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Sports Illustrated Blood, Sweat and Chalk: The Ultimate Football Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game [Kindle Edition]

Tim Layden
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The modern game of football is filled with plays and formations with names like the Counter Trey, the Wildcat, the Zone Blitz and the Cover Two. They have become part of the sport's vernacular, and yet for many fans they remain just names, often confusing ones. To rectify that, Tim Layden has drilled deep into the core of the game to reveal not only how these chalkboard X's and O's really work on the field, but also where they came from and who dreamed them up.

These playbook schemes, many of them illuminated by diagrams, bear the insignia of some of the game's great innovators, men like Vince Lombardi, Don Coryell, Tom Osborne, Bill Walsh, Tony Dungy and Buddy Ryan. But football has also been radically altered by the ingenious work of men with more obscure names, like Tiger Ellison, Emory Bellard and Mouse Davis.

In Blood, Sweat and Chalk, Layden takes readers into the meeting rooms-and in some cases the living rooms-where the game's most significant ideas were hatched. He goes to the coaches and to the players who inspired them, and lets them tell their stories. In candid conversations with some of football's most intriguing characters, Layden provides a fascinating guide to the game, helping fans to better see the subtleties of America's favorite sport.

The game of football is cyclical. Coaches today are getting too much credit for formations and offenses that were dreamed up years ago. Tim Layden does a wonderful job of tracing the origin of those ideas in Blood, Sweat and Chalk.


- Urban Meyer, Head Football Coach, University of Florida

Tim Layden explores the minds and ambitions of the game's formative thinkers. Serious students of football must have this on their bookshelves!

- Steve Sabol, President, NFL Films

Blood, Sweat and Chalk is a must-read for all football aficionados. I, of course, especially enjoyed reading about the great Don Coryell, a true innovator in the game we all love. His ideas changed football-and this book shows you how.

- Dan Fouts, Hall of Fame Quarterback, San Diego Chargers

Tim has created a playbook that's instructional, a history book that's fascinating and a football bible that's a must-read for anybody who loves the game. All in one.

- Dan Patrick, Host, NBC's Football Night in America

Tim Layden does a great job telling the story of the people and the ideas that had a major impact on the game of football as we know it.

- Mack Brown, Head Football Coach, University of Texas

This is one of the most important sports books of our generation-and a lot of fun too. The formations and philosophies that win Super Bowls and national titles are made crystal clear. If you live for fall weekends, this is your book.

- Peter King, Author, Monday Morning Quarterback



Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Sports Illustrated senior writer Tim Layden, who joined the magazine in March 1994, primarily writes about the NFL, Olympic sports (chiefly track and field in the summer and alpine skiing in the winter) and horse racing, but has written about a wide variety of subjects for the publication and for SI.com.

Before coming to Sports Illustrated, Layden spent six years at Newsday, three years at the Albany Times-Union and nine years at the Schenectady Gazette. During his three decades in journalism, Layden has won multiple sportswriting awards, including an Eclipse Award for coverage of thoroughbred horse racing in 1987.

Among Layden's most significant work for the magazine are stories detailing the remarkable recovery of injured NFL player Kevin Everett (Dec. 2007), the phenomenon of Big Hits in the NFL (July 2007), the Triple Crown near-misses by Funny Cide (2003), Smarty Jones (2004) and Big Brown (2008), the tragic career of track star Marion Jones, the subculture of ticket scalping in the pre-Internet world (1997) and during the winter of 1995, the growing problem of gambling by college students.

Born and raised in Whitehall, N.Y., Layden graduated in 1978 from Williams College, where he was an English major and a member of the basketball team. He is a runner-turned-cyclist who regularly battles the hills of northern Connecticut, where he lives with his wife and two children.

Product Details

  • File Size: 905 KB
  • Print Length: 258 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1603200614
  • Publisher: Sports Illustrated Books (August 3, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003WMAAFI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #186,550 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
111 of 125 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Flawed August 12, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tim Layden's book "Blood,Sweat, and Chalk" is so flawed, I hardly know where to begin. I'll concentrate largely on the chapter on the West Coast offense.

All the play diagrams are terrible; rounded, cutesy chalk drawings that are inaccurate, the kind of stuff you see in print advertisements during football season - ten to twelve X's and O's per side, arrows and blocks in all kinds of crazy directions. If you are writing a serious book about innovative developments in football strategy, then it follows that you should have real playbook schematics,i.e., diagrams that are both precise and correctly drawn.

One of the signature plays of the West Coast Offense is "Flanker Drive". Traditionally run out of a two-back set (usually Near), the flanker (or Z) motions tight to the formation before running a "Drive", a crossing pattern at 4-6 yards. The tight end runs an In at 10-12 yards; the halfback runs a Corner at 12 yards; the split end (or X) runs a Streak. The book's diagram illustrates the play out of a singleback set (a rarity for Walsh). There are only 10 players shown because apparently there is no running back. The slot receiver (or Zebra in West Coast terminology) is designated as the flanker(!?); he goes in motion before running a corner pattern. The flanker, designated here as no. 80 (for Jerry Rice) runs the drive, the tight end runs the In, the split end runs the Streak. This play is not a secret, you can find it in any West Coast Offense playbook. For crying out loud, it's been in the Madden videogame for years! And more accurately drawn, I might add.

