Meet Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh, and Joe Gibbs

51-6MwiGHtLGuts and Genius tells the saga of the three heads coaches that truly did dominate the NFL in the 1980’s.  The author walks through the football lives of Bill Parcels (New York Giants), Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49’ers), and Joe Gibbs (Washington Redskins).  Between these coaches, through the 1980’s into the early 90’s, they won 8 Super Bowls and left an indelible print on the NFL.

There are a few key common themes that tie these coaches together besides their winning ways.

First, they were football savants.  While each had their philosophies and systems, especially Walsh with the West Coast Offense, they were also flexible enough to adjust their approach to meet the strengths and weaknesses of their own teams and that of their opponents.  Of the three Walsh probably has the most long-term impact on the game with this short passing game designed to stretch the field horizontally and allow playmakers to get the ball in space and move the ball the down the field.  He also left a much more extensive and successful coaching three than Gibbs or Parcells.

The second theme is leadership.  While each coach had extremely different personalities, they each found ways to connect with and motivate their players to play as a team and achieve more as a unit than they could as a collection of individuals.  They each formed lifelong connections with many of the key players and coaches during their eras.

A third theme is that each started off slow trying to rebuild moribund franchises and had many insecurities and self-doubt.  Even when they were successful, the stress and insecurities almost doubled because the standard was always winning the Super Bowl.  Anything else was almost considered a failure.

Finally, and most disturbing, is the extreme stress and unfathomable hard work it took to accomplish the perfection each chased.  Reading about the extreme stress each felt to win it all, with Gibbs basically living at the football facility to such an extent he missed his sons growing up, and the health, mental, and physical toll football took on these men is profound.

While there is probably nothing profoundly new in this book, it was extremely well written, told in a concise, efficient, and lively prose, and frankly it is hard to put down.  For some reason, at least for this reader, it even provoked emotion and remembrances of the great teams these men led.  And while it goes from one coach to the next from chapter to chapter, that approach worked very well here, and facilitated understanding how these coaches interacted with each other, their teams, and how their journey’s unfolded.

I found this to be a very interesting and worthwhile read.

Guts and Genius: The Story of Three Unlikely Coaches Who Came to Dominate the NFL in the ’80s

2010 NFL Football Season: Week Two Observations

I know this is coming grievously late this week but I was out of town without Internet access.

What a wild week this was with two things standing out strongly, many starting quarterbacks being pulled or losing their jobs and Super Bowl aspirants Dallas and Minnesota staring off 0-2.

Quarterback Shuffle

I cannot remember seeing this many starting quarterbacks pulled or losing their jobs this early in the season. Most of the quarterbacks benched or losing their jobs are marginal starting quarterbacks or ones we have a lot of questions about. Let’s look at the list.

Vince Young (Tennessee) was pulled against the Pittsburgh Steelers after multiple interceptions but will retain his starting job. While there are a lot of questions about Young, he was facing one of the top three defenses in the league and really had a poor outing. While I am not a big believer in Young, he should bounce back from this one.

Jason Campbell (Oakland) was pulled in favor of Bruce Gradkowski in Oakland’s close win over the St. Louis Rams. To top it off, Campbell has now lost his starting job, after being signed to be the man in Oakland. While I like Jason Campbell a lot as a person, I have never been sold on his abilities as a starting quarterback in the NFL and it looks like this may be his last stand as a viable starter in the league, although I would not be surprised to see him back behind center at some point this year.

David Garrard (Jacksonville) was pulled out of the game against Denver but there really are not great options behind him. He has been a steady, if not stellar, quarterback for the Jaguars.

Trent Edwards (Buffalo) has lost his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick after a rather shaky start to the season. I doubt this will help the Bills woeful offense.

Matt Moore (Carolina) lost his job to rookie Jimmy Clausen out of Notre Dame so we will now have two starting rookies in the league to watch get pummeled.

And of course the change everyone is talking about is Michael Vick replacing Kevin Kolb as the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Last week I said Vick is not a long term option at quarterback because of his poor decision making and teams being able to scheme against his running. Time will tell if I am right.

Dallas and Minnesota

Dallas and Minnesota both entered the season with high expectations. Now they have both started 0-2 and staring 0-3 in the face. Of the two Dallas seems better positioned to turn things around quickly. While they have problems on the offensive line, they have great talent at skilled positions on offense and an outstanding defense.

Minnesota is in trouble. Brett Favre is clearly not in sync with is injury depleted receiving corps and they could be in for a long, miserable, season.

