"There are no longer any distinctive systems in football. They've become standardized. Nobody sees a balanced line anymore except at Notre Dame, and even some Rockne-trained coaches are getting away from it. There is only one formation that's any good and it's the single wing."—Michigan Athletic Director and former Coach Fielding H. (Hurry Up) Yost on the eve of the 1940 college football season.
"That hocus-pocus which is called the T-Formation made 90,000 spectator converts and seemed definitely to signal the arrival of a new era in college football. The day of the tug-of-war is out—Clark Shaughnessy and his Stanford Indians have definitely killed it."—Curley Grieve, writing in the San Francisco Examiner after the Rose Bowl game of Jan. 1, 1941.
"The whole season was like a fairy tale."—Frankie Albert, quarterback of the 1940 Stanford team.
The hiring of Clark Shaughnessy as football coach at Stanford for the 1940 season struck most alumni, fans and critics at large as an act of folly comparable to employing an arsonist as fire chief. In 1939 Stanford had won but one game and had been disparaged as the worst team ever to represent the university, but compared with the University of Chicago team Shaughnessy had coached that same season, Stanford seemed a veritable juggernaut. In 1939 Chicago had been beaten 85-0 by Michigan, 61-0 by both Ohio State and Harvard, 47-0 by Virginia, and 46-0 by Illinois. Chicago had scored just 37 points in eight games while 308 had been scored against it. At the behest of Chicago's president, Dr. Robert Hutchins, who detested the game, the university discontinued football after this mournful season. "I did not de-emphasize football at the University of Chicago," Dr. Hutchins boasted. "I abolished it."
September 4, 1977
Shaughnessy could have stayed at Chicago as a professor of physical education, but after 25 years as a coach he found the prospect of a fall without football insupportable. He was unquestionably available, but how, outraged Stanford alumni protested, could a man with such impeachable credentials be expected to lead the Indians out of the gridiron wilderness? The fact that Clark Shaughnessy did it so spectacularly is achievement enough, but he accomplished much more by the end of the 1940 season. In coaching Stanford to its only undefeated and untied record, he also contrived to change the game itself as radically as Einstein changed conventional thinking on physics.
Before Shaughnessy at Stanford in 1940, the T formation was a relic from football's antiquity. No one used it. Shaughnessy himself had not used it at Chicago, but he had experimented with the alignment as a member of the Chicago Bears' T brain trust, along with Owner-Coach George Halas and former Bears Coach Ralph Jones. The Bears were the only professional team to run out of that arcane formation. The T had been used by Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago before the turn of the century, but it was soon supplanted by the Pop Warner double wing, the Notre Dame box and the power-oriented single wing. With the success of these formations, the T seemed no more effective than the flying wedge, from which it sprang. Direct passes from center to a running back or passer protected by cordons of blockers represented the standard offense.
No one was prepared for the Shaughnessy T with its lightning thrusts and deception. An entire generation of coaches and players had grown to maturity without seeing the T, and no one had ever seen a T that placed such emphasis on wide-open play, for even under Stagg the formation had been built for power.
After Stanford's milestone performance in 1940, coaches turned to the T as if it were a revealed truth. By the end of the decade, according to a survey by Football Digest, 250 of the top 350 college teams were using it. Everyone, as the newspapers of the time were so fond of reporting, "was going to a T party." Even Frank Leahy flew in the face of all that was sacred and discarded the Notre Dame box for the T within two years of Stanford's epochal season. Now there is scarcely a team at any level of play that does not use the T in one form or other. Be it pro set, power I, wishbone or veer, it is essentially the same formation Shaughnessy introduced 37 years ago to an extraordinary group of young men who would become known as the Stanford "Wow Boys."
Shaughnessy's meeting with these players stands as one of those rare instances in life when time, place and personalities join in perfect union, when disparate and formerly malfunctioning parts mesh into a precision instrument. American football has never had a moment quite like it.
Clark Shaughnessy was 48 years old when he moved from Chicago to Palo Alto with vague hopes and volumes of unused play diagrams. From what he had seen on film of Stanford's calamitous 1939 season, he suspected that the material for the new kind of football team he envisioned was at hand.
When Stanford began its search for a successor to the deposed Tiny Thornhill, the talent scouts were surprised to learn in what special regard Shaughnessy was held by his coaching colleagues. For a man who had enjoyed only occasional success at Tulane, Loyola of New Orleans and Chicago, he was looked upon as a sort of mad scientist who might yet rule the football world if his experiments could ever be made to work. The notion of hiring such an eccentric was not without appeal at a university that prided itself on innovation.
