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The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays Paperback – August 30, 2011
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*Starred Review* Jaworski, a self-described football wonk, former NFL quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles, and Monday Night Football analyst, picks seven games he feels are benchmarks in the ever-evolving tactical strategy that defines the way pro football is played. In a wonderfully accessible format—even for less wonky fans—he provides the lineage of the coaching philosophy that provides the basis for each selection, describes in glorious detail how it was applied in the landmark game, and then adds a postscript describing how the strategy affected the game in subsequent years. This is crazy good football info. The game accounts are great, but even better are Jaworski’s analysis of coaching philosophy. Among those he profiles are Don Coryell, the father of the wide-open, “go-deep” passing blitzkrieg that still has active coaching descendants, and Bill Walsh, who led the 49ers to multiple Super Bowl wins and developed the West Coast offense—still a staple today—in the 1980s. On the other side of the ball, Jaworski notes that while Buddy Ryan’s 46 defense, which propelled the Chicago Bears to the 1985 Super Bowl title, is considered the all-time dominant defense, it wouldn’t quite work in today’s NFL. Filled with anecdotes, player recollections, and other wonderful details, this should be the most popular football book of the season. Terrific reading. --Wes Lukowsky --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“[A] must-read book.”—The Boston Globe
“If you want to understand the strategic and cerebral part of this very physical sport, this most fascinating football book of the season is for you.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Even the die-hard Sunday fans will learn a lot from this book, and rookies will come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the game.”—Houston Chronicle
“Intelligent, detailed, and enthusiastic.”—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“One of the best of the season . . . Football wonks are going to love this book.”—The Star-Ledger
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The reader is taken through each game quarter by quarter describing in detail relevant plays, their impact on the game specifically and in general, including a few play diagrams. Now, if this sounds very geeky to you - then you're right. Don't get me wrong - the book is no play-by-play box score compilation. Jaworski and his co-authors focus exclusively on one team and the decisions made by that team's coach or coordinator and how each play figured into the overall scheme of that coach.
The book is fun and easy to read, a huge ensemble cast of former and current players and coaches get to have their say, and depending on your age, you either get to gain some insights of the NFL before you were born (Sid Gillman's Chargers and the Steel Curtain were before my time), too young (I only knew about Don Coryell, Dan Fouts and Kellen Winslow Sr. from highlight reels), or you get to re-experience great games that you may have seen but not thought about for some time.
What I really like was the back and forth between offensive and defensive innovations - it demonstrates the arms race in the NFL very well. The offense starts to air it out - the defense catches up. The offense creates ever more complex formations and plays - the defense overloads and blitzes unexpectedly, and so on. The book also offers some refreshingly raw language that you'd expect from players and coaches in football, instead of the highly polished "speaking but not saying anything" in today's media-centric league.
The reason that I'm giving it only 4 stars is that the chapter titles are somewhat confusing sometimes - Sid Gillman's Vertical Stretch, for example is showcased in a game where the Chargers won by relying on their running attack. Which they could do only because the defense expected them to air it out, but still. The Air Coryell chapter is is actually more about Winslow's breakout game, and the begin of the receiving tight ends of the modern era.
But these minor inconsistencies didn't really bother me. The price did. Now, unless you're a die-hard NFL geek looking for something meaningful to do while ESPN is showing skateboarding or oval car races, wait until the price drops. Oherwise - read this book.
The only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5 is that it's not always as user-friendly as it could be. First off, if you don't already know all the positions on the field and how to read a basic play in diagram form, you're going to have a hard time following some of this. My problem with the diagrams is that it wasn't always clear to what play they were supposed to be linked because there is no "see figure 1" kind of thing (this seems a bit more problematic in the early chapters; by the later chapters the labeling seems a bit clearer, though there are still no pointers to the diagrams in the text). One of the other problems with the diagrams is that they often just use players' numbers to show their position in a certain alignment. There's nothing unusual about this per se, but because the book doesn't tell you the players' numbers, so you either have to know who wore what number or go looked it up. This use of numbers doesn't always get in the way, but it did make a couple diagrams more difficult to follow than they needed to be. Another related criticism is that, presumably for the sake of variation, Jaws indiscriminately uses players' first names, last names and even nicknames as he goes through plays. In general, his down-by-down coverage of his selected plays is enjoyable and pretty easy to follow, but parts gave me pause because I don't know the names of all the players in the games (especially the older ones).
All told, though, if you already have some working knowledge of football, you can learn a ton from this book, and it's an enjoyable read. I'd love to see a second edition with some of the unnecessary weaknesses addressed and perhaps another game added. Maybe the subtitle could be changed to 'The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays and a Monday'?
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The book the Games that Changed the Game decisively explained the plays that would change the outcome and the plays that...Read more