One-platoon system

The one-platoon system, also known as iron man football, is a platoon system in American football where players play on both offense and defense. It was the result of smaller roster sizes in the early days of the game and rules that limited player substitutions, rules that are also standard procedure in many other sports but were eliminated in the 1940s as free substitution was legalized. The alternative system is known as the "two-platoon system", or simply the "platoon system", because of its use of separate offensive and defensive units (three platoons if special teams is also counted).

Each system was used at different times in American college football and in the National Football League. One-platoon football is seen in modern times mostly on lower-end and smaller teams at the high school and semi-pro levels, where player shortages and talent disparities require it; the system allows teams to play with a smaller roster than a two-platoon or multiple-platoon team, but because players are on the field the entire game with no rest between series, players slow down and become fatigued more quickly in the later stages of a game. As a result, modern teams with sufficient numbers of talented players no longer use the one-platoon system.


Prior to 1941, virtually all football players saw action on "both sides of the ball," playing in both offensive and defensive roles. From 1941 to 1952, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allowed unlimited substitution. This change was originally made because of the difficulty in fielding highly skilled players during the years of the Second World War, in which many able-bodied college-age men volunteered for or were drafted into military service.[1] The National Football League followed suit abolishing its substitution restrictions in 1943, for similar reasons.

For the 1953 season, the NCAA emplaced a set of new rules requiring the use of a one-platoon system, primarily due to financial reasons.[2] One source indicated that only one player was allowed to be substituted between plays;[3] however, according to the NCAA, the actual rule allowed a player to enter the game only once in each quarter.[4] Tennessee head coach "General" Robert Neyland praised the change as the end of "chickenshit football".[1]

The one-platoon rules were gradually liberalized over the next 11 seasons; by 1958, Louisiana State had developed a three-platoon system (a two-way platoon, an offensive platoon, and a defensive platoon known as the Chinese Bandits).[5] For the 1964 season,[4] the NCAA repealed the rules enforcing its use and allowed an unlimited number of player substitutions.[4][6] This allowed, starting with the 1964 season,[7] teams to form separate offensive and defensive units as well as "special teams" which would be employed in kicking situations. By the early 1970s, however, some university administrators, coaches and others were calling for a return to the days of one-platoon football.[8]

The sport of arena football used a limited one-platoon system (from which quarterbacks, kickers and one "specialist" were exempt) from its inception until 2007.

Noteworthy professional one-platoon players


  1. ^ a b c Douglas S. Looney, One Is More Like It, Sports Illustrated, 3 September 1990, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  2. ^ Clarence Munn, Thumbs Down On The One Platoon, Sports Illustrated, 29 November 1954, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  3. ^ K. Adam Powell, Woody Durham, "An Era of Change (1963-1968) (Google Books cache), Border Wars: The First Fifty Years of Atlantic Coast Conference Football, Scarecrow Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8108-4839-2, ISBN 978-0-8108-4839-9.
  4. ^ a b c "College Football Rules Changes" (PDF). 2016 NCAA Football Records: Football Bowl Subdivision Records. p. 188. Retrieved July 24, 2017.
  5. ^ Miller, Bryce (November 20, 1958). "Gambled On Untried Men". The Times-Picayune. UPI. p. 42.
  6. ^ 17 Reasons Why Knute Rockne Wouldn't Recognize This Game, Athlon Sports, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  7. ^ Robert C. Gallagher, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, p. 63, Random House, 2008, ISBN 0-345-51086-0.
  8. ^ One-platoon football seen as a money saver, The Free-Lance Star, November 22, 1974.
  9. ^ Sammy Baugh, Pro Football Hall of Fame, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  10. ^ "Chuck "Concrete Charlie" Bednarik". College Football Hall of Fame. Football Foundation. Retrieved 20 January 2009.
  11. ^ Bednarik wants Eagles to lose Super Bowl, The Washington Post, 4 February 2005, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  12. ^ Bednarik Showing His Bitter Side, The Los Angeles Times, p. D-13, 6 February 2005, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  13. ^ American Heroes, Football Historian, retrieved 20 January 2009.
  14. ^ Mustangs recall memorable ride: Omaha semipro football team found a special time, place by Rich Kaipust, Omaha World-Herald, December 25, 2017
  15. ^ "Mike Furrey". ESPN. Retrieved 11 May 2010.

