I haven’t played organized football since the seventh grade. (Sadly, there isn’t much of a call in high school for kids who weigh less than 100 pounds.) I’ve never coached the game. I’m this guy:
… interested fans may have a variety of backgrounds in football – played in high school, played in college, coached little league or never even played a down – but want to learn more about how the game works. “Yes, the quarterback threw a touchdown or an interception,” they ask, “but why?”
That’s from the introduction of Chris Brown’s excellent new book, The Essential Smart Football, and if, like me, you tend to ask that question, then his title is very much accurate. You don’t have to tell a Georgia fan that Charlie Strong’s 3-3-5 defenses at South Carolina often tied Georgia up in knots, but there’s an entire chapter in the book devoted to how that defense evolved, the ways in which Strong adapted it to his personnel and how it worked. In the end, you’ll have a much greater appreciation for why that 2000 game was such a disaster. And that’s exactly what a book like this should do for a football fan.
One thing I’ve always appreciated about Chris’ blog is his ability to make me take time to think about strategy – this is probably my favorite example of that. I mention that link on purpose. The Essential Smart Football is a descendent of Zimmerman’s The New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football, albeit one that spends an equal amount of time exploring the game on the college level, and succeeds much in the same way. And just like with the earlier work, I suspect I’ll be pulling Chris’ book out at times to refresh my thinking about some tactical move. Hell, he’s managed to make the NFL interesting to me and I haven’t cared about pro football for a long time. I can’t think of any higher praise than that.
At 139 pages, The Essential Smart Football is not a long read, but it’s well worth your time. Highly recommended.