The chapter consists largely of material cribbed from other sources.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a book for professional football fans who love the history and evolution of the game, and the X's and O's that keep coaches up until the wee hours of the morning.

Author Tim Layden, Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated, has laid out a reasonably well organized set of chapters that goes into the innovations in football strategy that have made the game what it is today.

He starts out back in days of Pop Warner and the Single Wing formation. Back in the rough and tumble days when football was about big men smashing into each other and running the ball, Pop Warner came up with a formation that maximized deception and utilized the full talents of three running backs (with the quarterback essentially handling ball and either handing off or running). He then walks through all the variations of this basic attack in both college and professional football that defined the game for decades.

As we get into the modern era there is an excellent chapter on the late Don "Air" Coryell and his passing attack that really is the progenitor of many of the pass happy offenses in today's NFL. Of course Coryell's strategy was attacking deep with his platoon of great receivers and Hall of Fame Quarterback Dan Fouts. Coryell's offense was the origin of some utterly failed and passé schemes like the run and shoot offense. But it's also the foundation for very successful offenses such as Sam Wyche's no huddle offense that took the Cincinnati Bengals to the Super Bowl, the K-Gun Offense with Jim Kelly and the Buffalo Bills riding their pass oriented offense to four consecutive trips to the big dance, and The Greatest Show on Turf highlighting the offense of Mike Martz and quarterback Kurt Warner, culminating in a Super Bowl win.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed September 1, 2010
Format:Hardcover
I purchased this book after Peter King plugged it in his weekly MMQB column. King also works for SI and he said something to the affect that this book greatly improved his knowledge of the NFL. This coming from a guy who has been paid to cover football for nearly 30 years. I figured if Peter King could learn some new things, it must be a worthwhile read. I think Peter King must have been throwing bones to his fellow writer. This makes me distrust Peter King's opinions.
The book does give some fair biographical information on some of the coaches who pioneered or re-discovered some of the formations and plays in football history. Some of the personal connections are explored, such as Bill Walsh's connection to Paul Brown. But the descriptions of the formation's and philosophies of the various offenses and defenses are cursory at best. Usually a single play is diagrammed from each formation.... the signature play I suppose. But I wanted to know more about the other plays run from each formation and how the opposing defense (or offense) is kept off-balance.
I also wanted to know more about the blocking assignments from the various formations. For example, I noticed from watching Florida's games the last few years that on almost every play the offensive lineman never fire out of their blocks and attempt to drive their defender backwards on running plays. Rather, they would get into a pass-blocking stance without forming a pocket. They would remain at the line of scrimmage and attempt to cut off the defender in front of them whichever way he wanted to go. It is almost a zone-blocking scheme without the movement. Then the QB makes the decision to run, pitch or throw depending on what the defenders do.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Everything I expected but I wanted more.
This is a great book about coaching football. It reads like a family historical novel with football as its backdrop. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Aluitious
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great Item, very pleased with the condition and price
Published 1 month ago by Dave Becar
5.0 out of 5 stars Great History Read
I really enjoyed the book for it's historical insight. I normally spend a lot of time reading motivational or scheme football books, so this one was a good change of pace.
Published 3 months ago by Mack Skelton
2.0 out of 5 stars I've been looking for a good book on the history of football strategy
I've been looking for a good book on the history of football strategy. Unfortunately, this isn't it. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Jake Reid
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome.
It is a great way to view the game and just awesome way to read according to life.
Published 3 months ago by Joe Mazanec
4.0 out of 5 stars GREAT POETS STEAL, AND SO DO GREAT FOOTBALL COACHES
Rarely can you say for sure that a particular coach invented a particular tactic, technique, formation, alignment, defense, etc. Read more
Published 5 months ago by J. LAWSON
5.0 out of 5 stars So far so good...
Have read the first two chapters and i am enjoying thus far. Great read. Learning a lot from the book.
Published 8 months ago by Raul Loranca
5.0 out of 5 stars history and x and os
A history lesson and a playbook rundown in one. Good easy read. Every coach could probably get a little something from this one.
Published 8 months ago by Brian O'Mahony
5.0 out of 5 stars Requested as a gift
Likes it because he loves the game of football. He enjoys Sports Illustrated magazine so thought he would enjoy this book.
Published 9 months ago by Jodi Van Ess
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book for the fan who wants to know more about the X's and O's
This is a perfect book for someone who is just beginning to learn what the X's and O's of football mean. It also shows the evolution of a great sport. Read more
Published 10 months ago by James R. Woodbury
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