True, Shaughnessy's Spartan life-style seemed a bit severe for the West Coast. It was his practice to go to bed as early as seven o'clock of an evening and arise, chipper and refreshed, at three or four in the morning, ready for work. To the lasting grief of his subordinates, it was his conviction that they, too, should observe such a regimen. Shaughnessy neither drank nor smoked and looked upon those who did with disfavor. "When he said, 'Let's go have a drink,' he meant, 'Let's go drink a milk shake,' " recalls Marchie Schwartz, Shaughnessy's backfield coach and his successor as head coach. "He disappointed a lot of newspapermen that way."
Shaughnessy proved to be extremely sensitive to criticism, so his relations with the press would never be defined as warm, milk shakes or no. At one meeting of the Northern California Football Writers' Association, he demanded that an offending columnist leave before he would consent to speak. The meeting was abruptly adjourned. At a time when coaches were as much public-relations men as field bosses, Shaughnessy held himself apart; he was an ascetic among hucksters. Roger Treat, the football historian, said of Shaughnessy when he later joined the Bears' staff full time, "I always looked upon Clark Shaughnessy as a conscientious idealist who might better have followed the trail of Father Flanagan of Boys Town. He may never be entirely happy in the jovial thuggery of pro football, where every man has a little assassin in him." "The world," said Coach Bob Zuppke of Illinois, "lost the greatest undertaker when Clark Shaughnessy decided on football coaching."
Shaughnessy was so addicted to theory that he may have looked upon his players more as X's and O's than as flesh and blood. It was a failing that would eventually bring him to grief. He frequently did not recognize friends or acquaintances on the street, so preoccupied was he with the diagrams spinning in his head. When an interviewer asked him, innocently enough, what his hobbies were, Shaughnessy tartly replied, "Hobbies? Why, football is my hobby." Chuck Taylor, Wow Boys guard and later both football coach and athletic director at Stanford, has said he was never certain Shaughnessy knew his name on the field. "He knew my position and everything about it and he knew my jersey number, but my name...I just don't know."
Not only was Shaughnessy's appointment as head coach regarded with suspicion by some influential Stanford alumni organizations but it was also viewed with outright hostility. Their favorite candidates had been Dud DeGroot, an alumnus who was coaching just down the highway at San Jose State, and Buck Shaw, who at equally proximate Santa Clara University had taken two teams to the Sugar Bowl. Why had the university reached so far beyond the fence for a bad apple when it had two plums in its own backyard?
It was even suggested in some quarters that Shaughnessy had been hired to preside over the demise of Stanford football. Had not his previous employers, Loyola and Chicago, both dropped the game? "If the school is really going to deflate football," one alumni chapter cutely advised the Stanford Board of Athletic Control, "then there is no need of assisting in any way the athletes in the fold." The alums were not about to foot the funeral expenses.
For its part, the Bay Area press looked upon Shaughnessy's hiring as an occasion not so much for dirges as high hilarity. Stanford, that pillar of academe, had quite obviously made a fool of itself. Columnists Prescott Sullivan of the San Francisco Examiner and Jack McDonald of the Call Bulletin proposed that since the austere coach apparently had no nickname, he be called, "Soup," the diminutive, they insisted with sledgehammer irony, of "super." Sullivan, cleverest of the local sportswriters, delighted in reminding his readers of Chicago's losing scores in 1939, protesting all the while that doing so was against his principles and in the worst conceivable taste. "We have heard it said," he wrote, "that Shaughnessy has developed the knack of losing to the point where, with him, it is an exact science. In light of his record, we aren't at all surprised at this."
If Shaughnessy was a certified loser, so then were the players he inherited from the benighted Thornhill, a coach who had achieved the heights with the "Vow Boys" Rose Bowl teams of the mid-'30s (so called because they vowed never to lose to USC, which they did not) but who had fallen into disgrace in 1939. Thornhill had reason to believe he was about to receive the Stanford ax when, with his team trailing Dartmouth 3-0 in New York's Polo Grounds, he reluctantly stepped forward to deliver his final half-time address of the 1939 season. It would be, in fact, his last halftime address ever. As he stood before his downcast charges, it occurred to him that words were inadequate to express his displeasure, so he turned to his assistants for succor. They, too, were speechless. Finally, he called upon Bones Hamilton, a star Vow Boys halfback who had traveled with the team for the last game of the season. Hamilton did have something to say: "You are by far and large the worst group of players who have ever worn the Stanford red."
