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on September 14, 2014
The author devotes each chapter to different skill positions and illustrates his ideas well with diagrams and route trees. He peppers his discussion with relevant examples. Also present are inset boxes with detailed answers to FAQs like 'How long does it take to switch from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and vice versa?'

Not a whole lot of new information or knowledge for me, mostly because I knew most of the concepts discussed here (3-4 vs 4-3, zone vs man etc) but for a casual fan of the game this could be informative. I appreciated some tidbits, like the development of the zone blocking and its impact on the running game of the Broncos in the 90's. Also appreciated was the background info on how scouts evaluate prospects.

Even though the book was published in 2010 some of the info is already outdated (we all know the NFL moves pretty fast). Nowhere is this more evident than the undue attention paid to the wildcat package. The wildcat was all the rage back then but has now almost become extinct. The 'pistol offense' was the latest fad and even that is rapidly fading away.

A little too basic for my tastes, but I understand this book's value for the casual fan all the same.
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on March 11, 2012
This book is indispensable for understanding whats really happening. What is the A Gap? B Gap? Why was Warren Sapp the best 3 Technique in 4-3 but was useless as a 3-4 Defensive end? Why has Brandon Jacobs production declined since 2007-08, to the point he has just been cut by the Giants? Spoiler: Because defenses know the big back can only run in only 2 gaps, unlike Bradshaw and the usual faster (and less overpowering) Running Backs. The Giants also usually only use 11 personnel (1RB, 1TE) unlike the 21 personnel (1RB, 1FB, 1TE) standard in those Run Heavy 07-08 Giant seasons.
If you found my opening paragraph interesting, than you NEED to own this book. This book is for those smarter fans who already know the basics, and are totally unsatisfied with the glossy media coverage of the NFL, which tells you nothing about what actually happened last Sunday, and what will happen. This book starts to give you a glimpse of whats REALLY going on in the field. Pro-Football is just as Intellectually demanding as chess, and its strategic elements are fascinating. I knew this before the book, but I had no idea how far.

The conventional view most fans have is that its all about the talent of the players, bad teams are bad because they lack the famous stars. Its a match of strength and speed. But its not, everybody on the field is fast and strong...Its a chess match. The NFL is ALL about Gameplanning, half the game has been won during the week before by how the opposing coaching staffs have decided to attack eachother. I realize NOW why coaches are hired and fired so frequently, its not about Personality and "Leadership Skills" - Its how the team's talent is being used or misused every week, often what is happening is a result of being outsmarted and figured out, they must innovate or die. Than they make guesses as to how the opposing staff will react to their reaction.

For those who are going to buy this book, there are some great web resources to keep up with what's happened each week, once you've learned whats in this book. Footballoutsiders, Smartfootball, Profootballfocus. Reading this book began my learning process, and there's tons where that came from. Im looking into purchasing 'essentials of smartfootball' as Ive gotten into that sites archives. If you're the above average intelligence fan, and have had enough of ridiculous media talk of the same old junk, I cant stand hearing or listening or reading junk like this or that QB 'has what it takes to win'. NFL Network Playbook during the season is great, but Im never home for it. Ive heard Jaworski has a good show too. His book 'Games that changed the game' is worth a read. Also: While waiting for this book to arrive in the mail, Google NYTimes "Guide to NFL Defenses Part 1" - Its a 7 part series they published on the 5th Down blog last september, it was the first thing I ever read that REALLY taught me something. This book filled in the rest.
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on November 9, 2014
Passion is great, but I never really understood football. I wondered why you would run the ball straight into a defense multiple times. I never understood why there were different patterns or who "Mike" was and why quarterbacks loved yelling his name. Sometimes I'd be like WHY WOULD YOU DRAFT HIM? on draft day, especially if it was a guy on the <yawn> offensive line.

Then I read this book.

Now, football is much more enjoyable to me because I understand why some teams do the things they do, how some players operate the way they do, and why teams draft the way we do. Kirwan's insider perspective really shines a light on all that and he does so in a very understandable way. There's no "And that's why that receiver split into a seam route then went straight into the Spider 2 Y Banana" jargon. Just plain and simple, and humorous. I highly recommend this, especially if you're a newcomer to football plays.

