Jaworski is a video nut, and his love of breaking down video is the initial impetus for this deep study of seven football games. If the book were only that, however, it wouldn’t be the rich stew of information that is finally served to the reader. He relies heavily on interviews, excerpts of which are added throughout the book. In fact the interviews, in my opinion, make this book more than the actual breakdowns, which often are of games that aren’t great theater. His pre and post game analysis is also exhaustive, and those really are the “can’t miss” parts of this book.
Sid Gillman was in many ways Ron’s mentor. So he leads off with Gillman, and then analyzes Gillman’s blowout victory over the Boston Patriots in 1963. It was an exclamation point in the career of Gillman, a sign of his football genius. But it’s not the most interesting game to see broken down, because it’s such a rout. I found this section to be the slowest part of the book.
It recovers nicely in the second section of the book, perhaps the best. It speaks of Bud Carson and his effects on modern defense, analyzing the 1974 victory of Pittsburgh over Oakland in the AFC Championship that year. The game was close, and the interviews were excellent throughout this section.
The remaining sections touch on Don Coryell and his offensive contributions, Bill Walsh and his offense, and then three defensive wizards: Buddy Ryan, Dick LeBeau and then Bill Belichick. The Buddy Ryan section has interview material good enough I’m going to break it out in a separate blog post. Finally, at the end, Ron and his coauthors talk about what they see as upcoming trends. They talk about the increasing sophistication of offenses and defenses, the “quickness” with which trends manifest in the modern game, the increasing size and speed of the modern athlete, the degree to which the availability of video changes everything.
Throughout, Ron ties his history into the book, weaving any personal knowledge of the men discussed into the text. That said, this is the book of an older wiser man, rather than an impetuous youth. And so though Ron loves his past, bleeds Eagle green, in some respects it’s more a Kermit green, kinder, nicer, gentler, more gracious.
For a book with such a simple initial focus, the scope of topics discussed is pretty far ranging. I suspect this book would work better with a companion video, and given that two coauthors work for NFL films, I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like that eventually appear.
Rating? Not the best general audience book. For an X’s and O’s minded fan, however, this book is a terrific 7 course meal.