Professional Football Books

For kicks, we’ll add to our recent run of books about Alabama and College Football with a nod to the NFL.  Again, only a partial list and we welcome your feedback and recomendations.

* note, the links below are affiliate links.  If you decide to purchase from these links, we may receive a small referral – at no cost to you.

The Billion Dollar Game: Behind the Scenes of the Greatest Day In American Sport – Super Bowl Sunday
A fascinating portrait of the National Football League, the Super Bowl, and all the position players who come together to create the biggest cultural phenomenon in American sports.   Think the Super Bowl is only about two teams of titans clashing on the field?  Think again.  The Super Bowl is about fans, hundreds of millions of fans.  It’s about money, more money than the GDP of twenty-five sovereign nations.  It’s about precision, the timing of everything from the notorious commercials to the epic halftime show.  And it’s about the vision and skill of designing a state-of-the-art stadium to house the great show.  Here, Allen St. John reveals how America’s biggest sporting event is more than just a couple hours on a Sunday: it’s a high stakes, real-life dramatic story, with millions of participants all hoping for the same thing—the greatest game ever.


When Pride Still Mattered: Lombardi

More than any other sports figure, Vince Lombardi transformed football into a metaphor for the American experience.  The nine seasons during which he led the Green Bay Packers to five world championships is the most storied period in NFL history.  Lombardi became a legend, a symbol to many of leadership, discipline, perseverance, and teamwork, and to others of an obsession with winning.  Maraniss captures the myth and the man, football, God, and country in a thrilling biography that has become an American classic.


America’s Game
It’s difficult to imagine today—when the Super Bowl has virtually become a national holiday and the National Football League is the country’s dominant sports entity—but pro football was once a ramshackle afterthought on the margins of the American sports landscape.  In the span of a single generation in postwar America, the game charted an extraordinary rise in popularity, becoming a smartly managed, keenly marketed sports entertainment colossus whose action is ideally suited to television and whose sensibilities perfectly fit the modern age.America’s Game traces pro football’s grand transformation, from the World War II years, when the NFL was fighting for its very existence, to the turbulent 1980s and 1990s, when labor disputes and off-field scandals shook the game to its core, and up to the sport’s present-day preeminence.  A thoroughly entertaining account of the entire universe of professional football, from locker room to boardroom, from playing field to press box, this is an essential book for any fan of America’s favorite sport.


The Best Game Ever: Giants vs. Colts, 1958, and the Birth of the Modern NFL

On December 28, 1958, the New York Giants and Baltimore Colts met under the lights of Yankee Stadium for the NFL Championship game.  Played in front of sixty-four thousand fans and millions of television viewers around the country, the game would be remembered as the greatest in football history.  On the field and roaming the sidelines were seventeen future Hall of Famers, including Colts stars Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti, and Giants greats Frank Gifford, Sam Huff, and assistant coaches Vince Lombardi and Tom Landry.  An estimated forty-five million viewers—at that time the largest crowd to have ever watched a football game—tuned in to see what would become the first sudden-death contest in NFL history.  It was a battle of the league’s best offense—the Colts—versus its best defense—the Giants.  And it was a contest between the blue-collar Baltimore team versus the glamour boys of the Giants squad.  The Best Game Ever is a brilliant portrait of how a single game changed the history of American sport. Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the championship, it is destined to be a sports classic.


Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton
At five feet ten inches tall, running back Walter Payton was not the largest player in the NFL, but he developed a larger-than-life reputation for his strength, speed, and grit.  Nicknamed “Sweetness” during his college football days, he became the NFL’s all-time leader in rushing and all-purpose yards, capturing the hearts of fans in his adopted Chicago.

Crafted from interviews with more than 700 sources, acclaimed sportswriter Jeff Pearlman has produced the first definitive biography of Payton.  Sweetness at last brings fans a detailed, scrupulously researched, all-encompassing account of the legend’s rise to greatness.  From Payton’s childhood in segregated Mississippi, where he ended a racial war by becoming the star of his integrated high school’s football team, to his college years and his thirteen-year NFL career, Sweetness brims with stories of all-American heroism, and covers Payton’s life off the field as well.  Set against the backdrop of the tragic illness that cut his life short at just forty-five years of age, this is a stirring tribute to a singular icon and the lasting legacy he made.