Stung by this depressingly accurate appraisal, the players rallied to score 14 points in the second half and win their only game of the season. Says Tackle John Carl (Jack) Warnecke, now an internationally renowned architect. "That was the making of the 1940 team."
The hero of that solitary victory was a left-handed, 170-pound tailback who had wavered between first and third string all season and who seemed, in fact, to be facing extinction under the grueling demands of the single and double wing formations. Frankie Albert had led Stanford's 1938 freshman team to an undefeated season but he had been inconsistent in his first year with the varsity. Still, of the seven touchdowns Stanford scored in '39, he had passed for four and run for two. As a boy growing up in Glendale, Albert had seen the Vow Boys play in Pasadena and had followed the adventures of USC Scatback Cotton Warburton in the Coliseum. Like Warburton, he insisted upon wearing jersey No. 13, although when he had first reported for football at Glendale High School the coaches could find no uniform, bearing whatever number, small enough to accommodate his 118 pounds. Albert played lightweight football for two years, then, at a strapping 145 pounds, led the varsity to the Southern California high school championship in 1937, his senior year.
Portentously, the winning touchdown in that title game against Santa Barbara High was scored on a play Albert concocted in the huddle. A certain passion for the unexpected would characterize his careers in both college and professional football. The playbooks, even Shaughnessy's thick folios, would never adequately cover the problems he was able to perceive. Even when Albert was going by the book, he appeared to be making up plays on the spot, for he had a habit of standing apart from a huddle and reconnoitering the enemy before rushing dramatically back to his waiting teammates as if seized with sudden inspiration. It was part of the Albert mystique. There have been better quarterbacks, but none with more flair.
Albert was as disheartened as his coaches were by his erratic performance in 1939. "I guess I'm just another of those high school players who can't develop enough for college football," he told his brother Ward.
The losers, coaches and players, met for the first time in March of 1940 in a history classroom on the Stanford quadrangle. The players instantly recognized comic possibilities in this marriage of misfits. "We'd been reading about all those beatings Shaughnessy's team had taken," recalls Fullback Milt Vucinich, now a successful San Francisco businessman, "so we were joking among ourselves that wasn't it just like Stanford to hire somebody like this to coach us." Says Warnecke, "We felt Shaughnessy was only what we deserved."
The sardonic laughter was abruptly squelched when Shaughnessy strode through the classroom door. Standing before them, his back to a large blackboard, he was hardly what the players had expected. A man who could absorb 85-0 beatings should be slump-shouldered, woebegone, but Shaughnessy was militarily erect and trim and, at 6 feet and 190 pounds, as big as many of them.
"Boys," he began, "I am not to be addressed as 'Clark' or, especially, 'Soup.' To you, I am 'Mr. Shaughnessy' or 'Coach.' Nothing else. Now, I have a formation for you that if you learn it well, will take you to the Rose Bowl."
He stepped to the blackboard and sketched out an unusual alignment. The line he depicted was balanced. The quarterback was directly behind the center, actually touching him, and the remaining three backs were in a line behind him. Together, the backs formed the letter T. Shaughnessy began to diagram plays. "If you learn this play well, you will score five touchdowns with it this season," he said, the chalk hurrying across the board. Albert was skeptical but fascinated. "Five touchdowns on one play!" he said to himself. "We hardly scored five touchdowns all of last season."
Among Shaughnessy's more conspicuous talents was a knack for fitting the man to the position. Chuck Taylor had been a blocking back in the Warner system; Shaughnessy made him a guard in the T, a position at which he eventually made All-America. Vic Lindskog, a transfer from Santa Ana Junior College, also came to Stanford as a blocking back; Shaughnessy made him a center, and there he would prosper in professional football.
Shaughnessy was to describe the back-field he inherited as tailor-made for the T. The fullback, Norm Standlee, was a giant for his day at about 220 pounds, but he had the speed to run the ends, a skill never exploited in the single and double wings, but a requirement in the T. On quick openers from the new formation, Standlee would also hit the line at close to full speed, the impact carrying him for certain yardage. As a professional with the Bears and the San Francisco 49ers, he would be considered the quintessential fullback.
