An “excellent sports history” (Publishers Weekly) in the tradition of Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, award-winning historian S.C. Gwynne tells the incredible story of how two unknown coaches revolutionized American football at every level, from high school to the NFL.
Hal Mumme spent fourteen mostly losing seasons coaching football before inventing a potent passing offense that would soon shock players, delight fans, and terrify opposing coaches. It all began at a tiny, overlooked college called Iowa Wesleyan, where Mumme was head coach and Mike Leach, a lawyer who had never played college football, was hired as his offensive line coach. In the cornfields of Iowa these two mad inventors, drawn together by a shared disregard for conventionalism and a love for Jimmy Buffett, began to engineer the purest, most extreme passing game in the 145-year history of football. Implementing their “Air Raid” offense, their teams—at Iowa Wesleyan and later at Valdosta State and the University of Kentucky—played blazingly fast—faster than any team ever had before, and they routinely beat teams with far more talented athletes. And Mumme and Leach did it all without even a playbook.
“A superb treat for all gridiron fans” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), The Perfect Pass S.C. Gwynne explores Mumme’s leading role in changing football from a run-dominated sport to a pass-dominated one, the game that tens of millions of Americans now watch every fall weekend. Whether you’re a casual or ravenous football fan, this is “a rousing tale of innovation” (Booklist), and “Gwynne’s book ably relates the story of that innovation and the successes of the man who devised it” (New York Journal of Books).
Even into the 1980s, passing was an almost exotic element in all levels of football, while the safe and steady running game aligned with the sport's macho ethos. Coach Hal Mumme had other ideas, as Gwynne (Empire of the Summer Moon) writes in this excellent sports history. Mumme was fascinated with the possibilities of constantly passing and embarked on a quest to build a perfect offense, borrowing concepts from coaches and tinkering with them to fit the dream plays he scribbled on scraps of paper. His laboratories were a variety of small, overlooked high schools and colleges in Texas, Iowa, and Georgia, where a variety of small, overlooked players became statistical superstars thanks to a system that preached simplicity and repetition in a world of dictionary-sized playbooks with endless wrinkles. This offense, nicknamed "Air Raid," made its way to big-time college ball; now, the relentlessly airborne approach has found its way to the likes of Tom Brady. Gwynne serves up an intriguing parallel history to football's pass-dominated renovation, with Mumme playing the role of overlooked (and overworked) forefather. The author also provides an inspiring reminder that great ideas don't automatically permeate the existing ideology. Sometimes, a devoted few must pursue their principles with diligence, even if they don't get the glory.