Further reading

1926 Brown Bears football team

The 1926 Brown Bears football team, often called "the Iron Men", represented Brown University in 1926 college football season. They were led by first-year head coach Tuss McLaughry. The Bears compiled a 9–0–1 record, outscored their opponents 223–36, and recorded seven defensive shutouts.The 1926 Bears were nicknamed the "Iron Men" because of the significant play time the first squad saw in several key games. Against Yale, Brown's starters played every minute of the game without substitution and won, 7–0. The following week, the same eleven played the duration of the 10–0 win over Dartmouth, another period powerhouse. In order to rest his starters, McLaughry fielded the second string the next weekend against Norwich, and they won decisively, 27–0. A week later at Harvard Stadium, the Iron Men played 58 minutes of the 26–0 shutout of the Crimson, their third and final Ancient Eight opponent. McLaughry sent in the substitutes for the final two minutes so that they would earn their varsity letters. In the season's finale, Colgate held the Iron Men to a tie, 10–10.The 9–0–1 record remains Brown's only undefeated season to date. Back Roy Randall and end Hal Broda were named first-team All-Americans by the Associated Press and United Press, respectively. The Iron Men consisted of the following eleven players: Thurston Towle, Paul Hodge, Orland Smith, Charles Considine, Lou Farber, Ed Kevorkian, Hal Broda, Al Cornsweet, Dave Mishel, Ed Lawrence, and Roy Randall.

4–3 defense

In American football, a 4–3 defense is a defensive alignment consisting of four down linemen and three linebackers. It is called a "base defense" because it is the default defensive alignment used on "base downs" (1st and 2nd downs). However, defenses will readily switch to other defensive alignments (such as a nickel) as circumstances change.

7–1–2–1 defense

The 7–1–2–1, or seven-diamond defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, one linebacker, two safeties relatively close to the line and one safety farther downfield. The formation was created by Minnesota coach Henry L. Williams in 1903, reputedly to stop Michigan back Willie Heston. By some accounts in the mid-1930s, the 7-1-2-1 was considered "almost obsolete" due to its weakness against the forward pass, whereas the 7-2-2 defense was still considered viable. Yet Bill Arnsparger notes the use of the seven-diamond from the 1940s into the 1960s, as a defensive adjustment to the common wide tackle 6 defenses of the time. Further, the form of the 7 diamond as derived from a wide tackle 6, with a more compact line spacing than the 1930s era 7 man lines, shows a marked similarity to the 46 defense of Buddy Ryan.

7–2–2 defense

The 7–2–2 defense or seven-box defense, used seven "down linemen", or players on the line of scrimmage at the time of the snap, two linebackers, and two safeties. Amos Alonzo Stagg invented the seven-box defense in 1890 at Springfield College. At that time, most teams were using a nine-man line on defense, and there were only three downs and no forward passes. The 7–2–2 was the base defense used by Knute Rockne at Notre Dame, as well as Mike Donahue at Auburn. Into the late 1930s, the 7–2–2 was still commonly employed inside the defender's thirty-yard line. It was considered "very strong against a running attack, but rather weak defensively against passes." The 7–2–2 was also employed when the opponent was expected to punt.

Chinese Bandits

The Chinese Bandits were the backup defensive unit on coach Paul Dietzel's LSU Tigers football teams, most notably the 1958 and 1959 teams. The name was also used briefly by the Army Cadets football team during Dietzel's coaching tenure at the U.S. Military Academy. At LSU, they made up the third unit of Dietzel's "three-platoon system." While they lacked experience and talent, the Bandits were notable for their tenacity and toughness. The unit was hugely popular among fans, and has since become part of LSU sports lore.

Free substitution

Free substitution is a rule in some sports that allows players to enter and leave the game for other players many times during the course of the game; and for coaches to bring in and take out players an unlimited number of times.

Halfback (Canadian football)

The halfback in Canadian football, and most commonly the Canadian Football League, currently refers to the defensive back rather than the running back, as in American football. The defensive halfback lines up inside covering the slotback. They are usually slightly larger than the cornerback to assist the linebackers in stopping the run. They can also be seen backing off the line early, to counter the forward motion of a slotback, which is allowed before the snap in the CFL.

