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Sports Illustrated Blood, Sweat & Chalk: Inside Football's Playbook: How the Great Coaches Built Today's Game Paperback – August 2, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Sports Illustrated (August 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603208887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603208888
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (67 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #384,781 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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