Sunday, May 31, 2009

Books on the Reading List

I've been reading some non-football stuff of late, but that'll be changing relatively soon so I thought I'd do a list of the books on football I own and haven't read yet and therefore that might be showing up here in the next month or two.

The Pro Football Chronicle by Dan Daly and Bob O'Donnell
I'm about 2/3 done with this, but reading it in a very episodic manner.

American Football by Walter Camp
Haven't touched this one yet. Seems to be shorter than it looks, so I may move it up on the list.

The Birth of the New NFL by Larry Felser
I'm trying to do this chronologically, so I'll read this one after the books that take place in the decade before 1966.

The Hidden Game of Football by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, & John Thorn
I got 80-100 pages into this last summer after I bought it, then put it down for no very good reason. Note this is the original from 1988, not the Next Edition from a decade later.

The Football Abstract by Bob Carroll, Pete Palmer, & John Thorn
After Hidden Game, they did an annual-type book for the 1989 season. I figure it doesn't make much sense to read this until after I read Hidden Game. I'll probably skim this and focused on methodological stuff, since I'm not that concerned about predicting the 1989 season (for the reason, I think Denver will win the AFC, but the 49ers will destroy them in the Super Bowl).

The Winner's Manual by Jim Tressel with Chris Fabry
This was a gift, and seems to be of the life-guidance approach. I don't make a habit of reading these kinds of books, and there are none listed on the sidebar, but I'll get to this one at some point.

Football Scouting Methods by Steve Belichick
Yes, the father of the coach. I'm not observant enough to be a good scout, so this isn't that high on the list.

The Pro Football Historical Abstract by Sean Lahman
I read about 50 pages of this book in the day or two after I acquired it shortly after it came out last fall. It didn't grab me immediately, so it's been sitting on the pile since then.

Remember the AFL by Dave Steidel
I've barely looked at this one, but plan to read it either right before, right after, or at the same time as Birth of the New NFL.

The Best Game Ever by Mark Bowden
The Game of Their Lives by Dave Klein
One Sunday in December by Lou Sahadi
The Year That Changed the Game by Jonathan Rand
And the local library also has Frank Gifford's The Glory Game and Giants Among Men by Jack Cavanaugh, to complete the sextet of books released last year that touch on the Giants-Colts championship game. The plan is to read these for sure in the next 2 months, though I haven't yet decided if I'll do a combined review touching on multiple books or separate reviews for each of the 6.

Oh, and if you've read this far, you might as well find out what I've been reading of late that hasn't been about football:
1. What Hath God Wrought by Daniel Walker Howe. I've found the Oxford Series of American History to be a little hit-and-miss. Some of the books are kind of eh, some reach the absolute magisterial nature the series aspires to. Howe's effort, covering the years 1815-48, falls into the latter category. For those not intimidated by 850 page works of history with footnotes, quite strongly recommended.
2. The Gifts of Athena by Joel Mokyr. A very interesting look at the role of knowledge-both scientific and applied-and its role in economic progress. I'm not done with it yet, but I think you get 75% of the key stuff from the first two chapters. It's also somewhat more formal in nature-some Greek letters and equations, which are not things you really see in a work written for a more popular audience. Plus, I think some of my Mokyr-intended questions are better answered in The Lever of Riches, his earlier work which I haven't read.
3. Clash of Arms by Russell Hart. With the 65th anniversary of D-Day coming up this Saturday, I thought I'd finally get around to this book, which had been sitting on my shelf for about 4 years. I'd meant to read it when I read Keegan's Six Armies in Normandy, which I acquired at the same time, but didn't. I'm about 90 pages in, and we're not at 1942 yet, but it's still very good in a very mil-academic way. Plus, he rips on Keegan's English school of history in a footnote, so it seems like he'll avoid the Anglophilia that detracted from Keegan's book (granted, Keegan is English, but still...; probably why Fields of Battle is my favorite Keegan book).

Ah, wasn't this a fine excuse for not writing a real post?

UPDATE (7/10/09 2021 CT): Moved Football Abstract right below Hidden Game. The books were initially listed in the order they appeared in the stack on my end table, but it bugged me too much that those two related books weren't right next to each other.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Total Titans

I have a new post up at Total Titans, on Titans ranked among the best of their position by The Sporting News's RealScouts. David Stewart got snubbed, I think, and Craig Hentrich was overrated because RealScouts underrates leg strength.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Total Titans

I wrote a post on Total Titans on Monday about how the Titans were building the roster, focusing in particular on using all their draft picks despite not really having room for them.

