DATELINE 1906 – The Forward Pass and Football Fatalities

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Brian Meehl is the author of Blowback ’07 (MCP Books, November 1, 2016) and this article is the third in a new series discussing the radical changes in football from the 1905 to 1907. 

BB07 #3 BTNone of the new rules were as hotly debated as the “newfangled” forward pass. The good ol’ boys on the Rules Committee wailed, “It’ll turn football into roundball!” (aka basketball). “It’ll sissify the game!” So, to cripple the forward pass in its rookie season, they’ve hit it with strict rules and penalties.

  • If the ball is passed over the line of scrimmage within 5 yards of each side of the center, it’s a turnover to the opponents from where the ball was thrown.
  • A ball thrown across the goal line on the fly is a touchback for the defenders. (End zone catches? No way.)
  • A forward pass touching the ground before being touched by a player of either side is a turnover from the spot the ball was thrown. (Grounding a pass, intentional or not, = turnover!)
  • A forward pass thrown out of bounds without being touched? Turnover. (When “throw it away” meant it.)

Despite all the interference thrown at the fledgling forward pass, the Rules Committee got one thing right: From the ’05 season to the ’06 season, football fatalities dropped from 18 to 11. The game is much safer!

Next: Dibs on the “first” spiral pass is all spin!

Brian's B signature copy




Brian Meehl HeadshotBlowback 07 BookcoverBrian Meehl has published four novels with Random House: Out of Patience, Suck It Up, Suck It Up and Die,and You Don’t Know About Me. His books have garnered a Junior Library Guild Selection, a Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books and starred reviews in Publishers Weekly. In a former incarnation, Meehl was a puppeteer on “Sesame Street” and in Jim Henson films, including “The Dark Crystal.” His transition from puppets to pen included writing for television shows such as “The Magic School Bus” and “Between the Lions,” for which he won three Emmys. Meehl lives in Connecticut and is writing Blowback ’63 and Blowback ’94. For more information about this author and his exciting books, please visit and/or

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