Pete Kmetovic had been a tailback in 1939, but he played sporadically because he could not pass well. He became Shaughnessy's left halfback, a remarkably shifty runner who, as the man most frequently in motion, became a superb pass receiver, a heretofore unplumbed talent. Hugh Gallarneau's abilities as a runner and receiver had been wasted in his previous duties as a wingback in the Warner formation. As right half in the T, a 190-pounder with speed and power, he was the perfect complement to Standlee and Kmetovic.
Shaughnessy hired Bernie Masterson, the Chicago Bears' quarterback of the previous season, to coach Albert in the intricacies of ball handling from under the center. In an astonishingly short time, the pupil became the master. Shaughnessy had known from the beginning that Albert would be his quarterback.
"Long before I went to Stanford I had heard of him," Shaughnessy wrote in Football in War and Peace, a book published in 1943. "I knew he fitted exactly the requirements of the T-Formation. Frankie, for example, was not used in [my] system as a blocker or a ball-carrier, assignments in which he would have been at a great disadvantage because he was neither strong nor fast. His talents were primarily those of a faker; he could fool people, and by temperament he ate up that sort of assignment. His talents were more intellectual and psychological than physical. He was a poker player if ever there was one, and the T-Formation gave him exactly the best opportunities to exploit those strengths of his to the utmost, at the same time covering up the shortcomings he had that would have put him at a great disadvantage in other styles of play."
Shaughnessy and Albert were opposites, the former solemn and pious, the latter puckish and irreverent, but opposites attracted to each other. Albert was the only Stanford player who dared trifle with the coach. For the amusement of his teammates, he would feign injury in practice, only to spring to life as Shaughnessy, gray-faced, approached on the run. Shaughnessy broke with many associates in his later life, but praised Albert, both as a player and a person, to his final days. Though he would later coach Norm Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield, Albert remained, for him, "the greatest quarterback I've ever seen." And Albert, to the present, speaks reverently of Shaughnessy's "genius."
During the 30 days of spring practice and the intense preparations of September, Shaughnessy worked himself, his assistants and his players as few college teams have ever been worked. If the T were to fail, it would not be through lack of preparation. One evening, Stanford Athletic Director Al Masters complained angrily to the maintenance department that some idiot had left the lights on at the football practice field. The "idiot," he was advised, was Shaughnessy, and the lights were on because the team was still practicing.
Shaughnessy was never happier. "I've had 60 big kids, tough, rugged fellows who love football, coming out every day for a month, coming from classes and laboratories on the run just to practice, then running back after practice to wait on tables and the like. There's tremendous football spirit at Stanford."
But there were setbacks. In a scrimmage against the freshmen in the fall, the varsity was able to score only a single touchdown. Shaughnessy subsequently designed a single wing offense to be installed if the T should not work, although he did not tell the players, fearful of further eroding their confidence.
Newspaper accounts of the unusual goings-on at Palo Alto only occasionally referred to the new system as the T formation, reporters preferring to call it "The Shaughnessy System" or "Shaughnessy's new razzle-dazzle attacks." One who did call it by its correct name was Bill Leiser of the San Francisco Chronicle. "No one knows for sure what kind of football the Indians will play from this new T-Formation," he wrote. "They start from the Notre Dame T and then stop looking like Notre Dame because they don't shift at all and never do get into the famous box formation. The man-in-motion may stop anywhere on the field. He changes the formation. Albert parks himself right behind the center and takes the ball directly from his hands on nearly all plays. It's football unlike any previously played on the Coast."
Stanford's opening game, with the University of San Francisco on Sept. 28, 1940, was to be the second in an unprecedented major-college doubleheader at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. The first game matched Santa Clara with Utah. Across the Bay that day, the California Golden Bears had a date with Michigan and its All-America tailback. Tommy Harmon, in a game considered much more significant than either of those at Kezar.
On the eve of the game, Shaughnessy delighted reporters covering his practice by dressing his team in their brilliant new game uniforms—bright cardinal jerseys and stockings, white helmets and pants—instead of in the sweat clothes ordinarily worn on the last practice of the week. It was a pity, the newsmen commented, that such fashionable raiment would be ripped to tatters by the street kids from San Francisco.
