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In American football, the Sutherland single-wing was a variation of the single-wing formation used with great success by Coach Jock Sutherland of the 1930s and 1940s. Note that coach Sutherland mastered many forms of the single-wing, but the formation described here is the one he invented and was named for him.
The Sutherland single-wing differs from the traditional single-wing in that the wingback is brought into the backfield as a halfback, flanking the fullback on the other side from the tailback. This allows a more flexible running attack to the weak-side. Both the tailback and halfback are triple threats in this offense. The weakness of this formation is less power than the traditional single-wing and it requires very talented backs to play tailback and halfback effectively.
Sutherland created this formation from the original single-wing he learned from legendary coach Pop Warner at the University of Pittsburgh in the 1910s. Sutherland became the Pitt coach in 1924, where he remained through 1938. Sutherland's Pitt teams were named "National Champions" by various selectors in nine different seasons, including five recognized by the university. Sutherland was the avowed master of the single-wing offense while at Pitt. Sutherland brought his coaching skills to the NFL in 1940 as the coach of the Brooklyn Dodgers. At Brooklyn, he took over a team that had never finished better than second and had only one winning record since 1930. He implemented his offensive ideas and the Dodgers finished with a record of 8-3 and finished only a game back from the Washington Redskins. Sutherland's star was Ace Parker, who played tailback and was NFL MVP. The Dodgers also finished in second in 1941, with a 7-4 mark. Later, Sutherland coached the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1946 and 1947. In 1947, Sutherland and his single-wing pushed the Steelers to their first playoff appearance, for the East Conference crown. They were soundly defeated by Greasy Neale's Philadelphia Eagles, running the T-formation, 21-0. Sutherland died suddenly in 1948, but the Steelers continued to use his single-wing until 1953, when they were the last NFL team to switch to the T.
College teams continued to use the single-wing into the 1960s and some high school teams still use Sutherland single-wing formations.
- "Pittsburgh Total National Championships". CFBDataWarehouse.com. College Football Data Warehouse. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Hursen, Steve (2007). "Panther History: Pitt Football 2006" (PDF). 2007 Pitt Football Media Guide (PDF). University of Pittsburgh. p. 176. Retrieved 2011-11-04.
- Wallace, William N. (October 15, 1994). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; This Pitt Backfield Is Still a Dream". The New York Times. Associated Press. p. 30, section 1. Retrieved December 10, 2009.
They ran an offense called the Sutherland Scythe after Coach Jock Sutherland, a titan of his time. It was a precision double-wing attack that ravaged opponents. But more distinctive than its offensive power game was the players' decision at the end of the season to turn down an invitation to play in the Rose Bowl.