My Favorite Books of 2013

This is a list, in no particular order, of the books I read in 2013 which I consider my favorites. This does not mean these books came out in 2013; it only means I read them this calendar year.

outofsight

  • Out of Sight, by Elmore Leonard. I was sad to hear of Leonard’s passing, but I’d only read a couple of books of his prior to this year. Out of Sight was tightly focused and riveting throughout.
  • The Outsiders: Eight Unconventional CEOs and Their Radically Rational Blueprint for Success, by William Thorndike. While not exactly a beach read and it doesn’t have a lot of obvious application outside of its narrow focus, this may have been my favorite book that I read all year. Thorndike’s book takes eight colorful CEOs and uses their experience to turn a lot of corporate common wisdom on its head. If you are at all into business or any kind of corporate finance, I highly recommend this book.
  • The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P.: A Novel, by Adelle Waldman. This critics’ favorite was more than a little precious in parts, but it was also extremely well written and a breezy, fun read about the habits of that all too familiar creature, the literary, career minded Brooklyn-ite male.
  • “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character, by Richard Feynman. Surprisingly funny, this collection of stories and anecdotes from Feynman is extremely entertaining (and at least a little informative on the physics, too).
  • The Metaphysical Club: A Story of Ideas in America, by Louis Menand. Menand’s lucid, highly readable book puts this group of pragmatic philosophers in historical context.

For more books, check out the most popular books bought by Smart Football readers, as well as my own.

New Grantland: What Really Went Wrong with RG3 This Season?

It’s now up over at Grantland:

Griffin’s footwork not only hurt his reads, it hurt his accuracy. “Body position is absolutely critical,” Redskins quarterback coach Matt LaFleur recently told ESPN’s John Keim. “If you don’t have good body position, your balance is off and your accuracy will be off. It’s absolutely critical you get your body in correct position to make the correct throw.” LaFleur added that, for Griffin, this season has “been a constant work in progress.”

Read the whole thing.

Request for Creative Design Help

I’m looking to hire a creative designer for a quick freelance assignment to create the design for a 3.75″H x 4″W printed insert for a charity event. Please email me at chris [at] smartfootball.com with a proposed price and a link to your portfolio. I can provide more details at that point.

Thanks so much.

Chris

Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2013

What follows is a breakdown of the books purchased over the last year by Smart Football readers. I get very minor referral revenues from Amazon purchases and, as a result, I am able to track which books are purchased by readers. The data is entirely anonymous but it provides, in aggregate, some interesting information. (Click to enlarge the charts.)

The Most Popular Books Bought by Smart Football Readers in 2013

Booksand ESF - 2013

Below is the same chart excluding my book, The Essential Smart Football (which you can read more about here):

AllBooks1-2013

And below is the full list. Note that I simply included the top books and did not include a separate “other” category.

Watching Game Film with Chip Kelly

It’s been fun this season seeing how Chip Kelly’s offense has translated to the NFL — how he’s evolved what he did at Oregon for professional players and multiple quarterbacks, how defenses have responded, and how his Eagles have responded to those responses. At 6-5 the Eagles are both in position to make the playoffs but on no one’s Super Bowl radar; it’s a transition season, and with some clear downs as well as ups, it’s been an overall productive one headed into December.

Learn stuff

Learn stuff

But another fun element has been that Kelly has — whether graciously or against his will, I’m not sure — submitted to a number of quick film breakdowns of various plays throughout the season, and he’s been fairly honest and open as he’s covered not only his famous spread-to-run concepts but also more traditional play-action, screens, and even some defense and special teams. I’ve collected links to most of the better ones below, though note that some of them are longer videos where Kelly’s Xs and Os session is only one part, and the rest can largely be ignored and is sometimes a bit misleading.

There’s lots of great scheme stuff to pick up here, but pay special attention to the little coaching points and mnemonic devices Kelly throws in to help his players remember. Whether or not Chip is successful with the Eagles remains to be seen, but there’s no question the guy knows a lot of football.

