What is the Flying Wedge in Football?


It is hard to believe but football back in the day was way more violent and dangerous compared to the modern NFL. A big reason for this was thanks to a tactic known as the flying wedge.

The flying wedge involved the biggest football players on the field binding together similar to a rugby scrum to form a human shield protecting the player carrying the ball who would stand in the middle of the wedge. The players would then run at the opposing team and stampede over them.

The defensive team would be unable to tackle the ball runner because he was shielded by a human wall. The flying wedge led to numerous deaths and serious injuries and was eventually banned from football.

The Flying Wedge Was Ultra Violent 

The flying wedge was essentially a human battering ram. The players would form this immense wall out of human bodies and launch themselves into the opposition with zero regard for their own or the opposition’s health.

When the flying wedge was first invented fans went crazy for it. They loved to see it not only because it was incredibly effective and struck fear into the hearts of the opponent but because it added a certain medieval aspect to the game of football.

However, before long the injuries started piling up the tactic was considered too violent for civilized modern society. It eventually had to be banned before there were too many on field deaths.

What Was The Flying Wedge In Football?

The flying wedge was the ultimate mass motion play in the early days of football. It looked like it sounds.

The heavier players on the team would form up into a tight wedge, holding onto each other. The ball carrier was in the center.

The entire wedge would aim itself at one player on the other team. The entire mass of the wedge would drive into him at a full run.

The players in the wedge didn’t just stand close to each other, they were tightly bound to each other.  It was common for players to have leather handles on their uniforms to tighten their grip.

When Was The Flying Wedge Invented

Football was an incredibly boring spectacle in the 1890s. You can compare it to trench warfare. Neither side was able to move the ball and touchdowns were becoming increasingly rare. A high number of matches were ending scoreless.

The first flying wedge took place in November 1892 when bitter rivals Harvard and Yale played each other in front of a massive crowd of almost 30,000 people.

In the second half with game scoreless Harvard decided to try something new. The players formed into a triangle shape with the ball runner protected in the middle of the triangle. The Harvard players then sprinted full pace into The first half of the match was the typical scoreless tie. When Harvard Yale’s Alex Wallis.

Wallis was left looking up at the sky as the Harvard team took off flying down the field. The fans were ecstatic and the consensus was this was an amazing invention and would alter the status quo of football forever! 

Who Invented the Flying Wedge?

The flying wedge was invented by Harvard coach Lorin F. Deland.  Funnily enough Deland had never played football but was obsessed with military tactics and the flying wedge is said to be based on a tactic used by Napoleon. 

Deland was an early innovator when it came to football and was constantly scouring military history in hopes of finding new tactics. He was particularly impressed by the way Napoleon would instruct his troops to identify a small section of the front that was weak and then order a massive assault on the weak section. The result was a break in the line and a hasty enemy withdrawal.

Deland took inspiration from Napoleon’s war tactics to create the flying wedge. While his invention was highly effective it was also extremely dangerous. 

When Was The Flying Wedge Banned?

While the flying wedge was undoubtedly effective it was too violent. The original Harvard style flying wedge was banned in 1894. 

However, that didn’t stop football coaches from altering the flying wedge to make it legal. The play became so deadly that in 1905 there were over 20 deaths and nearly 200 serious injuries.

Presidents of numerous universities wanted the game banned and the press were calling for a pause in play. 

Theodore Roosevelt Ends the Flying Wedge

The flying wedge had become a national story. This led to then United States President Theodore Roosevelt gathering all of the most notable football leaders and deciding on new rules that would end the dangerous flying wedge for good!

Modern NFL Rules That Prevent the Flying Wedge

There are strict rules on how many NFL players must line up on the line scrimmage. This rule is to prevent there being lots of players in the back field, which can be used to form a flying wedge.

NFL players are also not allowed to move at once in the back field. This rule is to stop players quickly grouping behind the line and forming a human battering ram.

The biggest rule change in football that resulted from the ban of the flying wedge was the introduction of the forward pass. Without the flying wedge teams again struggle to generate offense, so to make the game more exciting and ensure teams could score touchdowns forward passes were allowed for the first time in 1906.

Wrapping Up

The flying wedge was invented in Harvard in 1892 and changed the game of football forever! The movement was eventually banned because it led to too many injuries and resulted in significant rules changes including the implementation of the forward pass rule.

 

 

Recent Posts