The post didn't turn out quite as well as I hoped-I sort of meshed three posts together, one on using all the draft picks when you already have 53 guys on the roster, 1 on their UDFA strategy, and one with links of the 7th round guys, and it ended up a hodgepodge mess where I don't think I got my point across particularly well at all. I don't feel too bad about it, though-nobody likes the posts I like, anyway.

Semi-related note: after my visit to Nashville for the game against the Texans last September, I remarked that the Titans were thwarting me in my attempt to acquire a Michael Roos jersey. Well, the Titans Pro Shop now has an actual Michael Roos game-worn jersey online. For $400. Sorry, I'm a fan, but not that profligate of one. Guess it's the personalized route for me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I keep not reading football books, but I do read football web stuff.

Chris at Smart Football had a nice piece looking at one of the most visibly odd men to coach college football in the past decade, Hal Mumme. The stories about his generosity seem a little at odds with his refusal to take place in the coaching tradition to exchange tapes of his team's most recent games while at New Mexico State.

One of the best offseason posting series is Dr. Saturday's premature assessments of teams. Take, for instance, Baylor, one of the more intriguing teams to watch last season, or Ohio State, and its outside shot at a national championship.

Roger Rex gave interviews around the time of the draft. See NFP and Sporting News Today. I'm generally an extreme cynic w/r/t these interviews-few of them provide much in the manner of valuable information. Of course, the flip side of this is an organization speaking with multiple voices.

Shortly after the draft, Allen Barra wrote an idiotic article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal arguing pro teams should reimburse colleges for drafted player's tuition costs. Thankfully, Brian Goff over at The Sports Economist wrote about how stupid this was, so I don't have to now.

Matt Bowen wrote about a player's experience at minicamp.

Nice piece from NFP about the importance of technique for linemen, including quotes from KVB and Roos.

I'm so, so happy that Congress has gotten around to addressing the BCS. I mean, it's not like it's much better than what came before it or something. See also Doc Saturday, and on the aftermath.

Finally, for now, courtesy of somebody, a useful post by Joe Cribbs Car Wash, an Auburn blog, noting something most blog-readers don't want to acknowledge: there are a number of "sports" blogs out there that suck, and that aren't really about sports at all, including Deadspin and a number of other prominent sports blogs. Is this one about sports? Eh, maybe. I try to be, most of the time. Reviews of books about sports-are those really about sports? Most of them aren't, really, they're about sports people, which is why I write nice things about books like Madden's that are.

Total Titans

I had a post a couple days ago answering Michael Lombardi's pre-draft questions for the Titans. No, there's not a good option at third, as opposed to nickel, corner.

More content later, like tonight.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Total Titans

I have a new post up on Total Titans, looking at a possible change in the Titans' philosophy on the value of a defensive tackle.

While I'm on the Titans, I have to note two different emails I've received from the Titans lately, or at least excerpts thereof. First, an email on the Titans' cheerleader selection panel:
The panel will include celebrity judges Kevin Dyson, former Titans receiver; Taj George, Survivor competitor on CBS Television and wife of former Titans running back Eddie George and Allison DeMarcus, former Miss Tennessee USA and host of CMT Insider.

I admit, it's not "To my parents, Ayn Rand and God", but I never knew Taj George was a trigamist. I wonder if Eddie George and Allison DeMarcus made it a full triangle, or if they're just married to Taj. Also, shouldn't there be an "and" after "receiver;" and "Taj" if she's married to both Eddie and Allison? I know, I know, I'm being silly, but dammit, there's a use for the serial comma.

The second email is about an event at the Nashville Zoo the end of this month about the NFL's Play60 ad campaign, where "In the event of increment weather, the event will be modified to accommodate inside activities." I know I really shouldn't be casting stones here, given all I've done here and elsewhere, but what, pray tell, is "increment" weather?

Monday, May 11, 2009


Wow, it's been a while since I've posted something. A day short of two weeks, as it so happens. Naturally, I've continued to read stuff during that time. Some of that stuff has actually been both football-related and good, which is a rarer combination than I'd like but still one that exists.