- Dual-screen (motion swing screen and slow-screen to tight-end), inside zone on goal line, bracket coverage

- Two-gap technique for defensive linemen

(more…)

New Grantland: The Architect: How Art Briles and his potent offense have taken Baylor from conference doormat to national title contender

It’s now up over at Grantland:

There’s no question, though, that it’s Briles’s offense — currently averaging more than 64 points and 713 yards per game — that is the engine of Baylor’s success and the source for all the optimism surrounding his program. When Baylor’s offense is rolling — when the aggressive plays, speedy weapons, and up-tempo pace work in unison — the offense is less about executing football plays and more about waging psychological warfare. Two weeks removed from Baylor’s 73-point, 872-yard thrashing of West Virginia, WVU defensive coordinator Keith Patterson described the loss as “unlike anything I’ve ever been associated with in my entire life. It was just catastrophic in a lot of ways to our psyche.” When Baylor scores 35 in a quarter, 50 in a half, or 70 in a game, it’s hard for the opposing team to recover mentally — not just in that game, but for the rest of their season. The fact that it’s Baylor — yesterday’s footstool — is not lost on anyone, either.

Read the whole thing.

New Longform: How will Nick Saban solve his Johnny Manziel problem?

It’s now up:

But maybe Rip/Liz isn’t the answer. It was in Alabama’s playbook last season, and they still lost. Instead, maybe Saban and his defensive coordinator, like Belichick and Saban himself back in 1994, must react by devising some modern tactic as they face this modern problem.

Right now, at every level of football, defensive coaches have been racking their brains trying to find a way to stop the onslaught of deadly dual-threat quarterbacks, particularly those captaining uptempo, spread attacks. With Manziel and Texas A&M, Saban is facing an acute version of the problem NFL, college and high school defenses are also facing.

Read the whole thing.

Smart Links – Spurrier’s Mills, Oklahoma State’s Diamond, Tony Dungy, Seamus Heaney – 9/4/2013

Coach Hoover on Steve Spurrier’s 1995-1997 era Florida passing game. Coach Hoover shows one of my favorites from Spurrier, “Mills,” which his South Carolina team scored with for the first touchdown of the 2013 college football season. Compare this:

With this:

- I did a really fun podcast (which you can listen to here) with Sigmund Bloom and Matt Waldman from Football Guys.

- Interesting look at how Mississippi State prepped for Oklahoma State and then tried to switch gears when the Cowboys went to a new look they hadn’t anticipated.

- Will Veatch has some very interesting stuff on the Chicago Bears’ spread offense — from 1950. Well worth a read.

- Brophy with defensive back fundamentals from Tony Dungy and 3-4 reduction defense concepts from Marvin Lewis.

- Make sure to get get your orders into the Smart Football store before the season gets too far in.

(more…)

Vanderbilt’s complete offensive line shift (including the center) to unbalanced

Ole Miss defeated Vanderbilt 39-35 in a wild game last night, as the Rebels came back twice in the second half and, in coach Hugh Freeze’s words, “stole one.” In the final minutes of the game, after Ole Miss had taken a 32-28 lead, Vanderbilt converted a fourth and 18 to Jordan Matthews, only for Ole Miss runningback Jeff Scott to hit a 75 yard run:

The interesting thing about Ole Miss’s final touchdown was it was a hand-off on the Inverted Veer, a play which is one of Ole Miss’s staple run plays under Freeze. But the most unique wrinkle in a very entertaining and hard fought game came from Vanderbilt’s brain trust of head coach James Franklin, offensive coordinator Jon Donovan and offensive line coach Herb Hand: Before one play, Vandy shifted its entire offensive line, including the center so that its left tackle ended up snapping the ball. See the gif below (courtesy of SBNation):

(more…)

New Grantland: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Sid Gillman, and the Mysterious Art of Quarterbacking

It’s now up over at Grantland:

No position is more scrutinized — How tall is he? How far can he throw? Who is he dating? — and nowhere in football is greatness valued or debated more, but exactly how young, promising quarterbacks become Tom Brady and Peyton Manning remains something of a mystery. The results are apparent, but most are unversed in the actual process. Manning, Brady, and Rodgers are great because they’ve taken the raw materials of the position — an understanding of defenses, of why receivers get open and how to find them — and transformed them into muscle memory they can use to fluidly perform, every time. Greatness isn’t something quarterbacks stumble upon. It’s something that becomes ingrained into their very constitution.

[...]

Now, let’s say the quarterback’s first read isn’t open. How does he know when to move to the next receiver? The idea of finding a secondary receiver leaves some quarterbacks looking like they just lost their wallet. For others, like Brady or Manning, it looks easy, and it’s because it’s not only their brains telling them when to look.

“His feet are telling him when to move to no. 2 and no. 3,” current San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh said to a room full of quarterback coaches back when he was coaching at the University of San Diego. “One-two-three-four-five-plant — throw it. If it’s not there, first hitch is to the [second read], and then the second hitch is to [third read].”

brady1

Read the whole thing.