The cause of the difference in naming between the two positions between the American and Canadian game, which otherwise uses the same names for positions, stems from the early history of the game. In both games, the early formations featured identical offensive and defensive formations, with seven down linemen and four players (five in Canada) in the backfield. Thus, both the offense and defense had quarterbacks, halfbacks and fullbacks. Over the course of the 20th century, the American and Canadian games both placed an increased emphasis on forward passing, resulting in both offensive and defensive formations spreading out and morphing into modern formations. Furthermore, the abolition of the one-platoon system in the 1940s led to a tendency for position names being used on only one side of the ball. The American game, which still held a significant running component (modern American football is more balanced between both running and passing), kept two running backs, which led to the retention of the "halfback" and "fullback" identifications on that side of the ball.

In Canadian football, however, passing was (and still is) a greater portion of the game (due in part to the larger field and one less down in that game) and only one running back was regularly used, leading to the offensive distinction between halfback and fullback eventually becoming obsolete. Historically, the offensive halfback was similar to a slotback and lined up off the tight end, running sweeps, pass patterns and performing blocking duties, but could also run out of the backfield in front of the fullback, much like a standard running back in American football.

The rough equivalents of the halfback position in American football are the strong safety and nickelback.

Indoor American football

Indoor American football is a variation of American football played at ice hockey-sized indoor arenas. While varying in details from league to league, the rules of indoor football are designed to allow for play in a smaller arena. It is a distinct discipline and not be confused with traditional American football played in large domed stadiums, as is done by some teams at the college and professional levels.

Kicking specialist

A Kicking specialist or kick specialist and sometimes referred to a "kicker", especially when referring to a placekicker, is a player on American football and Canadian football special teams who performs punts, kickoffs, field goals and/or point after touchdowns. The special teams counterpart of a kicking specialist is a return specialist.

Kicking specialists were exceptionally rare until the 1940s; for most of the history of American football, teams relied upon players who played another position to kick and punt. The first kicking specialist in the National Football League was most likely Mose Kelsch, a former sandlot football kicker who was on the inaugural roster of what became the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1933 and 1934. Even after the one-platoon system was phased out in the 1940s, kicking specialists remained uncommon. The introduction of the soccer style of placekicking in the late 1960s coincided with the rapid rise of kicking specialists. Danny White of the Dallas Cowboys was the last non-specialist kicker in the NFL, serving as a punter in addition to his quarterback duties until 1985.

Manch Wheeler

Manchester Haynes Wheeler (March 2, 1939 – August 11, 2018) was an American football quarterback. He played college football at the University of Maine, serving as a versatile utility player who kicked and played defense in addition to quarterbacking in a brief revival of the one-platoon system era. He played four games in the American Football League with the Buffalo Bills, serving as backup to Jack Kemp, before the team signed Daryle Lamonica the following season. He spent much of the next several years as a quarterback in the minor leagues; his most successful season was in 1968, where, largely acting as a game manager in a run-heavy offense that included Marv Hubbard and Mel Meeks, he led the Hartford Knights to a 15-1 season before being unceremoniously benched in the Atlantic Coast Football League championship in favor of rookie Dick Faucette. Following that season, he left to join his final team, the Continental Football League's Portland Loggers.


Placekicker, or simply kicker (PK or K), is the player in American and Canadian football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals and extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist or punter as well.

Platoon (disambiguation)

A platoon is a military unit of around 15 to 30 soldiers.

Platoon may also refer to:

Platoon (automobile), a system for reducing traffic congestion

Platoon (film) (1986), a Vietnam War film directed by Oliver Stone

Platoon (1987 video game), a video game based on the 1986 Oliver Stone film

Platoon (video game) (also known as Platoon: The 1st Airborne Cavalry Division in Vietnam), a real time strategy video game based on the 1986 Oliver Stone film

Platoon system, a technique used in baseball

One-platoon system a technique used in football

Platoon system

The platoon system in baseball or football is a method directing the situational substitution of players to create tactical advantage.

