The Story of the NFL's Dayton Triangles

NFL'S All-Time Team a Little Light on the Old-Times

Dayton Daily News (Ohio)
September 9, 1994

Does it seem odd that the first quarterback to master the T-formation in the National Football League isn't in the Hall of Fame?

The NFL is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season with its usual competent merchandising effort - a feature of which is the 75th Anniversary All-Time Team.

It would be a stretch to think that Carl Brumbaugh, the first quarterback who started offensive plays by taking the football directly from the snapper's one hand and giving it off to Chicago Bears teammates Bronko Nagurski and Red Grange, belongs in that group of 48 legends.

But you might suspect that the West Milton native deserves some sort of niche in the Canton shrine.

Brumbaugh's role in NFL history is highlighted in the current edition of TIMELINE, the magazine of the Ohio Historical Society.

Carl M. Becker, the Wright State history professor emeritus, is the author of the Brumbaugh piece and is also engaged in putting together a book about the old Ironton Tanks and Portsmouth Spartans, two pioneer professional teams in southern Ohio of the 1920s.

Like many earlier football athletes in an era when college eligibility rules as well as the pro league bylaws were less restrictive, Brumbaugh had a nomadic career.

He enrolled at Ohio State and earned his freshman numerals in 1925 but didn't get enough playing time a year later and dropped out of school. He wound up as a standout halfback at Florida in 1927 and 1928.

The Southeastern Conference denied Florida's appeal to extend his eligibility another year, so Brumbaugh turned up in Portsmouth joining the Spartans in 1929, a year before that team was granted an NFL franchise.

He wound up at the right place at the right time a year later. George Halas, the co-founder of the Bears, decided the team needed a new offensive look. Ralph Jones had installed the T with considerable success at Lake Forest, a suburban Chicago college. Halas turned over the coaching role to Jones and retreated to the front office.

Charley Bachman, who had coached Brumbaugh at Florida, suggested to Halas that Carl had the football savvy and agility to learn the quarterback role. For the next five seasons, the Bears thrived - winning NFL championships in 1932 and 1933 - the latter with a victory over the New York Giants in the first championship playoff in league history.

Brumbaugh bounced around with two other teams including the Cleveland Rams before coming back as an assistant coach to Chicago, where he trained Sid Luckman in the art of the directing the T.

Later he was an assistant coach at Boston College, Holy Cross and the University of Cincinnati. He did play-by-play radio of University of Dayton football for a while in the 1950s and died in 1969 at the age of 63.

In his playing days with the Bears he was listed as 5-10 and 165 pounds, which reflects the great difference in the NFL of the 1930s and the game as we know it in the 1990s.

We are a much bigger race than we were a half-century ago when the great Nagurski was considered an awesome power runner at 6-3 and 238 pounds.

Nagurski is only one of four players on the offensive unit of the 75th Anniversary All-Star team to have played prior to World War II. The others: pass-catching end Don Hutson, center Mel Hein and quarterback Sammy Baugh.

The committee also selected an all Two-Way team in which the oldtimers had their day. It seems odd that Red Grange, the first bigtime gate attraction in NFL history, does not appear on it.

Hein, who starred for years with the New York Giants, played at 198 pounds, and it seems something of a concession to tradition that he made the offensive line on the anniversary team.

As good as he was, Hein would be blown away today by a 300-pound-plus defensive monster the likes of Big Daddy Wilkinson.

The change in the nature of the game doesn't even have to go back a half-century. The great Green Bay Packer teams of the 1960s and the four-time Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s might not have the physical beef in their lines to dominate today.

The human race is so much bigger, stronger and probably quicker.

Trimming that Anniversary team down its 48-man unit was a tough job and you and I could come up with a couple dozen standouts who were left off - like Jack Lambert and Franco Harris of the Steelers, to name a pair.

But this started off talking about Carl Brumbaugh.

Becker's piece in the magazine carried the title, A Darned good Quarterback - a quote about Carl from Grange.

He deserves to be remembered as just that.


Copyright 1994 The Dayton Daily News

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