Santa Clara defeated Utah 34-13 in the opening game before a crowd of 34,000. Stanford and USF took the field shortly before 3:30 for the second game. Mac Speedie of Utah, later an All-Pro receiver with the Cleveland Browns, was showering in the Kezar locker room when the second game started. Disappointed in his team's defeat, he had no interest in watching another football game that day, so he lingered in the solitude of the dressing chamber. As he toweled off, a teammate burst through the door. "Hey," he shouted, "you got to see this to believe it. They've got the damnedest formation out there I've ever seen. You can't even follow the ball."
This historic game began rather sloppily. Because of penalties and fumbles, Stanford did not move the ball in its first two possessions, further evidence, skeptics agreed, that Shaughnessy's system was more baffling to those using it than to those it was being used against. The third time the Indians had the ball, however, the pieces began to fit. Albert passed 17 yards to Gallarneau, a pass made easier because the USF secondary, transfixed by an Albert fake, failed to cover the receiver as he drifted in motion. Then Standlee burst through an immense hole for 20 more yards. Albert could not contain himself as he rushed into the huddle this time. "Hey," he shouted, "this stuff really works." Kmetovic scored the first touchdown of the game on a quick opener up the middle. He was not touched. It is entirely possible he was not even seen.
"You could tell by the holes we had that somebody was confused," says Kmetovic, now the Stanford rugby coach. "We were running right by people who didn't know we had the ball."
Defenses of that time were accustomed to seeing the ball centered some four or five yards to a tailback or a fullback. The essential problem then was to break down the massed blocking in front of the runner. Considering the inexperience of Stanford's line, that did not seem to be a problem. But somehow those linemen were almost as elusive as the backs; instead of standing there as if screwed into the ground, they seemed to come at the opposition from every direction but straight ahead.
Stanford's new offensive plays developed so quickly that being small in the line was not such a disadvantage. Defenders did not have to be held off for three or four seconds, as was the case in the single wing. The T formation required only "brush blocking," a technique wherein the defender was merely neutralized for a moment or two. Even more confusing, however, was what was going on behind the line of scrimmage. Deception, in those days, was most often represented by a fullback spinning and handing off to another back or by the tailback reversing the ball to a wingback on a fake sweep. Then again, the fullback might hand the ball to the blocking back—the quarterback in the single wing—on a fake line plunge; the blocking back, in turn, might lateral the ball to the tailback or wingback—the buck-lateral series. Defenses were accustomed to such tactics and it was not often they were caught completely off guard.
But with the Stanford T, the defense never got a look at the ball to begin with. Albert, his hands cupped between the center's legs, received the ball, wheeled so that his back was to the line and faked the ball to one or two runners before either giving it off or keeping it himself. On the quick openers, he simply turned to hand the ball to a back running at almost full speed into the line. The man-in-motion was a further dilemma to the defense. From the straight-T alignment, one of the backs would leave his position before the center snap and move laterally along the line, hurrying downfield with the snap as either a pass receiver or a decoy. Secondary defenses had never dealt with such a caper before.
All of Stanford's plays required timing that seemed beyond the capabilities of college players. Even the Chicago Bears, for all of their experience with the system, had had only sporadic success up to that time and, significantly, none of the other pro teams had seen fit to emulate them. But Shaughnessy had the right people. And Lord knows, they had worked at the task. The timing, even in the T's debut, was exquisite.
"They kept changing guards on me." Taylor says. "They couldn't handle the quick openers, didn't even seem to recognize them. Obviously, their linemen had instructions to get lower and lower. Eventually, they got so low, all I had to do was fall on my man."
Stanford won 27-0, outgaining USF 247 net yards to eight. The score would have been higher had Shaughnessy not used 42 players in the game, and this in the years before free substitution. Still, the importance of the game did not immediately sink in. Harmon's spectacular performance against Cal—he scored four touchdowns, three on runs of more than 50 yards—upstaged the show at Kezar. Harmon alone would have been enough to command the headlines, but he had unexpected help from a spectator, one H. J. (Bud) Brennan, who, in his frustration, leaped from his seat during one Harmon jaunt and attempted to tackle him near the Cal goal line. Photographs of the balding and paunchy fan groping for the great halfback occupied full pages in all of the principal Bay Area newspapers the next day.
The introduction of the T had been overshadowed by events both sublime and ridiculous, but the full significance was not entirely lost. "This type of football is different," wrote Leiser. "Why, some of those Stanford kids running away from the play actually had defenders chasing them harder than other defenders were chasing the ballcarrier." George Malley, the USF coach—described in the Chronicle as looking like "a man who had just seen a ghost"—could only shake his head in disbelief after the game. "We were baffled, naturally, by all that running around in the backfield."
