Football 2016: a sideline full of 10 new books

Those who like to huddle over a good football read have quite a roster to choose from this fall.

10. ‘The Perfect Pass: American Genius and the Reinvention of Football’ by S.C. Gwynne

Even if Hal Mumme is a relatively unknown coach, he is a football radical credited with devising an extreme passing attack (the Air Raid) that has sent ripples throughout the once-run-dominated sport. His high school and college teams have racked up jaw-dropping passing statistics, if not always winning records to match. But then, as “The Perfect Pass” explains, Mumme has often had to work his innovative offensive magic with average players, which partly explains his career working at the edges of the big time at schools like Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State, and currently at Belhaven University in Mississippi. He did enjoy some notable success at the University of Kentucky before numerous NCAA rules violations sank the program. How his revolutionary approach to the game has made its way into modern football thinking is detailed by S.C. Gwen, whose “Empire of the Summer Moon,” was a New York Times bestseller and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Here’s an excerpt from The Perfect Pass:

“In the mid-1990s, when Hal was at Valdosta State, the most influential passing system in the country was probably the West Coast offense. While Hal owed much to [San Francisco 49ers coach] Bill Walsh, their offenses were in many ways very different. The West Coast offense was a balanced attack in which runs roughly equaled passes. The Air Raid was pass-first, pass-most-of-the-time. Nor did most of Hal’s routes require the ultra-precise timing Walsh’s did. On many of the 49ers’ pass plays, the ball would hit the receiver’s hands as he came out of his cut, without his looking for or following it. In Hal’s system the quarterback mostly threw to visibly open receivers, which accounted in part for his freakishly high completion rates. He preferred the idea of aggressively attacking open spaces to relying on perfect synchronization. Hal’s quarterbacks usually read the field deep to shallow; Walsh’s did not. Hal’s quarterbacks read the field sideline to sideline; Walsh’s read only half the field. Finally, much of the effort Hal put into his offense was meant to simplify it, to make it so easy that no one would ever need a playbook and the players could play fast and instinctively. As Walsh’s West Coast offense developed, it became known for its complexity.”

10 of 10

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