Julian Edelman: Super Bowl LIII MVP

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This is an excellent memoir by Super Bowl LIII MVP Julian Edelman.

The memoir is aptly named as well: relentless.  This is the saga of an undersized but determined athlete who persevered through high school, college, and the NFL to overcome his lack of size with relentless determination to succeed.

Julian walks us through his entire athletic career overcoming all the doubters and shaping himself into a successful athlete at all levels of football.  What is truly amazing is his ability to go from a small college quarterback at Kent State and learn a whole new craft of being a successful wide receiver in the NFL.  That is not an easy transition even for the most gifted of athletes but Edelman not only has done it but now has one of the iconic catches in Super Bowl history and now a Super Bowl MVP that will etch his name in football history in perpetuity.

I also liked how the book is interspersed with thoughts from coaches and teammates throughout his athletic journey.

This is a great book that shows that relentless determination can allow anyone to live their dreams.

Relentless: A Memoir

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What It Takes to be a Winning NFL Team

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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

Brady v the NFL

000827_1000473725_NoColorI am a Patriots fan so I enjoyed this book about Tom Brady and his fight for redemption after the insidious Deflategate nonsense perpetrated by Roger Goodell and his minions at the NFL offices.

This book paints Roger Goodell as the power hungry, amoral, lying, narcissist that he clearly is.  The book clearly explains Goodell’s motive in the fiasco, which was to assert his power over an iconic football player so that players with less stature would see that they will have to toe the line with any punishments he lays down for real or perceived infractions.  Goodell had already been lambasted publicly for clearly lying during the Ray Rice domestic abuse situation and getting his decision to suspend Adrian Peterson for alleged child abuse overturned in court.  But he knows how to please his bosses, the NFL owners, and the revenue keeps piling up so his safe from those narcissist billionaires.  The book also makes it very clear the Wells Report was in no way, shape, or form an “independent” investigation but one that essentially told the story that Roger Goodell wanted told.

I do wish the book had spent more time documenting all the leaks to the media of inaccurate or false information without retraction and the other dirty tactics the league took damage Brady’s reputation and his court case.  That would have made the book more powerful.

And while the book covers Robert Kraft’s ultimately giving up the fight for Brady to stay in good graces with the other NFL owners, and Brady’s and the fans dismay over it, more could have been explored in this area.

Ultimately the book is about Brady coming back from suspension for another Super Bowl run that found the Patriots cementing the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history in Super Bowl LI.  And Goodell having to hand the Super Bowl trophy to Brady amidst a chorus of boos.  The last part of the book goes into the Super Bowl run and the game itself in great detail, including Brady wanting to win it for his ailing mother.

And of course in conclusion, Tom Brady, with five Super Bowl rings, has cemented himself as the Greatest Quarterback of All Time.

12: The Inside Story of Tom Brady’s Fight for Redemption

New England Patriots Super Bowl XLIX Highlights Video

untitledNew England fans will no doubt want to have this video as part of their collection which has an hour long recap of the Patriots’ 2014 regular season and postseason games, with extensive highlights of the Super Bowl XLIX win, 28-24, over the Seattle Seahawks.

Other than being a New England Patriots fan, I would rate the video to be about average.  While it does a decent job of providing a nice recap of the regular season, it could have done more to build the drama throughout the season.  While New England ultimately went 12-4, there was some real drama early in the season.

Despite blowing out a poor Minnesota Vikings team in Week 2, the Patriots looked very mediocre after four games.  They were humiliated in Week 4 by the Kansas City Chiefs and not only looked like a pedestrian team, they looked like a bad team.  The offensive line was a mess, Brady didn’t look like Brady, and the entire team looked like it could be headed to “has been” status.  There was even talk in the media about Brady being benched.  That’s just how bad it was.

