Friday, February 10, 2012

Book Review: War Room

Michael Holley's War Room: The Legacy of Bill Belichick and the Art of Building the Perfect Team continues the tales he began in Patriot Reign as Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff finish their New England tenures and move on to their own jobs in Kansas City and Atlanta, respectively.

I criticized Patriot Reign for being relatively content-light. War Room is nominally about fifty percent longer, but effectively close to twice as long, with a shorter introduction that doesn't bog down the book nearly as badly. There are more interesting things to tell, such as Pioli's and Dimitroff's struggles to impose new regimes with the Chiefs and Falcons, and how those are both similar to and different from the ones they experienced and learned from in New England. Both men were obviously strongly influenced by their time with Belichick, but without simply being clones of him.
War Room also drops a few nuggets, which I don't recall Patriot Reign doing at all. The biggest ones come from draft day deliberations, where the Patriots picked noted busts Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson in the first and second round over the objections of their scouts. They had instead been endorsed by people outside the building, namely Josh McDaniels' brother Ben at Minnesota for Maroney and Belichick's close friend Urban Meyer for Jackson. The Titans had actually done something similar the year before, reportedly relying on tight ends coach George Henshaw, whose son played at West Virginia, for a positive character evaluation of Adam "Pacman" Jones. Henshaw was fired after Jones' rookie season. As far as I know, Belichick and Meyer are still friends, and Ben and Josh McDaniels are still on speaking terms. In fact, Josh would hire Ben to be his quarterbacks coach in Denver, where the brothers tried to resurrect Maroney's career without any success.

I didn't find any deep insights in War Room, though I freely admit I read most football books as a deep amateur looking for a way to pass the time rather than as a professional looking to extill insights. There are also a couple things Holley doesn't seem to get, either from a Boston-centric viewpoint or they're not obvious and nobody actually bothered to explain them to him, with the foremost example in my mind that Spygate (covered only briefly) exacerbated an existing anti-Boston sentiment arising from a belief that the Patriots were willing to push to the edge of the rules and beyond, if they could get away with it, which they could (see increase in illegal contact penalties, 2004, post Colts-Patriots). War Room is currently available in the Kindle edition for $4.99, and is worth that price more than Patriot Reign is worth $2.99 on Kindle.

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