"We'll never forget the way you thrilled the nation, with your T-Formation." Ok, that lyric is a such a lie, that it is practically a statistic. Statistically, what percentage of the fans even know what the T-Formation is, let alone how the Bears used it to thrill the nation?
I can only speak for myself, .000000001% of Bears fans. I didn't know what the T-Formation was, so I spent an afternoon reading about it online. I just thought that I would share what I learned to help me better remember and to assuage the consciences of anyone else who always felt a little hypocritical singing that lyric.
Here is a basic T-Formation:
This is the oldest known offensive formation in football, supposedly invented by Walter Camp in 1882. This formation fell out of favor as other formations were developed that were more effective in primitive smash-mouth football. Then, in 1933, the forward pass was made legal, and the T-Formation began its comeback (Side Note: Maybe I shouldn't call it a comeback. Maybe it was always there). The University of Minnesota implemented the T-Formation to create a fast-paced offense that was able to both pass and run and had a great deal of success during the 30's and 40's.
George Halas and Clark Shaughnessy (Coach of the University of Chicago and the Bears, backup QB) brought the T-Formation to the NFL in the late 1930's and made a couple key innovations: First, they brought men in motion. Second, they utilized fakes and misdirection (think of this as the neanderthal ancestor to Oregon's offense).
Halas believed that the T-Formation could not work without a solid passing quarterback. He personally scouted University of Columbia tailback, Sid Luckman, and he came away impressed. Halas suckered the Pittsburgh Pirates into drafting Luckman in 1939 and trading him to the Bears. Luckman initially refused to sign with the Bears and opted to work for his father's trucking company instead. George Halas visited Luckman with a contract in hand and persuaded him to quarterback the Chicago Bears and their new offensive scheme.
1940, the T-Formation changed football forever. That year, the Bears defeated Sammy Baugh and the Washington Redskins 73-0 (not a typo) in the NFL Championship, running for just under 400 yards (also not tpyo ;). Following this slaughter, the fight song, "Bear Down, Chicago Bears" was written and referenced the Bears' juggernaut offensive scheme. The Bears would win 4 championships in the 40's even though they lost 40 players and coaches to military service during World War II, including George Halas. The 1940's Bears are arguably the most dominant dynasty in football history.
The NFL has always been a copycat league, and every team responded to the Bears' success by adopting some derivation of the T-Formation. The I-Formation and Pro Set are evolutions of the T-Formation. In fact, Halas frequently brought a running back in motion out of the backfield into the flanker position, and the Pro Set is the exact same formation, without the motion.
So, what should we remember about the T-Formation? Here are a few things that I pulled from my little study: 1. The T-Formation Bears were awesomely, awesome. 2. The T-Formation was revolutionary, and modern football, particularly passing, evolved out of Halas' T-Formation (Side Note: I believe that football fans in general have no idea how much George Halas did for the sport. He was a hall of fame player, recruited several other players such as Red Grange to play football, brought the Chicago Bears to prominence, helped form the NFL, and rescued struggling franchises such as the Packers and Giants. Without George Halas the organization of football would be very different, and without his T-Formation, the game of football would be very different.) 3. 40 of the Bears' players and coaches gave up their prime football years to serve their country. One player, Young Bussey, even gave up his life. The most dominant team in our franchise's history sacrificed its success for our freedom. The T-Formation Bears transcend football.
I am really glad that I took the time to read about the T-Formation and the people involved with the T-Formation. Next time the Bears score, I will be proud to sing that I will "never forget" what I learned. Bear down.