While this video plays up the fact New England looked pretty poor in that game and captured the theme “we’re on to [choose team]” mantra the coach and players adopted after the Kansas City game, it missed a lot too.  For example, it really should have included Belichick scoffing at a reporter when asking if the “QB position would be evaluated” implying Brady could be benched.  And it could have shown some of the commentary in the media about the Patriots being “a bad team.”  But it didn’t.  And that would have made what came next even more powerful.  The Patriots righted the ship and went on to win all but two of their remaining games.  One was a close loss to Green Bay at Lambeau field and the final game against Buffalo where most of the starters rested.  And of course, they won the Super Bowl.

The video does a better job with the playoff wins against the Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts and of course the Super Bowl.  The Ravens game was particularly close with tricky formations and a trick play to secure the win after being down by 14 points twice.

The New England Patriots seem to always be in heart stopping Super Bowl matchups that leave viewers on the edge of their seats until the final gun sounds.  Super Bowl XLIX in which the New England Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 is no exception.  Seattle was able to pull off a miraculous drive at the end of the game to almost win it, only to be thwarted at the goal line by an interception by the unheralded rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler.  The video is at its best covering this game and its magnitude for the legacy of Brady and the Patriots

Of course everyone will remember the season for the ridiculous Deflategate drama at the end of AFC Championship Game.  The video never mentions it, and as a Patriots fan I am not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing.  It was definitely a part of the story leading into the Super Bowl and had to be a distraction for players and coaches so I feel the video should have somehow deftly handled it because it was part of the full story of the season.  That it’s completely missing seems odd.

The special features in this addition are nothing special or worth mentioning.  I wish they could have put together a better package for that as they have done in the past.

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Overall, of course Patriots fans like me will love the DVD despite its drawbacks.

 

Troy Brown: Patriots for Life

5182Gc8256L__SX332_BO1,204,203,200_This is a very workman like autobiography of Troy Brown.  And that’s fitting, because Troy Brown was a very workman like special teamer and wide receiver for the New England Patriots for 15 years.

The first few chapters Brown tells about his life growing up very poor in South Carolina and sports being his primary outlet.  Being on the smaller side he had to work hard and out compete other players to get ahead.  His entire football career is defined by that.

While he had a standout career in high school, he was not highly recruited and ended up playing junior college.  Luckily he caught the eye of a coach at Marshall University in West Virginia and received one of the last scholarships.  He went on to have an excellent career at Marshall winning the 1992 Division I-AA National Championship as a receiver and kick returner.

Troy Brown was drafted in the 8th round by the New England Patriots in the 1993 draft and almost didn’t even make the team.  He was cut at the end of Preseason and thought his football dream was dead, but luckily for the Patriots, Coach Bill Parcells re-signed him in October.  He spent most of his first seven seasons with the Patriots primarily as a kick returner, and slowly got a chance to start getting in the rotation as receiver as time went on.

His first year as a full-time starter was 2000, when new coach Bill Belichick saw something in his work ethic and talent that he really liked.  It was the right call.  In 2001 Brown had 101 catches and a pivotal role in the offensive as New England went on to upset the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.  He also had an excellent year in 2002.

But, when 2003 rolled around, Troy Brown was relegated to a lesser role in the receiving care.  He had been in the league 10 years at the point and the younger, fresher legs of the likes of Deion Branch were highlighted.  But Brown played a pivotal when New England went on to win back to back Super Bowls in Super Bowls XXXVIII and XXXIX.

Troy admits being upset that he didn’t start in the Super bowl XXXVIII against the Panthers but he played a pivotal role catching eight passes for 76 yards.  The following year Brown spent larges amounts of time playing defensive back because of injuries and again played a pivotal role in Super Bowl XXXIX covering the Philadelphia Eagles slot receivers.  He is a jack of all trades.

Troy Brown certainly didn’t want to retire after his 15 years in the league but father time caught up with him.  He had a great career as a lifelong New England Patriot.

This book will give the reader lots of insights into the character of Troy Brown and what it was like to be on championship winning teams and what it means to persevere.  In this case the underdog comes out on top.

