Sid Luckman was born on November 21, 1916 in Brooklyn, New York. Luckman, a 6’ 197 pound quarterback attended Columbia University where he shined throwing the football with 20 career touchdown passes, which was a lot back in those days. George Halas of the Bears wanted Luckman to run his new T-Formation offense and convinced Pittsburgh to take him with the second pick in the draft, and then traded for him.
Sid Luckman – Championship Quarterback
Sid Luckman quickly mastered the T-Formation offense of Coach Halas, he had to. “I intended to use Sid at left halfback during the 1939 season so he could learn the system,” Halas once said. “But our backup quarterback couldn't master the ball-handling necessary for the job, so I was forced to switch to Sid. He practiced pivoting and ball-handling by the hour.” (1)
Until Luckman led the Chicago Bears to four National Football League Championships in seven seasons from 1940 to 1946, the T-Formation was considered too radical. “The first time Clark Shaughnessy talked to me,” Luckman said, referring to the Stanford coach who was the Bears' adviser in installing the T-Formation, “I couldn't believe he was sending a halfback into the line without a blocker.” After the Bears routed the Redskins 73-0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game, the T-Formation started to have believers. (1)
Luckman led the Bears to NFL Championship wins in 1940, 1941, 1943, and 1946. During the 1942 season, the Bears finished the regular season 11-0, but lost the NFL Championship Game to the Washington Redskins led by Sammy Baugh, Luckman’s good friend.
Sid Luckman and Passing Records
56,691 fans were on hand at the Polo Grounds to watch the Chicago Bears take on the New York Giants. They were about to witness history. In the first period, Sid Luckman hit Jim Benton for a four-yard touchdown. Later in the first quarter, Luckman connected for a 35-yard touchdown to Connie Berry. In the second quarter Luckman fired a 30-yard touchdown to Hampton Pool. With three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Luckman threw a 40-yard dart to Harry Clark and he took it the final 5 yards into the end zone. Just two minutes later, Luckman once again tossed a 15-yard touchdown to Jim Benton. About a minute into the fourth quarter, Luckman threw the record tying touchdown to Wilson for 4 yards. Then with about 6 minutes remaining, Luckman hurled a pass to Hampton Pool for the new record. For the game, Luckman was 23 of 30 for 453 yards (shattering the previous yardage record of 333) and 7 touchdown passes (this record still stands today). He broke Sammy Baugh’s record from two weeks earlier of 6 touchdown passes. The Bears romped 56-7 over the Giants. (2)
The 1943 season showcased Sid Luckman’s talent in a big way. Not only did he set the single game yardage and touchdown records, he also set the single season touchdown record. For the year, Luckman was 110 of 202 for 2194 yards, a whopping 28 touchdown passes and only 12 interceptions in just 10 games. His quarterback rating was an astounding 107.5.
Luckman’s 1943 NFL Championship Game
The 1943 NFL Championship Game featured Sammy Baugh and the Washington Redskins against Sid Luckman and the Chicago Bears. Just a year earlier, Baugh and the Redskins spoiled a perfect season by defeating them in the Championship Game. This time, things were different. On just the fifth play of the game Sammy Baugh was kicked in the head and removed from the field. Although he returned in the second half, he was not his usual self.
Sid Luckman, on the other hand, had some unfinished business to take care of. Playing in his fourth consecutive NFL Championship Game, he was up to the challenge. 33,632 fans watched at Wrigley Field as Sid Luckman once again broke a Sammy Baugh post-season record. Luckman threw two touchdowns to both Dante Magnani and Harry Clark and tossed one to Jim Benton, giving him 5 touchdown passes and breaking Baugh’s record of 3 set in 1937. For the game, Luckman was 15-26 for 276 yards and 5 touchdown passes. He also ran the ball 8 times for 64 yards. (3)
Hall of Famer Sid Luckman
Sid Luckman set new standards as an NFL quarterback. He helped revolutionize the game, perfecting the T-Formation offense, and making the forward pass a legitimate way to move the football. The Jewish born quarterback finished his career following the 1950 season. His career totals, 904 of 1744 passes for 14,686 yards (still a Bears’ record), 137 touchdown passes and 132 interceptions. His 8.4 yards per completion average was also a record and still ranks second all-time to Otto Graham. Sid Luckman was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.
When talking about football today, Luckman said, “What they're doing on offense now is really almost the same thing we did. We had the spread end, the man in motion, the two tight ends. We had the screen pass. We had 350 plays. But the difference is that the defenses are much more sophisticated now than they were then.” Luckman was not only a great football player; he was also a great person. I doubt there are many players today as humble and polite as Luckman was. “Everything I have I owe to my two coaches, Lou Little at Columbia and George Halas with the Bears,” Luckman said. (1)
By A. Goodin, 20Yardline.com
Sid Luckman Biography Sources:
(1) Sports of The Times; Luckman's Legacy: Classiness (1998, July 12) New York Times, by Dave Anderson