This is overall, a terrific book. It really does fill a void in the bookshelf of  the football fan, especially those weaned on “A Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football“. It has a number of good sections on various plays, players, and coaches, but it’s really a book driven by ideas. I really liked the sections on Don Coryell, the section on the spread option, the section on Jim Johnson’s blitzing defenses, and the very late section called “A-11 and beyond.”

The worst of the sections was the one on the 46. The diagram of the 46 was bad, and the discussion was inconsistent. I have Rex Ryan’s book, and so I can compare what Tim Layden says with a known authority on the 46. On page 189 of the hardback edition, Tim says

The 46 was a 4-3 defense, the base alignment Ryan liked best. But it was much more than a 4-3.

Uhm, no. The 4-3 is a 7 man front. And in the very first paragraph of Rex’s book, it says

Unlike the 4-3 slide and other “pass conscious”  7-man front schemes, the 46 is a fundamental defensive structure of the 8-man front family

Put succinctly, the 46 is a 6-2. Even the diagram  Tim has of the 46 is messed up. This is Tim’s diagram.

This is the closest equivalent from Ryan’s book.

Maybe they match. Maybe they don’t. Maybe the typical football fan reader wouldn’t know or care. But the defensive line shift in Ryan’s book is in the opposite direction of Tim’s and the linebackers are shifted to the strong side in Ryan’s book, not the weak side. Small things, like that, pop up in this discussion.

Overall, it doesn’t surprise me. The 46 is  the least understood defense in pro football.

Despite  these issues, I still think Tim’s book is to be very highly recommended, and a must buy for the serious fan.