GAMES I WATCHED

New York Jets over New England Patriots, 28-14 (On NFL Game Rewind)

The loss of Kevin Faulk to a season and possibly career ending ACL injury is a devastating blow to the Patriots offense. This 12 year veteran has been one of the most reliable third down backs in the league for years and is Brady’s go to guy on third down. He is going to be sorely missed.

The Patriots simply looked lost on offense in the second half of this game and did nothing right. With Darrelle Revis out of the game the Jets double teamed Randy Moss and did a good job of covering Wes Welker. And without being able to establish any kind of run, the Patriots simply couldn’t get anything done offense.

Unfortunately, the Patriots’ young defense was exposed in the second half, especially cornerback Darius Butler. They made Mark Sanchez look like the second coming of a young Joe Namath. Hopefully the defense will improve under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. They better.

LaDanian Tomlinson looks to have young legs and his 31 yard run setting up the go ahead score got it all started for the Jets. Of course it didn’t help that linebacker Rob Ninkovich missed the tackle on the play.

MVP: LaDanian Tomlinson


Cincinnati Bengals over Baltimore Ravens, 15-10

Joe Flacco looked awful in this game. He looks uncomfortable in the pocket, even with a “normal” pass rush, misses open receivers, and seems to be rushing his decisions even when he doesn’t have too. Something is going on with Flacco and whatever it is isn’t good. There is no reason an offense with this kind of talent should be struggling to move the ball and in this case a lot of blame has to be placed on Flacco’s poor play.

On the other side of the ball, despite all the talk about this being a down year for the Ravens defense, they are playing at an extremely high level and had an excellent game. The Ravens just could not overcome the four interceptions and poor offensive play.

The Bengals bounced back after last week’s loss to the Patriots but like the Ravens, it’s their defense that is turning in stellar play. The offense with Chad Ochostinko, Terrible Terrell Owens, and Cedric Benson really did not get much done against the Ravens defense. It was an unimpressive performance by both teams on offense.

MVP: Jonathan Joseph, CB

Houston Texans over Washington Redskins, 30-27

The Redskins somehow blew a 17 point third quarter lead to lose to the Houston Texans in overtime. That somehow was Andre Johnson, who right now may be the best receiver in the league. He had a monster game against the Redskins, particularly in the second half when the game was on the line, and on a twisted ankle at that. It was a gutsy performance by the entire offense and proves the Texans may have finally turned the corner and become an elite team. But they need their big name defense to step it up more if they hope to challenge for the AFC crown.

Washington played a surprisingly excellent game on offense. Donovan McNabb looked as good as I have ever seen him. While the Redskins did not do much in the running game, their passing game was clicking but just could not quite get it done. The loss of rookie left tackle Trent Williams really hurt them as backup Stephon Heyer simply is not all that great at pass blocking. Jamaal Brown will likely move to the left side, a position he played at an All Pro level in New Orleans before suffering a knee injury.

The question for the Redskins is was their offensive performance because of a weak defense or do they really have something going?

MVP: Andre Johnson, WR

Indianapolis Colts over New York Giants, 38-14

There really isn’t much to say about this game except that the Manning Bowl turned into the Stupor Bowl. The Colts just smashed the Giants from beginning to end. The Giants defense could do nothing to stop the Colts and the Colts defense was determined to redeem their embarrassing performance last week against the Texans. And as soon as the Colts got a big lead and the Giants were forced to pass it was all over. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis just pinned their ears back like rabid dogs and attacked Eli Manning.

MVP: Peyton Manning, QB

New Orleans Saints over San Francisco 49’ers 25-22

The 49’ers handed the Saints an early Christmas present. They gave this game away. A snap over Alex Smith’s head for a safety and multiple turnovers doomed the 49’ers to defeat. Otherwise, they played quite well and could have, should have won the game but for the mistakes.

The Saints, like last week, looked amazing on offense on some drives, and totally out of sync in others. You can still see this team slowly coming together on offense and their defense is vulnerable but opportunistic. Having received two early passes in games they could have lost bodes well as they start to coalesce on offense. And while the loss of Reggie Bush for several weeks to injury will hurt, they have a lot of talent on offense.

The 49’ers just need to clean up their mistakes. They looked solid and well rounded on offense and their defense played well for the most part against one of the best offenses in the league. But you can’t win games making stupid mistakes.

MVP: Garrett Hartley, K


PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive Player: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions
Defensive Player: LaRon Landry, SS, Washington Redskins
Offensive Lineman: Duane Brown, T, Houston Texans (now suspended four games)
Special Teams: Mike Nugent, K, Cincinnati Bengals
Rookie of the Week: Javid Best, RB, Detroit Lions