The Perfect Pass
American Genius and the Reinvention of Football
By S. C. Gwynne
Published by Scribner
Hardcover – 320 pages
New York Times bestselling, award-winning historian S.C. Gwynne tells the incredible story of how Hal Mumme and Mike Leach—two unknown coaches who revolutionized American football in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s—changed the way the game is played at every level, from high school to the NFL.
Hal Mumme is one of a handful of authentic offensive geniuses in the history of American football. In 2015 ESPN Magazine, the nation’s leading sports magazine, called him the single most influential football coach in the last quarter century.
Mumme spent fourteen mostly losing seasons coaching football before inventing a potent passing offense strategy that would revolutionize the game. That transformation began at a tiny college called Iowa Wesleyan, where Mumme was head coach and Mike Leach his assistant. It was there that Mumme invented the purest and most extreme passing game in the 145-year history of football, where his quarterback once completed 61 of 86 passes (both national records). His teams played blazingly fast—faster than any team ever had before. They rarely punted on a fourth down, and routinely beat teams with ten or twenty times Iowa Wesleyan’s students. Mumme did it all with average athletes and without even a playbook.
In The Perfect Pass, S.C. Gwynne explores Mumme’s genius and the stunning performance of his teams, as well as his leading role in changing football from a run-dominated sport to a pass-dominated sport. He also shares the history of a moment in American football when the game changed fundamentally and transformed itself into what tens of millions of Americans now watch on television every weekend. Whether you’re a casual or ravenous football fan, this is a truly compelling story of American ingenuity, innovation, and how a set of revolutionary ideas made their way into the mainstream of sports culture that we celebrate today.
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Reviews for THE PERFECT PASS by S.C. Gwynne:
“Mr. Gwynne’s book is a breezy, smart, enjoyable read that gives Mr. Mumme the moment he’s long overdue . . . you might never see another Hal Mumme-coached game on your television. But in a way, you see one every time you turn it on.” —Will Leitch, The Wall Street Journal
“The Perfect Pass is a perfect book about football—and the transformative power of innovation. S.C. Gwynne brings the same remarkable reporting and storytelling skills he used in Empire of the Summer Moon and Rebel Yell to reveal the dramatic history behind the passing revolution that disrupted and forever changed America’s favorite sport. His portrait of Hal Mumme, the unknown underdog coach who unleashed the Air Raid offense on the modern game, is superb, at once capturing the passion and genius that made him an unsung hero of his generation.”
—Brian D. Sweany, editor in chief, Texas Monthly
“When we played against a Hal Mumme offense, our defense had to be changed dramatically. You had to throw away everything you knew or you were going to get beat. Every offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator in football better study this book to find out why.”
—Jerry Glanville, former NFL and college head coach
“Being a football coach who innovates against the way the game has long been played is deeply challenging. S.C. Gwynne captures perfectly how Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense helped change the landscape of college football forever. It’s a great story.”
—Bruce Arians, head coach of the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals
“Rich, well told story of Hal Mumme, who spent years losing before inventing the Air Raid offense, which has swept football.”