Gridiron Genius covers a wide range of topics and is grounded in the author being in the NFL for 30 years and around some of the best minds in the game.
The author, Michael Lombardi considers his three key mentors and greatest NFL minds Al Davis (despite his quirks), Bill Walsh, and Bill Belichick. He lays out what he considers the ingredients to establishing a consistently winning franchise. I won’t cover every detail here but hit the big picture.
Culture. The team has to have positive, supportive, and winning culture to be successful. Personal agendas among owners, coaches, and players undermine teamwork and undermine the team’s ability to succeed.
Leadership. Leadership comes from all levels of the organization from ownership, coaches, and players. But the key cog in the wheel that keeps a team going in the right direction is the head coach. He sets the tone for the entire organization and the team. If the team doesn’t respect the head coach (even if they don’t like him) then the ability to succeed starts to fall apart. The quarterback is also key on a team. For better or worse, the quarterback is at the center of attention and in today’s NFL you can’t win without a good quarterback.
The program. Another key to winning football, of course, is talent evaluation but with a caveat. All teams have specific systems on offense and defense they run and player evaluation should be about players that fit the system. A player can be extremely talented but if their skill set does not fit the system, they won’t be successful. Players that are versatile and can play many positions are coveted because they can plug and play into any system or take over for injured players at positions they have not played. Teams that don’t pay attention to this often fail.
Special teams. The best and most consistent teams also place and emphasis on special teams plays. Special teams can win or lose games. How many times have we seen a team loose in the playoffs or Super Bowl because of poor special teams play? Plenty.
Quarterback. A great quarterback isn’t necessarily the most athletically gifted, although that helps, but it’s the quarterback who is smart, understands the offense, plays within his strengths, and gets rid of the ball fast. It’s as much intellect as athletic talent that makes a quarterback great. How many extremely gifted and athletic quarterbacks fail to reach their potential? Many. Tom Brady, the greatest quarterback of all time, and Joe Montana, a great quarterback in his own right, are not the most athletically gifted, they are the smartest and know what to do with their talent and the talent around them.
Game planning. Teams do run systems have certain strengths and weaknesses on their teams. But those teams that can be versatile in their game plan on both sides of the ball, and shut down an opponent’s strengths and take advantage of their weaknesses are those that win!
Overall this is a very interesting and insightful book and a great look at what it takes to be a winning football team at any level.
Gridiron Genius: A Master Class in Winning Championships and Building Dynasties in the NFL