Spectators experienced as much difficulty locating the ball as did the bewildered USF defenders. As with most occasions of this sort, the number of people who claim to have been there must now exceed a million, but one who really was on hand was Lou Spadia, former president of the San Francisco 49ers. "No one was prepared for what we saw," he says. "I couldn't tell where the ball was. No one around me could."
The game made an instant star of Albert, and for deeds never before celebrated. His passing and kicking were properly applauded, but it was his mystifying ball handling that enchanted the public. He had added a new dimension to the game, created, in fact, a new vocabulary. "Ball handling?" What had that to do with football? "Hand-offs?" What were they? "Quick openers?" Faking with the ball is an essential of T quarterbacking, but when the formation was new it was a unique gift, and Albert was not merely good at it, he was a genius.
"Don't forget Frank did all this before anybody had done it," says Vucinich. "All that spinning, faking and handing the ball off quickly. Kids learn that stuff today in grammar school. Frank learned it all in one spring, and no one's ever been better at it. If we hadn't had an Albert, we probably wouldn't have used the T, and the game would be entirely different from what it is today."
After the USF game, Shaughnessy discarded his single wing playbook. In one day he had transformed the game's most popular formation into an anachronism.
"I don't think anybody really believed us until the seventh or eighth game," says Albert, turning the pages of a scrapbook entitled Stanford. He is trim and jaunty at 57, though the still-handsome Peck's Bad Boy face is lined with the years and scarred from too much football, and the once black hair is gray. He speaks crisply, as if still barking signals, but always with a trace of amusement. Frankie Albert has had mostly good times.
Though he does not dwell on the past, he happily relives it. He pulls out a copy of Collier's, which has him on the cover riding the shoulders of joyous coeds. The face in the picture betrays not a hint of embarrassment.
Investments, including one with his old pro team, the 49ers, have made him a man of comparative means, with time to enjoy his family, his tennis and the company of old friends. He and his wife of 35 years, Marty, live in a lavishly appointed condominium scarcely a mile from the Stanford campus.
"We just kept winning," Albert says, looking with wonder at the succession of headlines heralding victory. "Shaughnessy was like a fortune-teller. He'd tell us this or that would work and it always did. He'd invent new plays in the middle of a game and, heck, no one had more plays than we already had. Hardly anyone has now. The guy was always thinking. We all respected him. Years later, I'd never smoke in his presence. He had that kind of power over us."
They were called the "Wow Boys," an invention of publicity men, the nickname derived from the "Vow Boys" as much as from the team's capacity to astonish. But not every win was as easy as the first that year. They were behind in several games, winning, as often as not, in the closing minutes with some act of trickery. Word of the new formation spread quickly through the coaching fraternity, and desperate measures were taken to cope with it. The coaches of two future opponents, Shaw of Santa Clara and Tex Oliver of Oregon, watched the USF game with mounting alarm from the Kezar press box. "I saw so much that I can't go to sleep now," said Oliver. "That stuff requires defense."
At a time when defenses tended to be static, Stanford faced 10 separate setups in 10 games, including the Rose Bowl. Among these was a 4-3, devised by Oregon State's Lon Stiner, that would become the standard pro football defense of the 1960s and '70s. The Wow Boys beat it 28-14.
Stanford's offense was so versatile that new stars emerged each week. Kmetovic or Gallarneau might win the day with long runs or pass receptions, or Standlee might dominate with his power thrusts. But Albert was the pilot of the machine and his daring and generalship kept every opponent off balance. And for all of his cerebral skills, he was a splendid athlete in the bargain. Against Oregon State he averaged 52.6 yards on eight punts. In the team's one poorly played game, his point-after-touchdown kick defeated stubborn Santa Clara 7-6. He called all the plays, did the punting and place-kicking, returned punts and was the team's best defensive back. He also added another play to the Stanford repertoire when, spotting a massed defense, he elected not to give the ball to Fullback Vucinich on a fourth-quarter play in a game against Washington, but kept it himself and ran alone away from the blocking flow for 14 yards. Vucinich, who had expected to receive the handoff, was as baffled by the maneuver as was Washington. It was Albert's first "bootleg," a device he would employ to great advantage with the 49ers.
