It’s sometimes difficult to find interesting reads that delve into the strategy of football, rather than just the superficial stories you get everywhere these days.
This book by Ron Jaworski, with a significant hat tip to NFL Films’ Greg Cosell, looks at some of the big changes in the Xs and Os of football, but does so through an interesting lens; by looking at individual games in which those changes were illustrated best.
I’m not wild on Ron Jaworski in the booth as an announcer, but give him some time and a film room and I think he can bring a huge amount to the discussion. With the way he comes across these days it’s easy to forget that he was once a league MVP quarterback himself, and he played under some of the greatest coaches in league history. He was also a tough SOB and has one of the longest consecutive start streaks amongst QBs, even if it has been paled into significance by Brett Favre’s ridiculous iron-man run. In short, Jaworski is worth listening to, and in this case reading from.
He breaks down some big innovations in the game and some key schemes over the past decades, looking at games played by Sid Gillman’s Chargers, Dick LeBeau’s Steelers, the pre-requisite West Coast Offense from Bill Walsh’s 49ers all the way through to the Bill Belichick game plan in Super Bowl XXXVI against the Rams. In essence this book is as much about the coaching geniuses that developed new ideas as it is about the ideas themselves.
The drive descriptions of the games can get a little monotonous, but the broader points he is making are interesting ones, and it is a great book to further your understanding of the game from a schematic point of view. In essence the game is the same as it was 50 or more years ago, but each of these revolutionary concepts and men have transformed the way the game is played, each reacting to something they saw on the field and finding new ways to do the same thing.
If you’re at all interested in the how and the why, and not just the what, this book is well worth your time. While it doesn’t delve deep into coaching fundamentals or anything from the ground up, it is an interesting look at the Xs and Os behind some of the great coaching innovations of the past decades, and gives an interesting history lesson into some of the game’s great coaches that don’t get as much attention anymore as they should.
The book isn’t perfect by any means, but I would thoroughly recommend it as a great read for anybody interested in that aspect of the game. There will always be superficial stories to keep you amused, but there aren’t many books like this.