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Book Review: NFL Confidential by Johnny Anonymous

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NFL Confidential: True Confessions from the Gutter of Football

Author: “Johnny Anonymous”

 

This is a book written about the 2014 Season on a good but not great football team: the team wins more often then not, but loses to the best teams and misses the playoffs.   The team is believed to be the Eagles (who were 10-6 but missed the playoffs that year) and the “anonymous” author is believed to be center/guard David Molk.   He has changed the names of the guys and coaches (and may have combined characteristics of some players), changed the sequence of wins and losses, the team’s record and so forth but the essential points match up.

 

In real life, Molk was an all-American center and Rimington Trophy winner for U of Michigan, who was regarded as small and injury-prone for the NFL (6’1”, less than 300 lbs) and was drafted by the Chargers in 2012 7th round.  He signed with the Eagles in 2014 and started 4 games.  As a college player, Molk was apparently noted for work ethic, conditioning and intelligence and that “fits” with the persona the author describes as do some other life details (a mother who passed away due to cancer).

 

Bottom line up front: about 20 pages in, I was like “that’s enough of that” and was going to quit.  Then he hooked me, and I wound up reading to the end.  I don’t know how realistic or widespread what he describes really is, but it mostly “rings true” as it reads.   If you’re looking for a unglamorous, quick Football read to get you through the off-season, I’d recommend it, especially if you can check it out from the public library electronically.  You do have to get through some spots where the author clearly regards himself as having superior competence and intelligence to everyone else.  I wonder how many of his anecdotes are embellished, but some things such as the recurring physical pain and aches that linger through the week when he’s starting, and the deep fatigue the players feel by their final game (which is must-win for playoffs, and they lose) ring true.

 

At the start of the book, the Author portentously pronounces that there are 4 kinds of players, 20% who love the game, 30% who are in it for the money, 49.9% who don’t know what else to do, and him (he hates the NFL and hates football).  He announces that his goal is to be the Perfect NFL Backup and screw the NFL by taking their money for doing nothing all season.  As we go through the book, it becomes clear that the lines are far blurrier than that and that the author himself is actually a member of all 4 groups.  At the end of the book, he is struggling with being benched after having started 4 games with success, then watching the highly-paid starting center return too soon from injury and play poorly due to substance abuse and lingering injuries.  He, too, loves to play.  The book ends with him visiting the OL coach after locker clean out: “Johnny” he says, “You’re kind of a dick.  But you’re always busting your ass, and I respect you for that.”

 

Some semi- spoilers below:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

-One of the big struggles of the author’s football career is to make weight.  285 lbs is the target set for him by the team (I’m guessing it’s really 300 lbs).  Because he is relatively small, he conditions and strength-trains relentlessly.  Being stronger and faster than the DL is his key to success.  But despite massive eating, he struggles.  He resorts to binge-drinking water and holding his crap in (literally) on weigh-in days.    It actually doesn’t sound as though he got a lot of guidance or help from the team, I hope we do better.  

-He describes the struggles the OL faces confronted with a different Game defense than they’d prepared for in practice. At least in the coaching situations he described, ego got in the way and made the coach unwilling to assess the situation clearly and make adjustments.   If it’s the 2014 Eagles and Chip Kelly, he’s actually pretty damning towards him.  I can’t help but I wonder how much of the frustration I feel “why TF aren’t the Bills making adjustments?” can be ascribed to the same cause.  

-He describes a caste system where the highly-paid starters are essentially untouchable - the coach can’t light into them even for obvious mistakes or to correct technique.  So he lights into the lower paid players and backups instead.   Likewise the players struggling to make the team may try to impress the coaches by tough play against the team’s stars - but not too tough, because injure a starter and you’ll be cut.

-He describes a segregated locker room, not by any kind of edict but just the white players all hang together, the black players all hang at a different table.  One day he comes to lunch late and the only seat is at the DL table filled with black guys - who promptly all get up and leave, abandoning half-eaten food.  Then another day, one of the black players calls him out loudly “how come you won’t sit with us?  You all having a Klan meeting over there?”   Molk finds the correct response “I’m scared of that Black Panther Party you guys got over there”, everyone cracks up, situation diffused.   It’s pretty clear that a team that could find ways to break that down and get guys to interact more would have an advantage.

-I’m pretty sure the “Diva WR” he describes who the offense is built around is actually RB Shady McCoy.  He describes him as having multiple different cell phones to keep all his mistresses straight, and being highly indignant about Ray Rice (“he better keep away from me”).  The Caste System means he can talk smack about other players all he likes, no one will kick his a**.  But the pro-bowl OLman can shut him up with a word.

