Ron Jaworski looks at evolution of pro football

"The Games That Changed the Game: The Evolution of the NFL in Seven Sundays" (ESPN Books, $26), by Ron Jaworski: The world of professional football has vastly changed over the past 40 years. Former quarterback and now television analyst Ron Jaworski looks at the evolution of this uniquely American sport.

With the background to make him an expert, Jaworski highlights seven coaches and what they brought to the game that evolved it to a new and higher level. Each pushed the limits and created either an offense or defense so original that it altered the game forever.

Once coach Sid Gillman began utilizing the entire length of the sides of the field for his offense, for example, opposing teams immediately had to shift their defense to stop them from scoring. Other visionaries Jaworski shines the spotlight on include Don Coryell, known for his love of the passing game; Bill Walsh, with his West Coast Offense; and Buddy Ryan, whose overpowering defense helped the Chicago Bears win Super Bowl XX.

In the early days of the sport, there was no television coverage or instant replays to help the referees if they made a bad call. Today, each play on the field has multiple cameras and microphones catching every minute detail. Coaches can make immediate changes for the next call based on the success or failure of the previous play. Every move is scrutinized over and over on film during the week by players and coaches alike. When the actual game starts in front of thousands of people both in the stadium and on television, not a single aspect has been overlooked. With the immediate need to succeed placed on the players and coaches, it's no wonder the game continues to change.

Besides the examination of the coaches and their innovative ideas, Jaworksi takes a complete game from their playbook and demonstrates how those ideas shaped the outcome of one game and the evolution of the entire sport. Even the die-hard Sunday fans will learn a lot from this book, and rookies will come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of the game.

Jeff Ayers is the author of "Voyages of Imagination: The Star Trek Fiction Companion" (Pocket Books, 2006).



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