Book Review: Football Scouting Methods
Football Scouting Methods, the book by Bill’s father Steve Belichick, is not like the other books I have reviewed on here. It is not designed to inform (except in a specific sense), or to entertain. Rather, it is a deeply functional book. Think of it not as pleasure reading per se, but instead as no less a textbook than Halliday and Resnick, or, perhaps less intimidatingly, an instructional manual, “How to be an Advance Scout.” Not quite so ubiquitous as Halliday and Resnick (copies of it were apparently rare and relatively expensive before it was reissued in 2008), it nonetheless achieved a similar level of fame due to its quality and Steve’s apparently quite exalted status in the brotherhood of football coaches.
Methods was first published in 1962, and its provenance from a different era is obvious to even the casual observer. The Oklahoma 5-4 and Wide 6 defenses are not nearly as common as they were back then, especially at the collegiate level that was Belichick’s focus at Vanderbilt, North Carolina, and then his long tenure at the Naval Academy, where he was when this book was written. I’m far from sure a scout in the modern era where the passing game is much more prevalent than running through the 7-hole will be served by reflexively following Belichick’s charts. Nevertheless, they do provide an excellent guide.
Speaking for myself, one of the questions I have to confront this fall is how my work, whether for Total Titans, Football Outsiders, or appearing elsewhere (no, not an indicator of something I haven’t revealed), will be affected by the new availability of coaching tape on NFL Game Rewind. There will be a great deal more data available than there has been before for me to collect, if I so desire. Unless I can coherently and collectively organize that data, making any productive use of it will be somewhere between impossible and very hard. Methods is helpful as a thinking guide where I can follow along with how an experienced and skilled practitioner solved his data problem, including the task of presenting it to his reader (head coach and players).
Recommended to those who would find it useful, and let me emphasize again the difference between that and my usual word “enjoyable.”