-He describes the “Scout Team” as kind of useless -that the defensive coaches put in a game plan for them that’s more designed to make the defense look good to the HC in practice than to actually simulate the offense they’re about to face, and also that the norm is for the scout team players to kind of half-ass and phone it in during practice so as not to make the D starters look bad (he works out his frustration of not starting by going hard one day and the defense retaliates against him in drills)

-Molk is a guy who can’t keep his mouth shut with a piece of duct tape.  One day in preseason, he finds the GM going hard (but incompetently) at a punching bag held by a trainer.  Tells him “if you’re ever in a fight, call me, call anyone, ‘cuz you’re gonna get your ass kicked”.  This leads to a phone call from Molk’s agent “the GM says you talk too much” “What did you tell him?” “I know that, we all know that, but he’s playing good right now”

 

Overall, many of the cultural ‘norms’ Molk describes (letting coaching ego slow or preclude in-game adjustments, prioritizing ‘looking good’ over realism on the scout team, racial divide, untouchable/uncoachable starts) clearly represent untapped opportunity for advantage if changed.

 

 

 

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Interesting stuff. I would imagine most of that stuff doesn't go on in the Bills locker room and why every player who gets here comments on the culture and how different it is. Kudos to McBeane for building a true family atmosphere as I do believe it's an advantage.

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3 minutes ago, StHustle said:

Interesting stuff. I would imagine most of that stuff doesn't go on in the Bills locker room and why every player who gets here comments on the culture and how different it is. Kudos to McBeane for building a true family atmosphere as I do believe it's an advantage.

I hope not McDermott seems to have a focus on their being a good culture in the team he has those player dinners where they have to turn in their phones so they actually have to talk to each other and I think he has the locker-room pretty well jumbled up.

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8 minutes ago, StHustle said:

Interesting stuff. I would imagine most of that stuff doesn't go on in the Bills locker room and why every player who gets here comments on the culture and how different it is. Kudos to McBeane for building a true family atmosphere as I do believe it's an advantage.

 

Thanks.

 

Uncertain - but the desire to quickly change a “Caste system” where the stars consider themselves beyond coaching on technique or critique of their play would represent one reason why McBeane might have seen the need to ship out so many talented players their first year and gut/rebuild the offense their 2nd.  Those kind of things tend to persist - the guys who are on the bottom of it watching the stars coast, expect to coast in turn when they’re at th top of the heap

 

The main thing that concerns me is the comments about failure to make good in-game adjustments due to ego.

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I'll take the money with the other 30%

 

 

 

..

Edited by HOUSE

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Read it a few months back.  It was ok but honestly the guy who wrote it came across as kind of a bag of candied Antonio Browns.  Interesting to try and figure out who he was speaking about but it was a celebrity TMZ book more than anything else. 

 

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45 minutes ago, thenorthremembers said:

Read it a few months back.  It was ok but honestly the guy who wrote it came across as kind of a bag of candied Antonio Browns.  Interesting to try and figure out who he was speaking about but it was a celebrity TMZ book more than anything else. 

 

 

AB will go down into history as a code word for certain candies.  😂  

 

Agreed that the author came across as a dick.  He said so himself, quoting the OL coach.   That’s pretty much what I meant when I read about 20 pages  “now that’s enough of that” and that I had to get through spots where the author regards himself as having superior competence and intelligence.  

 

Interesting that you saw it as a TMZ book.   Now that you mention it, I understand.  I didn’t worry about figuring out who was who as I guessed he merged characteristics of several players to make it harder, though the way he describes some of the guys would make me want to hunt Molk down and kick his butt if I were them.  That wasn’t what I focused on.

 

The interesting part to me was reading about the daily routine and the locker room and practice dynamics.  The description of the Haka dance during the players-only OL meeting cracked me up, and the struggle to get the coaches to pay attention to what the players were perceiving during the game read as very real.

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I would choose the backup easy money role. I think if I could have any job I’m taking kicker. 

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So basically, most(if not all) human beings prioritize themselves and their own personal interests? Shocking!

 

Looks like an interesting read, but nothing that should surprise anyone.

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13 minutes ago, Rc2catch said:

I would choose the backup easy money role. I think if I could have any job I’m taking kicker. 

 

Punter has waaaay less pressure.

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11 minutes ago, Bferra13 said:

 

Punter has waaaay less pressure.

They don’t get paid as much though. 
Im trying to make AB rap videos when I’m done 

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1 hour ago, Hapless Bills Fan said:

 

AB will go down into history as a code word for certain candies.  😂  

 

Agreed that the author came across as a dick.  He said so himself, quoting the OL coach.   That’s pretty much what I meant when I read about 20 pages  “now that’s enough of that” and that I had to get through spots where the author regards himself as having superior competence and intelligence.  

