a huge change to the game. To my knowledge, in football players have always been able to come on and off the field between plays, in baseball once a player is out of the lineup he can’t come back in, so there was no gradual path toward separate teams. Even the DH rule is still highly controversial because it is a bad rule that has ruined the game in the AL.

Volleyball has the Libero, a players who wears a different colored jersey and who only ever lines up in the back line and is a defensive specialist. And I believe that in general, back row players can’t jump and spike the same way front row players can. But a Libero can certainly hit the ball over the net and score a point, so I’d say that kind of counts. (note: this information is about 20 years out of date)

Your knowledge is limited. The NCAA allowed only the same kind of substitution that baseball allows up until WWII. If you got subbed out you were through. During the war, with many players gone to the war and less capable, on average, playes available, they switched to two platoon football. In 1954 they went back to one-platoon football with a difference. One player could be subbed between plays. This allowed for kicking specialists. They went to the current rules, basically, in 1964.

Arena football uses a kind of one-platoon football. Kickers and quarterbacks and one specialist were exempted. The specialist is usually a wide receiver. When the team goes on defense, two defensive specialist sub for the Q-back and the offensive specialist. When trying a field goal or kicking off, the kicker subs for the specialist. They don’t have punting.

The libero is under even more stringent restrictions on attacking than traditional back row players. A back row player may attack (read: spike) the ball while it’s above the net so long as they take off from behind the attack line (front row players may attack from anywhere). A libero may not ever attack the ball above the net. Also, the libero is not allowed to set for an attack ahead of the attack line. I’m sure that a libero will score a point from time to time, but it’s probably going to take an epic mistake from the other team for that to happen.

That’s interesting. Do you know if the NFL ever had those rules? I assume they used the collegiate rules as a base.

Football players are expected to play the other side of the ball whenever there is a turnover.

Yes, I think soccer is that way too.

I’d have to look it up to be sure. I believe the NFL had baseball-like substitution rules until WWII. During the war I believe they changed to if you were subbed out, you were gone for that quarter. They also used a you can sub any three players at a time (and you cold come back in). Unlimited substitution was adopted experimentally for 1949, then adopted permanently for 1950. There have been no important changes since.

Again that’s all from memory.

Good enough memory there I think. I think it was a bit easier for football to gradually move to unlimited substitutions than baseball, at least on offense where you have more specialized players. If baseball had separate teams I could see a system where you were out for the game if you were taken out of the batting order, and then having unlimited defensive changes for everything but the pitcher. It’s not like anyone cares that much who the right fielder is at any moment. But I dearly hope they don’t go down that path, as you may have noticed I am strongly anti-DH, even if it’s just to be a crotchety old man these days.

Keep in mind defensive and offensive players sometimes mix together on the same side of scrimmage during special teams plays.

Closest example I’m familiar with is not only the DH, but pitchers for DH rule teams who don’t aren’t regularly in the batting lineup.

I think this was alluded to earlier, but when soccer started, it was unthinkable for a defensive player to dribble the ball up to the goal and score; players rarely strayed from their position on the field.

Goalkeepers (all sports - soccer, hockey, ice hockey, handball) are purely defensive in many sports - ie they have special rules that only apply to them when playing in their designated position. In other words, a soccer goalie may come out of the penalty area, and play as a normal player, but then he loses his special rules.

I’m referring to entire offensive and defensive teams, not just one player.

Not sure what you mean by this. In soccer the same 11 players are on the field for the entire game, during possession of the ball will frequently change. So nothing like gridiron, where the players on the field will change over every time possession changes (except in the case of a turnover).

Field lacrosse has defensemen, midfielders, attackmen and a goalie. Defensemen and the goalie, play defense and generally keep to the defensive side of the field. Midfielders play a mix of both offense and defense and play both sides of the field. Attackmen play offense and generally keep to the offensive side of the field. There are exceptions, but generally that’s how it goes


That’s not at all what I mean. Those players are playing a mixture of offense and defense. Like soccer.

I mean an entire unit dedicated to *offense only *and an entire *separate *unit of *defense only. *That’s what you see in American football.