In fact, I'll start with a very useful piece-Tennessee college blogger Rocky Top Talk had a nice breakdown of zone blocking by linemen on inside runs, complete with helpful diagrams. Read, learn.

The thing about linking to Smart Football is I generally find the posts interesting, but I hardly ever have anything interesting to say about them. Take, for instance, this post on four verticals, all wideouts running downfield routes. In a way, it kind of reminds me of the Titans-Buffalo Wild Card Game (Frank !#$!@#$ Reich)-I caught the game on NFL Network last summer, and thought about doing a breakdown to see what went right in the first half (which I'd never seen, because my family hates me) and what didn't go right in the second half. Offensively, though, I found I didn't have much to say-the run-and-shoot's true nature of sight reads by the wideouts and Moon finding open players on a quick read became clear. It's good, but, as I said about Matt's recent massive post at DGDB&D on sack rates and a bunch of other stuff, a quality response requires more time than I care to spend, a thousand or three words, and, in the case of Chris's post, more knowledge than I can easily drop. So, what to do? When he wrote one post every two months, linking to one wasn't an issue. Now that he's posting regularly, I'll just link to the particularly good ones, or ones where I feel like I have something to say. Take, for instance, this post on notes from Sid Gillman on the passing offense. Nothing revolutionary here, just some key principles to keep in mind.

PFR Blog had a nice series on how to find the most dominant running back of all time. Football Outsiders look at this in one of the PFP's, but it's a topic that is easy to revisit simply because it depends on methodology and baseline. See methodology, top seasons (and I agree with OJ #1), top careers, playoff bests, and best overall.

One good reason to link to Smart Football is when he's giving us information from somebody wise, preferably one who's not around to give us information on himself. See, for instance, this post with notes from Bill Walsh. Of course, with a link to that, I also have to link to this find by Travis, a script by Walsh with explanations of why he runs different plays.

The failure of using median success rate, which reminds me of Mike Tanier's fantastic Two Yards at a Time article from a couple years ago at Football Outsiders. That's why I like success rate for rushing, and it's something I've been meaning to apply to passing plays.

Over on PFR Blog, JKL continues his interesting series looking at the AFL v NFL with a post on how quickly expansion teams reached parity, and what implications that might have for parity. This is one issue I've changed my mind on the more I've thought about it-my initial inclination was to say the AFL reached parity perhaps as early as the mid-1960's, but it's now relatively clear that the median AFL team was worse than the median NFL team for the entirety of the NFL's experience, except maybe, maybe 1968-69. See also the next post, on judging draft value.

A reason I wish I'd written this post earlier: among the links was this one to an article in Sporting News Today on the NFL opting out of the assistant coach pension plans, recently in the news for prompting the retirement of Colts OL coach Howard Mudd. See Mike Lombardi on the same.

Robert Boland of NFP had a very interesting series where he went through and ranked all the NFL organizations, from #1 Dan and Art Rooney to #31 Mike Brown (MIA's Steve Ross got an incomplete). See parts one (9-17), two (18-22), three (23-31), and four (1-8), plus he responded to critics.

Andrew Brandt of NFP wrote about something I hadn't thought about: the death of movement of restricted free agents. There were a couple offer sheets signed, but nobody moved. Brandt identifies one factor at play, that more draft picks are signed through their RFA year, but there's another factor at play-draft pick compensation and salary cap numbers. The cap went up a ton a couple years ago, making it easier for teams to fit players. This applies in two places-higher tender offers, and easier to match any offer sheets. The higher tender makes the Texans can make Owen Daniels an offer that means another team would have to give up a #1 and a #3 to sign him, which effectively takes him off the RFA market. This is something the NFLPA may want to look at in their labor negotiations-RFAs are getting squeezed because of the level of draft pick compensation required to sign them. Sure, some of these guys will sign big extensions with their own team or hit the free agent market the next year and get a decent deal there. Not all of them will, though, and some players are clearly losing out now in a way they wouldn't have five years ago.

Finally, for now, Robert Boland had a nice tribute to Jack Kemp incorporating the Henry V Crispin speech. Shame on the Olivier movie for cutting part of that, and great credit to Branagh for including the whole thing.