Two non-star-downsides:

1. It's made me desperate to find a way to mute some of the color commentators whenever I watch college football or the NFL.
2. It hypes up the Wildcat formation. But I can't really knock Kirwan for that, as the book came out right before the Wildcat was completely exposed. I would love to see an update on this book, especially as we've seen the rise of running-and-gunning quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson.
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on February 10, 2013
...let me start by saying what this book is NOT. This book is NOT for casual fans of the game who just watch with friends or significant others to pass time. This book is NOT a resource for people looking to learn the basics of the game. Some research online can easily give you this information. Finally, this book is NOT for people who don't enjoy critical thinking. You might say, "What does thinking have to do with football??? It is just a bunch of oversized guys beating the crap out of each other." Well, that is far from the truth, and this book illustrates why.

On the other hand, this book gives people who have been watching the game for many years a new perspective on the game, and gets into the strategic aspects of it. As the title suggests, the author encourages people to take their eye off the ball and watch what goes on with the other players. Where are the safeties? How are the linebackers and defensive ends lined up? Zone coverage or man coverage? Are the offensive linemen in a two-point or three-point stance? Is the offense running a 21 personnel or a 10 personnel? How do you know if the QB is going to run the ball, or pass it? If any of these questions make you go "WTF is he talking about," please don't buy this book. You are wasting time and money.

The author goes onto answer all of these questions, plus many more. You will understand the game from the POV of coaching staff something even the most die-hard NFL fans have probably never done (unless they played the game, of course). The book also discusses the business of football, and how talent scouts go about evaluating potential draftees, as well as the interactions between management and the players. In addition, the author has a chapter dedicated to each of the major positions (QB, WR, RB, LB, etc), and what makes a good player in each of these positions.

A fan of the game will understand it on such a deep level, that you will find yourself going to iTunes to download old games just to see if you can apply some of the things you learned. I know I did.

I took off a star because the editing work is not that good. The author mentions information in a later chapter that would have made more sense at the beginning. As I already mentioned and emphasized, he assumes a great deal of prerequisite knowledge that only someone that plays the game would have.

But overall, I found my football watching experience greatly enhanced after reading this book.
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on November 5, 2015
I've enjoyed watching football most of my life so I understand the game; but, I wanted to know more about the strategies, decision making, nuances, etc. of the game. Maybe over time this book will be helpful if I keep at it, but initially, I found it confusing and difficult to follow. Definitely at the advanced level. This NOT a book for someone with no prior knowledge of the game.
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on December 28, 2012
Before buying this book, I read other reviews as I always do, and was particularly interested in 2 of the one-star reviews. One said the book was "too technical", while another said it was "too basic" for a long-time football fan. Having just finished my first reading of the book ( that's right, I'm intending to read it again! ), I've given it five stars, even though I must admit I found it difficult in sections. Why? I'll just explain a little about myself, then the reason will be clear.

I'm a 41-year-old male who has spent most of my life in Melbourne, Australia. Naturally, I grew up watching alot of Australian Rules Football, but also soccer, which was the main sport I played growing up. In my life, I had almost no contact with American Football, aside from watching the Superbowl some years, only because its one of the great annual world sporting events. However, this season, I've started watching one or two NFL games a week on one of the free-to-air digital stations here and have become a big fan. I've seen some fantastic games. E.g Ballard's flying corkscrew touchdown, the Dolphins beating the Seahawks with a last second field goal, the 49ers finally beating the Patriots after the Patriots rallied from 31 to 3 to draw equal, etc. Even so, I wanted to improve my understanding of the strategies of this fascinating sport, so I bought this book.

As I mentioned earlier, it was difficult for me to read some sections, so I had to read up a little on wikipedia about some of the offensive and defensive positions, as well as some of the common plays. Now I plan to read the book again. However, even after one reading, it has already improved my viewing experience. The other day I watched the Bengals v Steelers and found myself watching much more closely the positions of all players on the field, not just the quarterback and wide receiver. I was able to concentrate much better during plays, and my enjoyment level of this sport also increased. So, thank you Pat Kirwan for writing this wonderful book, and giving someone on the opposite side of the world the benefit of your insights and knowledge of so many aspects of the NFL.
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on December 29, 2016
The book needs an index.

Drills/Exercises are needed to see the different Personnel formations.
This part of the book lets the reader know you have to attend games not just watch games on television. However, even when you go, people will be standing up and you still will not be able to see. Then you'd need binoculars. You'd probably need a partner to capture all Pat suggests you capture.

