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Quoth the Raven

A former coach predicts where the NFL is headed

Shortly after he was fired as coach of the Ravens in 2007, Brian Billick did what coaches do: He decided to write a book. But instead of throwing together 75,000 words of not-so-behind-the-scenes action and suggestions that the same techniques that helped him manage his band of rowdy linebackers might help you manage your office full of toner salesmen, Billick went into the project with a more ambitious goal. "I wanted to explain the game better to those who don't entirely understand it, and frankly, I wanted to better understand the game myself," he writes.

Billick describes the NFL as "a highly complex, densely interconnected [universe]." He then sets about breaking down the component parts—owners, players, front offices, the media—and examining the bonds that hold them together. Some, but not all, of the anecdotes are Billick's own. The chapter on coaches draws heavily on his time with the Ravens and how his job changed over his nine years in Baltimore. He illustrates the power wielded by owners with a story of how former Eagles coach Dick Vermeil became a Scotch drinker because his owner, Leonard Tose, turned up his nose at wine.

It helps that Billick picked a collaborator with chops: Michael MacCambridge, author of 2004's acclaimed America's Game, a history of the NFL. But in More Than a Game, all eyes are on the future. The best chapters trace the evolution of offensive and defensive strategy and suggest what we'll see more of (Wildcat formations and an emphasis on the pass rush). The final chapter deals with the prospect of a 2010 season without a salary cap and the likelihood that it will lead to a work stoppage in 2011. Let's hope not. More Than a Game readers will come away brimming with football knowledge. It'd be a shame if a lockout prevented them from being able to use it.


More Than a Game by Brian Billick with Michael MacCambridge (Scribner)