Here is my tribute to Troy Brown written the day I heard he was announcing his retirement:  https://cdbaker.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/tribute-to-troy-brown/

Patriot Pride: My Life in the New England Dynasty

 

Brady v Manning

51qiixUsGEL__SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will go down at as two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game. In fact, the past 15 year era of professional football will be most remembered as the era of Brady and Manning. Much like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, they will forever be intertwined.

This book details the career trajectory of both Brady and Manning, gives accounts of their history against each other and in the playoffs, and provides some nice anecdotes about their personalities and approaches to the game. One thing they have in common, however, is their love for the game, attention to detail, and dedication to succeed.

But there are also some stark differences between the two, in some ways making Brady’s narrative a little more attractive. Peyton Manning comes from a football family and was almost immediately successful in college and was the number one overall pick in the NFL draft. By contrast, Brady had to fight and claw his way to a starting position in college, and wasn’t even always the full-time starter as a senior at Michigan. Then he was drafted in the sixth round, and potentially could have gone completely undrafted. This clearly gave Brady a huge chip on his shoulder and even more determination to succeed.

Manning had a rocky first few years in the pros but clearly was on a path to success. Brady, while not lighting the world on fire, came on in relief in his second year for an injured Drew Bledsoe and never looked back, winning Super Bowl XXXVI over the heavily favored St. Louis Rams.

Both have been very successful in their careers and are in fact good friends and have a lot of respect for each other.

Hearing anecdotes from teammates of the two players and their interaction with their teams was also well done in this book, especially stories about practical jokes and pranks. It’s also clear that most of their teammates have a great deal of respect and admiration for them.

So who’s the best quarterback? The author does an even handed job of laying out the arguments for both quarterbacks.

For Brady it is his record in the playoffs, four Super Bowl titles, and frankly having done it, for the most part, with inferior talent at the wide receiver position pre-Randy Moss.

For Manning it’s his incredible passing records during the regular season with his offensive consistently being one of the tops in the league. The downside for Manning is his teams, and it’s usually not all his fault, choke in the playoffs. When this book was published Manning had only one Super Bowl to Brady’s four. He has two now that Denver has won Super Bowl 50 but that was led by Denver’s defense.

Really it hardly matters who was best but I am a New England Patriots fan and biases so I say Brady is the greatest ever because the hardware (championships) matter.

This was a very well done book.

Brady vs Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL

It’s Good to be Gronk!

 

51h0KlGT6KL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This book is an intellectual tour de force.  Just kidding.  It is kind of entertaining though.

As most football fans know Rob Gronkowski is the fun loving tight end for the New England Patriots who gets a lot of hype for being a great football player and being a legendary partier.  Here he tells a little bit about himself and his now infamous family of Gronks.

The first part of the book is about growing up with three older brothers (one younger) and the roughhousing and fighting that toughened up Rob.  It’s pretty crazy how rough they were with each other.  I feel sorry for their mom.  Gronk also goes into detail how his dad hooked them on working out and getting stronger turning the four boys into elite athletes and fierce competitors.

The book, of course, talks a lot about partying and beer drinking.  Gronk has his own party bus, which has gotten a lot of attention in the press.  Sounds like a fun bus to be on.  He does make it clear he does not party during football season.

We also learn a bit about what a fierce competitor and task master on the football field that Tom Brady can be.  Gronk credits Brady for working on him to be become the best tight end in pro football.

The one concerning aspect of the book is the number of injuries Gronk has suffered. He hurt his back lifting weights in college and has had a couple of surgeries as a result. He broke his forearm in the pros and had to have multiple surgeries after he re-broke it and got infected.  Then he has an ACL injury. I wonder how keeps playing with all these injuries.

Overall, I personally enjoyed the book since I am a New England Patriots fan.  For others, you mileage may vary.

It’s Good to Be Gronk