Punter (football)

A punter (P) in American or Canadian football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Safety (gridiron football position)

Safety, historically known as a safetyman, is a position in American and Canadian football played by a member of the defense. The safeties are defensive backs who line up from ten to fifteen yards in front of the line of scrimmage. There are two variations of the position in a typical American formation: the free safety (FS) and the strong safety (SS). Their duties depend on the defensive scheme. The defensive responsibilities of the safety and cornerback usually involve pass coverage towards the middle and sidelines of the field, respectively. While American (11-player) formations generally use two safeties, Canadian (12-player) formations generally have one safety and two defensive halfbacks, a position not used in the American game.

As professional and college football have become more focused on the passing game, safeties have become more involved in covering the eligible pass receivers.Safeties are the last line of defense; they are expected to be reliable tacklers, and many safeties rank among the hardest hitters in football. Safety positions can also be converted cornerbacks, either by design (Byron Jones) or as a cornerback ages (Charles Woodson, DeAngelo Hall, Lardarius Webb, Tramon Williams).

Historically, in the era of the one-platoon system, the safety was known as the defensive fullback (specifically the free safety; the strong safety would be a defensive halfback, a term still in Canadian parlance) or goaltender.

Specialist (arena football)

In arena football, a specialist was a player, other than a quarterback or placekicker, who was exempt from the league's one-platoon system ("Iron Man"). Under the original Arena football system, six of the eight players on each team were required to play both offense and defense.

One of the two offensive positions was required to be a quarterback or, in the event of a kick, a placekicker. The other was known as an offensive specialist (OS). Offensive specialists usually played wide receiver, either as a flanker or a slotback. The defense was allowed two defensive specialists (DS), who almost universally played in the secondary. Players were referred to as "specialists" instead of their more traditional positional designations (example, a player would be called a defensive specialist, and be designated as "DS" on a position chart, instead of a cornerback or CB).

Specialists were usually required to participate on special teams, a requirement that was not extended to quarterbacks.

The specialist designation was eliminated after both the Arena Football League and af2 abandoned the one-platoon system prior to the 2007 season. Most other indoor football leagues have used free substitution since their inception.

Tackle (gridiron football position)

Tackle is a playing position in American and Canadian football. Historically, in the one-platoon system prevalent in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a tackle played on both offense and defense. In the modern system of specialized units, offensive tackle and defensive tackle are separate positions, and the stand-alone term "tackle" refers to the offensive tackle position only. The offensive tackle (OT, T) is a position on the offensive line, left and right. Like other offensive linemen, their job is to block: to physically keep defenders away from the offensive player who has the football and enable him to advance the football and eventually score a touchdown. The term "tackle" is a vestige of an earlier era of football in which the same players played both offense and defense.

A tackle is the strong position on the offensive line. They power their blocks with quick steps and maneuverability. The tackles are mostly in charge of the outside protection. If the tight end goes out for a pass, the tackle must cover everyone that his guard does not, plus whoever the tight end is not covering. Usually they defend against defensive ends. In the NFL, offensive tackles often measure over 6 ft 4 in (193 cm) and 300 lb (140 kg).

According to Sports Illustrated football journalist Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, offensive tackles consistently achieve the highest scores, relative to the other positional groups, on the Wonderlic Test, with an average of 26. The Wonderlic is taken before the draft to assess each player's aptitude for learning and problem solving; a score of 26 is estimated to correspond with an IQ of 113.

Tight end

The tight end (TE) is a position in American football, arena football, and formerly Canadian football, on the offense. The tight end is often seen as a hybrid position with the characteristics and roles of both an offensive lineman and a wide receiver. Like offensive linemen, they are usually lined up on the offensive line and are large enough to be effective blockers. On the other hand, unlike offensive linemen, they are eligible receivers adept enough to warrant a defense's attention when running pass patterns.

Because of the hybrid nature of the position, the tight end's role in any given offense depends on the tactical preferences and philosophy of the head coach. In some systems, the tight end will merely act as a sixth offensive lineman, rarely going out for passes. Other systems use the tight end primarily as a receiver, frequently taking advantage of the tight end's size to create mismatches in the defensive secondary. Many coaches will often have one tight end who specializes in blocking in running situations while using a tight end with better pass-catching skills in obvious passing situations.

Offensive formations may have as few as zero or as many as three tight ends at one time.

Two-platoon system

The two-platoon system is a tactic in American football enabled by rules allowing unlimited substitution adopted during the 1940s. The "two platoons," offense and defense, are an integral part of the modern game today.

Offensive strategy
Defensive strategy
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