 

Interesting that you saw it as a TMZ book.   Now that you mention it, I understand.  I didn’t worry about figuring out who was who as I guessed he merged characteristics of several players to make it harder, though the way he describes some of the guys would make me want to hunt Molk down and kick his butt if I were them.  That wasn’t what I focused on.

 

The interesting part to me was reading about the daily routine and the locker room and practice dynamics.  The description of the Haka dance during the players-only OL meeting cracked me up, and the struggle to get the coaches to pay attention to what the players were perceiving during the game read as very real.

 

That's like the being the leper in the colony with the most fingers...

 

 

Anyway, it was probably Wentz.

Edited by Mr. WEO

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14 minutes ago, Mr. WEO said:

That's like the being the leper in the colony with the most fingers...

 

 

Anyway, it was probably Wentz.

 

Wentz?  He didn't join the team until 2016.

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10 minutes ago, Doc said:

 

Wentz?  He didn't join the team until 2016.

 

I was being facetious doc.  

 

Wentz is bummed this guy stole his take.

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4 minutes ago, Mr. WEO said:

I was being facetious doc.  

 

Wentz is bummed this guy stole his take.

 

OK.

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Jeez, Hapless, you've got me curious. Great stuff. I'll think seriously about reading it.

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13 hours ago, StHustle said:

Interesting stuff. I would imagine most of that stuff doesn't go on in the Bills locker room and why every player who gets here comments on the culture and how different it is. Kudos to McBeane for building a true family atmosphere as I do believe it's an advantage.

 

I would think most of that stuff did go on before McD got here and righted the ship to build the current culture..

11 hours ago, Rc2catch said:

I would choose the backup easy money role. I think if I could have any job I’m taking kicker. 

 

Definitely don't want LT on the Eagles ;)

 

JP is always hurt  and takes all the money ;) 

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thanks for the summary.

 

one thing i learn every time i find about about people who started out on the right track and just had more or less constant success (particularly nfl players, who are also not paid for their smarts) is how sort of simple and linear their reasoning tends to be.  they just like did what they were told or thought they should do, and everything has kinda gone according to plan ever since.  because of this, i'm not surprised a cynic like this dude could see himself as so much smarter than everyone else.  he's prolly smarter than most of them, but doesn't notice the others who are smarter because he's kinda a grown up disaffected teen.

 

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4 hours ago, Thurman#1 said:

Jeez, Hapless, you've got me curious. Great stuff. I'll think seriously about reading it.

 

I enjoyed it.  Checked it out of the local library as an e-book. 

 

The things I found most interesting is his back-story about why he started playing football and what he had to tap into to play successfully, then his description of the physical aspects of playing in the game: why the players take painkillers before games, how he felt during the week, how physical exhaustion built up.

 

 

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25 minutes ago, JMF2006 said:

I would think most of that stuff did go on before McD got here and righted the ship to build the current culture..

 

I hope so.  There are definitely a couple things described in AdPro that I was like "seriously?" then after reading the book I'm like "OK, good idea, meets player needs" - the nap pods, the space in the locker room full of comfortable recliner chairs, the emphasis the interviewed players and coaches put on "rest" getting ready for the Thurs game.

 

One thing that was clear is how paramount in importance coaching at all positions and a good game plan is, and I feel like the jury is still out there a bit for the Bills.

 

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It sounds like it would make a great movie one day...or Netflix series.

12 hours ago, Rc2catch said:

I would choose the backup easy money role. I think if I could have any job I’m taking kicker. 

 

The pressure on kickers is intense. You can't mess up... ever. Kickers lasting more than a season or two with one team are as rare as Yetis.

Edited by PromoTheRobot

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I read most of this a couple years ago, thought it was pretty interesting to see how certain players approach the game, why they play, etc. I do agree that the guy came off a little indignant in parts and I'm sure he made some broad generalizations here and there. Overall, not too bad.

 

Another one I enjoyed was Slow Getting Up by Nate Jackson, he was a WR for the Broncos and mainly played on special teams, had some rough injuries. He was in Denver when McDaniels was HC and he didn't have the best things to say about that guy, haha. 

