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With the season opening Thursday, it’s an appropriate time to update our NFL bookshelf with thoughts on Saints head coach Sean Payton’s book Home Team: Coaching the Saints and New Orleans back to Life. The book tells the tale not just of the Saints’ 2009 Super Bowl season but also of Payton’s journey from college player to NFL coach. In fact, that journey may be more enlightening than Payton’s thoughts on building the Saints. Hearing Payton talk about moving his family and about failing in job interviews was a far more personal insight than I expected.
While most reviews concentrated on Payton’s blunt retelling of his celebration methods, we found his motivational tactics more compelling. Hearing the story about why the team resigned Deuce McAllister during last year’s playoffs or why he decided on a game-turning onside kick to open the second half during the Super Bowl. Coaches looking for ideas on inspiring their teams can learn from Payton’s tactics and his overall mindset.
Most coaching books are filled with cliches instead of insight, but Payton avoided that trap more than most. It’s not great literature, but Home Team is an interesting and quick read, and it’s worth having on your bookshelf, especially if you’re a Saints fan.
My recent vacation provided plenty of reading time to go through some of the NFL books on my reading list. I thought I’d share my thoughts about a few of these books here.
More than a Game by Brian Billick – If you’re a football geek, this is a must-read. Billick’s book (written before the 2009 season) gives an inside look at how the league works on a day-by-day basis and what it takes to succeed. Billick then gives his thoughts on the labor strife that looms larger and larger on the NFL horizon. I found Billick’s honest, insider perspective fascinating, and I felt like I knew more about the league after reading the book. Those are both good reasons to recommend this read.
Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer – Krakauer, who wrote Into Thin Air among other books, takes on the story of former Cardinals S Pat Tillman, who was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan after he enlisted in the Army following 9/11. Krakauer spends most of this book on the political side of the conflict in Afghanistan and the cover-up of the friendly-fire aspect of Tillman’s death. But despite that emphasis, the book gives good insight into Tillman as a man and why he chose to leave the NFL to join the Army. There was enough interest there to keep me turning the pages of this sometimes dense book.
The Long Snapper by Jeffrey Marx – Marx hit the best seller list a few years ago with Seasons of Life, a book about a high school football team. In this book, Marx tells the story of Brian Kinchen, who came back after a three-year absence to fill in as the long snapper on the 2003 New England Patriots for the final two weeks of the regular season and the run to the Super Bowl. Marx tries to imbue tension in Kinchen’s struggles as a 38-year-old long snapper, and while that comes off as melodramatic at times, it reflects Kinchen’s honest thoughts and doubts throughout. That makes it an interesting read about the periphery of the NFL.
Monday Morning Quarterback by Peter King – King’s weekly column by the same name is a must-read throughout the year, but his book felt more like filler than an essential read. It includes some of his favorite MMQB stories through the years, along with features that mirror some of his usual column sections and a few lists of their own. King is working on an updated paperback version of the book, and at this point if you’re interested in the book it’s worth waiting. The book has some interesting tidbits and opinions, but it’s not an essential part of the NFL fan’s bookshelf.