Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Coaching Confidential (2012)

By Gary Myers

A bit of full disclosure to start - Gary Myers was my first boss in the wonderful world of sports journalism. He was ahead of me at Syracuse University, and was the sports editor of the school paper. As a result, I've always kept an eye on him from a distance. Gary eventually found a nice niche as a football writer at the New York Daily News, and he's been covering the NFL for decades. He also has been a regular on some football-related television shows in the New York City area as well as nationally. We shared a love of sports and amazingly thick glasses back then.

I didn't pick up his first book, "The Catch," although I should get to it. The next book, "Coaching Confidential," came out in 2012 and shows that Myers has the knack of getting his interview subjects to come out with interesting, behind-the-scenes information about the game of football.

The idea behind the book is to show a bit of the life of football coaches. It's an odd business, in which its occupants never can't work enough or not sleep enough. There's always more video to watch. That takes a toll, not only on the coach himself but on his family. You wouldn't call football coaches well-rounded personalities, either. Philadelphia writers used to love to catch Dick Vermeil comment on the world at large. When the Rolling Stones were coming to town, Vermeil said that he knew about them because his daughter subscribed to their magazine.

Myers sits down with some of the bench coaches in the business and wisely lets them talk. Sean Payton's road to fame and glory as a Super Bowl champion was pretty typical of the profession, until it took a U-turn later when the story about putting a bounty on opposing players broke. Joe Gibbs was a Hall of Fame coach, retired, came back, and retired again. Bill Parcells left jobs even more more often, only to return a short time later. Vermeil was the poster boy for burnout until he took more than a decade off, won a championship, and left again for a while. Andy Reid and Tony Dungy had to deal with tragic family problems. There's insight on everything from why the Broncos drafted Tim Tebow in the first round to why Brian Billick never got a second chance to coach in the NFL despite winning a Super Bowl.

It's all reasonably interesting and conversational. Since most of the people mentioned are famous in coaching circles, they have been well covered in the media over the years. Therefore, there are few moments here that are revelations - "merely" good background information, such as details on the trade that sent Herschel Walker from Dallas to Minnesota, a swap that turned the Cowboys around.
They also are for the most part successful coaches - the jury probably is still out on Rex Ryan of the Jets - so we read mostly about the good moments. Understandable, although losing is part of the business too. But books about the Dick Jauron years in Buffalo aren't going to sell well, even in Buffalo.

The catch here is that the book reads more like a nice collection of articles with coaches usually at the center. It's difficult to find many themes that might link the chapters together into one package. As a result, this reads more like an anthology of football stories than a book on coaching. It's written simply and to the point - the Daily News isn't known for a flowery approach.

"Coaching Confidential" goes down very easily, and fans who have been paying attention to the game over the years certainly will enjoy the collection of anecdotes. Those readers might not save this book on their shelf forever but they'll certainly come away satisfied that their time was well spent - it probably deserves an extra half-star in terms of rating.

Three stars

Learn more about this book.

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