In the Rose Bowl game, Nebraska scored the first time it had the ball. Albert trotted over to Shaughnessy, who was staring gloomily, and said, "Don't worry, Coach, we haven't had the ball yet." Stanford won 21-13, Gallarneau scoring twice, on an 11-yard run and a 40-yard pass from Albert, and Kmetovic on a 39-yard punt return. Stanford gained a total of 347 yards to Nebraska's 128. The T had established itself against a tough intersectional opponent that had had a month to prepare for it.
Albert was virtually a unanimous All-America selection for 1940, and Shaughnessy was named Coach of the Year.
Three weeks before the Rose Bowl, the Chicago Bears scored an astonishing 73-0 win over the Washington Redskins in the NFL championship game. Shaughnessy, whose association with Halas dated to 1933, had taken time out from his own team's preparations to assist his old collaborator before the title game. Halas had described Shaughnessy as "the greatest play designer in the game," and the Bears' offense was at least partly his creation. In Sid Luckman, Halas also had found the quarterback he required to make the T work as it was meant to. What had once been an offense rooted to the brute power of Fullback Bronko Nagurski had become a magic show. The electrifying successes, one after the other, of the two T teams incited a revolution in both college and professional football. It was as if the two teams had had the same coaching staffs, which, in a way, they had. Shaughnessy watched Halas' landmark victory and Halas watched Shaughnessy's. They shared a common sense of vindication.
After graduating from Stanford in 1942 and serving three years in the Navy during World War II, Albert, still a legend, signed to play with the 49ers in their first season, 1946. A pioneer once again, he was the box-office draw the team required for survival in the new All-America Conference. His passing, bootlegging, quick kicking and incurable gambling endeared him to a postwar generation of fans hungry for entertainment. Albert was flashy; he was also very good. In 1948 he threw 29 touchdown passes to eclipse a pro football record held by Luckman. He also scored eight times to help account for an amazing 37 touchdowns. He was the team's quarterback when it entered the NFL in 1950.
Albert retired after the 1952 season. In his last game, a win over the Green Bay Packers, he flamboyantly tore off his helmet, jersey, socks and shoes and tossed them to admiring youngsters on the Kezar playing field. He coached the 49ers for three years, 1956 through '58, and nearly won a championship, his '57 team losing 31-27 to the Detroit Lions in a heartbreaking playoff for the Western Conference championship, after leading 24-7 at the half. Disillusioned, Albert quit coaching after 1958, declaring himself "emotionally unsuited" to the task. To those who questioned his decision, he replied, as he still does, "Have you ever seen a happy coach?" Albert would never again risk that sort of unhappiness, preferring to dabble in a variety of business ventures—real estate, restaurants, automobiles—most of which earned him healthy profits.
His old teammates seem surprised that he is not even more successful, that he is not the chairman of some conglomerate or the president of a television network, so unwavering is their faith in his originality and resourcefulness. But Albert has stayed out of the big races. "I'm not too much for working," he says. "I've got everything in life I require. I've just been lucky."
Shaughnessy quit Stanford after the 1941 season when it became apparent the university would discontinue football during World War II. He moved first to the University of Maryland, then to Pittsburgh and back to Maryland again. In 1948 he became head coach of the Los Angeles Rams, a job he held for only two seasons before owner Dan Reeves—charging Shaughnessy with creating "internal friction"—replaced him with Joe Stydahar. Shaughnessy's own parting remarks were characteristic: "When Stydahar gets through with the Rams, I can take any high school team in the country and beat him." It was hardly a prophecy; the Rams won a division championship in Stydahar's first season and shattered almost every league record for passing yardage and scoring.
Except for a fill-in job at the University of Hawaii in 1965, Shaughnessy never worked again as a head coach. He served Halas as an assistant from 1951 to 1962. When he quit, he complained of "differences," even with so rare a friend.
Clark Shaughnessy died on May 15, 1970 in Santa Monica, Calif, at the age of 78, his reputation for genius somehow intact despite a 149-116-17 record that scarcely compared with those of similarly acclaimed coaches. It was a reputation constructed largely on one all-triumphant, incandescent season. Never after 1940 did he find the right combination of time, circumstances and people to serve his restless intellect and turbulent energies. But it can be said that, perhaps more than any coach in the game's history, he left an enduring heritage.
There were many mourners at Shaughnessy's funeral, but the largest representation by far came from the Wow Boys of 1940. To them, prominent men in business and the professions, he remains "Mr. Shaughnessy, Coach."