 

I'd also recommend Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff. He spent the 2011 season with the Jets and gives an excellent behind the scenes look at everything that goes into a season. You get a lot of insight on ol' Rexy boy, and Pettine, who he had as his DC at the time. Rex would get real carried away with defensive play designs and Pettine would be the one to ground him, like, "OK, if we do that, how do we cover this?" You also get a look at how Rex was during games, seemed to think they always had an ace in the hole type of play they could run but he was always hesitant to call it. Maybe my favorite part is when Pettine and some of the other assistant coaches glued the lid of the peanut butter jar and then watched on the security cameras as Rex become increasingly frustrated that he couldn't get the jar open for his late night snack. Rex would put the jar down and say, "Whatever then, I don't need any g*ddamn peanut butter." But then a minute later he'd be trying to pry it open and swearing at it. Pretty fun. 

 

And if you're looking to understand the X's and O's, I'd suggest the two Take Your Eye Off the Ball books by Pat Kirwan. He's also written a series called Go Deeper where he highlights a specific position. I believe he's only written one on QBs at this time and it's an e-book. Good stuff, though. He breaks things down in ways that are easy to understand. 

 

I read a buncha foosball books a couple years back when I thought I was gonna start a draft blog or something. 

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Thanks OP, I'll check that one out. If you haven't read Mark Leibovich's Big Game: The NFL in dangerous times, I highly recommend it. Warning though, the author is a P*ts fan - though he takes plenty of shots at them.

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7 minutes ago, blacklabel said:

I read most of this a couple years ago, thought it was pretty interesting to see how certain players approach the game, why they play, etc. I do agree that the guy came off a little indignant in parts and I'm sure he made some broad generalizations here and there. Overall, not too bad.

 

Another one I enjoyed was Slow Getting Up by Nate Jackson, he was a WR for the Broncos and mainly played on special teams, had some rough injuries. He was in Denver when McDaniels was HC and he didn't have the best things to say about that guy, haha. 

 

I'd also recommend Collision Low Crossers by Nicholas Dawidoff. He spent the 2011 season with the Jets and gives an excellent behind the scenes look at everything that goes into a season. You get a lot of insight on ol' Rexy boy, and Pettine, who he had as his DC at the time. Rex would get real carried away with defensive play designs and Pettine would be the one to ground him, like, "OK, if we do that, how do we cover this?" You also get a look at how Rex was during games, seemed to think they always had an ace in the hole type of play they could run but he was always hesitant to call it. Maybe my favorite part is when Pettine and some of the other assistant coaches glued the lid of the peanut butter jar and then watched on the security cameras as Rex become increasingly frustrated that he couldn't get the jar open for his late night snack. Rex would put the jar down and say, "Whatever then, I don't need any g*ddamn peanut butter." But then a minute later he'd be trying to pry it open and swearing at it. Pretty fun. 

 

And if you're looking to understand the X's and O's, I'd suggest the two Take Your Eye Off the Ball books by Pat Kirwan. He's also written a series called Go Deeper where he highlights a specific position. I believe he's only written one on QBs at this time and it's an e-book. Good stuff, though. He breaks things down in ways that are easy to understand. 

 

I read a buncha foosball books a couple years back when I thought I was gonna start a draft blog or something. 

Collison Low Crossers was was very very good.   Next Man Up was another good read about the on-goings inside a professional football operation.

 

If you're into X's and O's The Art of Smart Football is a good starter.   

 

My wife bought me Bill Belichick on Football for Christmas and that's been a nice read on how to put a team together.   A couple interesting quotes "You do anything you can to win within the confines of the rules, you dont want to pass the line where you're cheating."   Ironic considering, but brought to mind how often they use rub routes, which is clearly cheating.   The other brought to mind Joe Judge "You're always happy when someone on your staff gets an opportunity, but when their opportunity turns into you losing resources thats where the line is crossed.  Again, happy for them, but the way they build their program should not come at a deficit for ours."  

 

Always wanted to start a blog or a podcast as well, watching film and writing summaries is my hobby, but I am not sure I have the extra time for the getting it onto the internet piece.

14 hours ago, Hapless Bills Fan said:

 

AB will go down into history as a code word for certain candies.  😂  

 

Agreed that the author came across as a dick.  He said so himself, quoting the OL coach.   That’s pretty much what I meant when I read about 20 pages  “now that’s enough of that” and that I had to get through spots where the author regards himself as having superior competence and intelligence.  

 

Interesting that you saw it as a TMZ book.   Now that you mention it, I understand.  I didn’t worry about figuring out who was who as I guessed he merged characteristics of several players to make it harder, though the way he describes some of the guys would make me want to hunt Molk down and kick his butt if I were them.  That wasn’t what I focused on.

 

The interesting part to me was reading about the daily routine and the locker room and practice dynamics.  The description of the Haka dance during the players-only OL meeting cracked me up, and the struggle to get the coaches to pay attention to what the players were perceiving during the game read as very real.

Read Collison Low Crossers, you'll love it.  Ten times the book Anonymous is.

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