Madden: A Biography

After his playing career was cut short by injury, John Madden was hired as an assistant coach by the Oakland Raiders, one of professional football s most iconoclastic franchises.  Two years later he was named the team s head coach and proceeded to lead the Raiders to five championship games in his first seven seasons.  Following years of heartbreaking losses, Madden and the Raiders finally reached the mountaintop, winning Super Bowl XI and giving Oakland its first title.  One year later, Madden abruptly left the game he loved, retiring with the second-best winning percentage in NFL history.  Had John Madden s football career ended there, his life would still be remarkable.  The fact that it was only just beginning has made him an American icon and a beloved legend to millions of fans across the globe.


The Score Takes Care of Itself: My Philosophy of Leadership
Bill Walsh is a towering figure in the history of the NFL.  His advanced leadership transformed the San Francisco 49ers from the worst franchise in sports to a legendary dynasty.  In the process, he changed the way football is played.  Prior to his death, Walsh granted a series of exclusive interviews to bestselling author Steve Jamison.  These became his ultimate lecture on leadership.



The Education of a Coach

Bill Belichick’s thirty-one years in the NFL have been marked by amazing success–most recently with the New England Patriots.  In this groundbreaking book, David Halberstam explores the nuances of both the game and the man behind it.  He uncovers what makes Bill Belichick tick both on and off the field.

“If you want to learn about schooling and allegiance and leadership and, most of all, football, by all means–slip inside the sweatshirt.” –The Wall Street Journal


Game Plan for Life: Your Personal Playbook for Success
Three-time Super Bowl and NASCAR champion Joe Gibbs’s Game Plan for Life is an “average Joe’s” guide to what the Bible has to say about the 11 most-important topics for men.  Topics such as: finances, relationships, living a life of purpose, finding the right vocation, physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and overcoming sin and addictions.  Game Plan for Life shows readers how to live a balanced, God-centered, purpose-filled life, using examples of Coach Gibbs’s own storied championship careers as a backdrop.  A perfect blend of sports and basic theology, Game Plan for Life is designed to bring God’s word home to sports fans of all generations.


Quiet Strength: The Principles, Practices, & Priorities of a Winning Life

Tony Dungy’s words and example have intrigued millions of people, particularly following his victory in Super Bowl XLI, the first for an African American coach.  How is it possible for a coach–especially a football coach–to win the respect of his players and lead them to the Super Bowl without the screaming histrionics, the profanities, the demand that the sport come before anything else?  How is it possible for anyone to be successful without compromising faith and family? In this inspiring and reflective memoir, Coach Dungy tells the story of a life lived for God and family–and challenges us all to redefine our ideas of what it means to succeed.


Do You Love Football?! : Winning with Heart, Passion, and Not Much Sleep
When Jon Gruden asks his Tampa Bay Bucs, “Do you love football?!” it’s to remind them why they pull on their shoulder pads every Sunday morning.  It’s not about the money or the fame; it’s about their passion for what they do.

And passion is something that has fueled Gruden’s entire career.  From his college playing days and his climb through the coaching ranks — from college to assistant coaching jobs with the NFL’s elite teams, to his first head coach job with the Oakland Raiders, and finally, with the Tampa Bay Bucs — his meteoric rise is unparalleled.  Underneath it all, though, he’s just a humble, hardworking, no-nonsense guy who has no hobbies: “I’m not a scratch golfer.  I don’t know how to bowl.  I can’t read the stock market.  Hell, I have a hard time remembering my wife’s cell phone number.  But I can call ‘Flip Right Double X Jet 36 Counter Naked Waggle at 7 X Quarter’ in my sleep.”

