Amazon.com, if you guys don’t know, is a terrific source of penny books, books that third parties sell through Amazon for a penny. I’ve picked up a slew of books that way, and I’m reading quite a few of them. Of them, the most promising is “Education of a Coach” by David Halberstam, but I’m not going to talk about it until I finish some film study of the 1990 Super Bowl. David Halberstam has said some things about that game that absolutely deserve video study, so I’m in the middle of doing that. In the meantime, I’ll mention a book I picked up for sentimental reasons, my father’s only football book when I was young, the book “Championship Football”, by Dana X. Bible.
Originally copyrighted in 1947, and a fifth printing from 1949, the book is old. The book is musty, and it’s a library copy from a junior high near Texarkana Texas. For all I know, this book was held by H Ross Perot some time in the past.
My first impression was how relevant the material was. Not the bits on strategy, but other things, like plays, like tips on playing, tips on blocking technique, tips on tackling a quarterback higher, so that you pin his arms to his body. Photographs, such as Bobby Lane showing people how to pass the ball, and players in 2, 3, and 4 point stances, are useful. Someone needs to resurrect this book, at least in PDF form, if nothing else.
The late 40s were a period when the T formation was coming into common use, but the older formations, such as the single and double wing, long and short punt formations, were still around. Dana talks knowledgeably about spinning backs, or spinners.
Dr Z: Vick as back 4, Duckett as 3, Dunn as 1, Koslowski as 2.
Spinners? You are a Dr Z fan, aren’t you? Can’t you remember Dr Z, Paul Zimmerman, trying to convince Dan Reeves to use Michael Vick as a single wing tailback, and growing sentimental about spinners?
In my dream, I lined up Vick at the run-pass tailback spot. T.J. Duckett was my spinning fullback. Warrick Dunn was the wingback, and Brian Kozlowski, normally the second tight end, was the blocking back. I just couldn’t shake the vision. Finally I called Dan Reeves, who was the Falcons’ coach at the time. Of all the loony calls he’s ever gotten, this must have ranked right up there. Anyway, I laid it all out for him, ending with Duckett as the old Michigan-style spinning fullback.
“What’s a spinning fullback?” Reeves said, and I realized that I was either real old or just dopier than usual. The idea never got any further, but I still think something like that would light up the sky.
Well, Dana has a whole page (or more) on spinners, and not just spinners, he offers a variety of formations on those pages.
Zone defenses, 1940s style. The 5-4 is what we'd call a 34 today.
Curious about the origins of scouting? Wonder how it was done before Steve Belichick came out with his scouting book? I found it interesting to compare pages between the older and the newer book. Seem familiar?
Scouting tips from Steve's book
Scouting tips from Dana's book.
Of course, strategy in those days was incredibly conservative, as offenses were not really well developed in those days.This is a strategy chart from Dana’s book.
That chart did more to throw me for a loop than anything else, though when teams would quick kick here and there, I was at least ready for the tactic.
Upshot? Terrific book. It probably needs to be preserved in a PDF version, one that won’t age over time. These library copies won’t be around forever.
Update: Google Books has a scan of this book.