Recommended reading, 2011 edition

I am frequently asked to recommend books for coaches or just people interested in learning more about the game. There really is no single one source — and I’m not sure there could be — but here are some suggestions of books I’ve enjoyed that tackle the strategic side of football.

Finding the Winning Edge, by Bill Walsh. The bible.

The Bunch Attack, by Andrew Coverdale and Dan Robinson. Probably my favorite passing game book of all time; don’t be scared off by the reference to the “bunch” only. Although that’s the theme, the book is really a comprehensive look at the passing game as a system, understanding defenses and coverages, protections, and how to build variations off of the passing game to make it all go. Coverdale and Robinson’s books on the quick pass game are essential as well.

2011 Offensive Line Coaches Handbook, edited by Earl Browning. all of the fancy stuff about the passing game and building a “pro-style” gameplan go out the window if you can’t block on some fundamental run plays and on pass plays, and the COOL Clinic lectures remain one of the best sources of information. I enjoyed this year’s edition, though you can find valuable information in almost all of them.

Coaching the Under Front Defense, by Jerry Gordon. There are lots of good books on defense — including the all-time classic, Coaching Team Defense by Packers legend Fritz Shurmur — but I think Gordon’s book is a great overview and introduction not only to the 4-3 Under but the concept of team defenses generally. I also found it very helpful as a reference work, as out of the various other books and materials I have I kept pulling this off the shelf to see about defending runs pulling guards, certain pass concepts, and so on.

Building an Offensive Game Plan, by Brian Billick. Here’s the best way I can sum this book up: It tells you almost everything you need to know about preparation in the “West Coast Offense” or “Pro Style Offense” in about 100 pages. It covers the amount of offense you need, addressing situations, explosive plays, plays for playmakers, and a comprehensive look at how it fits together. The lesson of the West Coast or pro-style guys is not their plays or their “system,” if it even is one, it is their preparation, and this book elegantly lays it out.

A couple of additional good passing game books: Concept Passing: Teaching the Modern Passing Game, by Dan Gonzalez and From Headset To Helmet – Coaching the R4 Expert System, by Dub Maddox and Darin Slack. Both of these are must haves if you are going to be working closely with quarterbacks or the passing game in general. Gonzalez’s book is about building a systematic passing game that relies on concepts (rather than a mishmash of routes), and covers in extensive detail reads, route packages, and how to attack coverages. Maddox and Slack’s book is a follow-on to their R4 DVD series, and is about how to teach your quarterback to understanding and execute the passing system you already have, first by sync’ing the routes to the quarterback’s steps as well as the progression of receivers and then by using coverage “accelerators,” or keys that help tell a quarterback when to move on from one receiver to the next in his progression — to get beyond “throw it if he’s open”. Both are a little bit dry to read straight through but are full of information, making them both great as reference works for revisiting.

There are of course many more books to read, but this list of essentials a good one for now. For additional picks, check out my various books posts here.

  • Don Jones

    I have all but two of the books you recommend and I can attest that the books I have were worth the money. I would also add coaching the eagle/ stack defense on there as well. Great section on how to defend basic runs and is written very well.

  • Dave Barr

    Coaching Critical Situations is also a good read,

  • gbusshart

    I’d also throw in “Complete Linebacking” by Lou Tepper.

    “Finding the Winning Edge,” although expensive, is worth every cent.  If you can get it through Interlibrary Loan you’re in great shape.

  • Denvertwade

    Chris, I’m a big fan of the books that you post on the website. I was wondering what happened to the library widget that was on the side bar until recently. Is there any way that I can access that through the website again?

  • A couple great books to read this year are three and out, about Rich Rod’s time at Michigan and Swing your Sword by Mike Leach, both tell the stories of unique coaches but also talk in depth about how each guy developed and improved his systems and philosophies… check them out

  • evan

    So why does “the bible” cost $150?

  • ender

    Becuase it’s 550 pages? From the guy who practically made today’s NFL what it is?

    I could insert other snark here, but I don’t think that’s necessary.

  • Jason

    It’s out of print.

  • It’s a fantastic book. I managed to get mine for 20 bucks at Glazier last year. The coaches choice guys found some in storage. Was still in plastic and everything. Still kicking myself for not buying 2!