Now, in this motivational memoir, Gruden provides insight into what makes him tick.  Do You Love Football?! is an intimate look at his life as a player, coach, and head coach, as well as the principles that have made him the hottest coach in the NFL.


Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look

Today’s NFL fans have more viewing options than ever before.  Each and every week, football addicts plant themselves in front of big-screen, high-definition TVs and watch the game they love unfold via slow-motion replays and multiple camera angles, pausing and fast-forwarding the action on their DVRs as they please.

Yet while more and more football fans are watching the NFL each week, many of them don’t know exactly what they should be watching.  What does the offense’s formation tell you about the play that’s about to be run?  When a quarterback throws a pass toward the sideline and the wide receiver cuts inside, which player is to blame?  Why does a defensive end look like a Hall of Famer one week and a candidate for the practice squad the next?

These are the questions football fans ask during every game they watch, and for too long, they’ve lacked the kind of insight and information that courses through coaches’ offices, locker rooms, and meetings throughout the NFL.  Football fans are starving to learn more about the game they love, to appreciate the intricacies of their sport the way baseball fans do theirs.  Now Pat Kirwan, popular analyst for and Sirius NFL Radio and a veteran front office executive, and co-author David Seigerman present Take Your Eye Off the Ball, a book that takes you inside a coach’s mind as he builds a roster or constructs a game plan, to the line of scrimmage with the quarterback, and deep into the perpetual chess match between offense and defense.

Take Your Eye Off the Ball is not a beginner’s introduction to football, nor is it a technical manual for only the most studious of fans.  Instead, it clearly and simply explains the intricacies and nuances that affect the outcomes of every NFL game.  No more passively watching the action unfold with only the TV analyst’s clichés to guide you, no more wondering why one player is on the field and not another.


More than a Game: The Glorious Present and Uncertain Future of the NFL
More Than a Game explains how the spectacle that dominates fall weekends in America works, and why it has served all of football’s interest groups — owners players, and fans alike — so well over the years.  We get a glimpse of the changing profile and increased influence of the league’s owners.  We come to better understand the pressure that players are under to perform for their team and for themselves and their future contracts.  We see the challenge facing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who must balance the concerns of owners, players, sponsors, the league’s television network “partners,” and the fans, whose devotion and dollars make the entire enterprise possible.  Along the way, we see how the financial forces are exerting themselves on every level, working their way into the essence of the game itself.

Packed with the privileged knowledge that comes from a true NFL insider, More Than a Game is more than a look inside the complex system that is pro football.  It’s an attempt to understand why the game is so compelling, and what it will take to keep it that way.  Complete with important developments in the 2009 off-season, the book stands as an absolute must-read for NFL fans.


How Football Explains America

This fascinating volume takes readers on a journey through the cultural history of American football – from its earliest post-Civil War roots to the high-flying acrobatics of the modern game – and explains why the game evolved, and how its evolution was often a mirror on American society and culture. Drawing on meticulous research, and interviews with some of the game’s most prominent voices, “How Football Explains America” looks at everything from why the sport hasn’t caught on around the world, to why it is one of the most violent, and from why it is the only sport to feature a ‘huddle’, to the impact of Old World immigrants on the shape of the game.

Football Physics: The Science of the Game
You’ll never view a football game in quite the same way again–the ultimate guide for the millions of impassioned fans who have turned football into America’s most watched sport.

What effect does altitude have on the flight of a kicked ball?  How do Newton’s laws of motion apply to blocking and tackling?  What does the science of physics reveal to us about the optimal chase strategies for defensive backs?  In this illuminating , enormously entertaining book, a physics professor with a rare gift for making science easy to understand-and fun-for the lay reader reveals the unseen natural laws that govern football.  And in so doing, Dr. Timothy Gay broadens and deepens our appreciation for the strategic nuances of this deceptively simple game.

Illustrated with classic black-and-white NFL action photos along with engaging popular-science diagrams, the book is an outgrowth of Dr. Gay’s playful, brilliant lectures on the physics of football.