Forget Toastmasters, on the DVD, Pat Kirwan talks loud with no vocal variety.

Draft of Review started Thursday, December 29, 2016
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on November 24, 2010
Having read Pat Kirwan's articles on NFL.com for a number of years, I wasn't surprised that this book was both an easy, entertaining and educating read.

In a nutshell, Pat takes the reader on a tour through all the positions on the field (except, sadly, the kickers, but that's always been the orphaned part of football). He explains the demands, intricacies and details that may have been lost on the monday morning quarterback, and it really has changed the way I personally watch the game on TV.

While some of the insights really aren't (if the offensive line is standing up, it's gonna be a pass play - duh), most of the book more than scratches the surface of what's really going on on the field, on both sides of the ball, as well as off the field in terms of preparation for a game, a season, how the scouting department does its job, why the play sheet of the coaches aren't restaurant menus and what the guys in the press boxes are really doing.

The last chapter (a look ahead) was sometimes too far out for my taste, and seemed to me like it was filled up with "we-gotta-get-more-pages-with-stunning-predictions" type issues, but as a whole, this is an awesome read for people who have a general understanding of the game - it may be a lot of old news for college coaches, and a little too much information for someone looking for a book to get into the game initially.
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on January 20, 2012
By all means, get the version with the DVD! Pat Kirwan is great at the chalkboard in explaining the intricacies of the sport, making making this a great complement to the text. Various positions and tactics are examined and dicussed as though he was writing for and talking to adults. If this book doesn't improve your appreciation of the game, you should just switch your viewing to ping-pong. Coupled with my tivo which allows me to slow viewing of play development or even fix it for examination, I may even eventually avoid disgracing myself when I belly up to the bar in my friendly Sports watering hole and engage my fellow enthusiasts in dialogue about the game. I come away with the impression that the area above those massive tree-trunk necks that we see on TV is used for a great deal more than just a battering ram.
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on November 10, 2014
I spent the summer with a coworker who read this on our breaks. He was like me, very interested and knowledgeable on American football, but had little playing experience outside the backyard. I picked this up an anticipation of football season around August, but it got lost in my backlog until I finished it now at the midway point of the season.
The book is very nicely organized and flows well from chapter to chapter. The first half is generally dedicated to the offensive side of the ball, with chapters dedicated to the quarterback, running back, receivers, and o-line. The second half covers defense, with a little side section concerning drafting players, the combine, and the future of the NFL.
The author displays his knowledge of the game in a very concise and easy to digest format. He has spent time working with the Jets in the past, and definitely knows what he's talking about, but doesn't go overboard in details. There are a decent amount of easy diagrams in each chapter that also help provide a key visual breakdowns of pass routes and blocking schemes. The final chapter is also a glossary of commonly used football terminology, which is helpful for picking up certain jargon used by announcers every week.
Even as a 15+ year football fan I took a whole lot out of reading this book. Every chapter not only broke down elements of the game, but also provided helpful ways to look out for this stuff the next time I watch it on TV. I have been able to spot secondary coverages and blitzes way better this season just by keeping certain points from the book in mind. This book also helped me fill in the gaps of the managerial power structure, both within a team (President, GM, Operations Management) and withing the coaching realm (Head Coach, Coordinators, Assistant Coaches) which I thought was just good information for any football fan to have. This book also helped me figure out the combine much better. I understand the variety of activities that take place, and what tests matter to what position.
There are really only two downsides to this book I can think of. If you're looking for a super in depth play analysis or playbook type breakdown of the game this isn't it. Some very key widely used runs and shemes are shown, but you're not getting the differences between Green Bay's “Blitz A” and San Diego's “Zone B”. There isn't that layer of depth to this book. The other pitfall (and it's a small one), is that the final chapter on the future or evolution of the NFL feels a big tacked on and needless. It didn't really bring up much that wasn't obvious already and wasn't as cohesive with the rest of the book. It's a short chapter, and a relatively minor complaint that doesn't take away from how great this book is though.
If you really love football like I do and want to seek a better understanding of the game, and perhaps take away from helpful cues to look for next Sunday afternoon then definitely go pick this book up. It's a very quick, easy, informative read for pigskin fans of all experience and dedication. I will be desperately trying to get some of my non-reading football crazy friends to read this in the months ahead.
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