Gridiron Genius

Narrated by: Michael Lombardi
Length: 8 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (593 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Former NFL general manager and three-time Super Bowl-winner Michael Lombardi reveals what makes football organizations tick at the championship level. From personnel to practice to game-day decisions that win titles, Lombardi shares what he learned working with coaching legends Bill Walsh of the 49ers, Al Davis of the Raiders, and Bill Belichick of the Patriots, among others, during his three decades in football.

Why do some NFL franchises dominate year after year while others can never crack the code of success? For 30 years, Michael Lombardi had a front-row seat and full access as three titans - Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick - reinvented the game, turning it into a national obsession while piling up Super Bowl trophies. Now, in Gridiron Genius, Lombardi provides the blueprint that makes a successful organization click and win - and the mistakes unsuccessful organizations make that keep them on the losing side time and again. 

In reality, very few coaches understand the philosophies, attention to detail, and massive commitment that defined NFL juggernauts like the 49ers and the Patriots. The best organizations are not just employing players, they are building something bigger. Gridiron Genius will explain how the best leaders evaluate, acquire, and utilize personnel in ways other professional minds, football and otherwise, won't even contemplate. How do you know when to trade a player? How do you create a positive atmosphere when everyone is out to maximize his own paycheck? And why is the tight end like the knight on a chessboard? 

To some, game-planning consists only of designing an attack for the next opponent. But Lombardi explains how the smartest leaders script everything: from an afternoon's special-teams practice to a season's playoff run to a decade-long organizational blueprint. Listeners will delight in the Lombardi tour of an NFL weekend, including what really goes on during the game on and off the field and inside the headset. First stop: Belichick's Saturday-night staff meeting, where he announces how the game will go the next day. Spoiler alert: He always nails it.

Football dynasties are built through massive attention to detail and unwavering commitment. From how to build a team, to how to watch a game, to understanding the essential qualities of great leaders, Gridiron Genius gives football fans the knowledge to be the smartest person in the room every Sunday.

©2018 Michael Lombardi (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"Gridiron Genius is a FASCINATING read! Michael Lombardi provides a truly unique look at the inside workings and the exacting attention to detail that is paramount to succeed at the highest level. Michael has worked in concert and in lock step with some of the best teachers and administrators in the history of professional football. He shares true behind-the-scenes glimpses and anecdotes of the behind the scenes world of our industry." (Sean Payton, head coach, New Orleans Saints)

"Michael Lombardi got his masters in football from The Masters of football - Bill Walsh, Al Davis, Bill Belichick. Now he passes those memorable lessons on to his fortunate readers so they can receive an advanced education in coaching, personnel, management and strategy." (Adam Schefter, ESPN NFL insider and author of The Man I Never Met)

"My only criticism of Michael Lombardi's book is that I enjoyed it too much. The characters and stories were irresistible. But make no mistake, this is a very serious book. Lombardi extracts a meticulous and full-fledged blueprint for organizational excellence from a raft of hard evidence. This is a guidebook for excellence - and it applies way beyond the gridiron. Any thoughtful business leader, for example, could assemble a bundle of useful, integrated ideas that could transform organizational performance. Bravo!" (Tom Peters, author of In Search of Excellence)

What listeners say about Gridiron Genius

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please please hire a reader for this amazing book

First let me start by saying I love listening to Mike Lombardi talk. Have been for years on the various Bill Simmons Podcast platforms. His story here is incredible and I learned a lot about both him AND the game of football that I hadn't known before.

the one major critique I would have is that his reading of the book is too uneven and choppy. I actually would rather they hire a pro to do this book than have a guy I listen to speak on a weekly basis.

having said that, the book was incredibly enjoyable and I would purchase it again even knowing about the less than ideal reading.

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Great Analysis from an NFL Insider and Lifer

This is a great listen for anyone who appreciates the recent history of the NFL. There are too few great organization architects who have fielded teams that are dominant over a period of a decade or more. Author Michael Lombardi has worked for three such me: Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick.

These three men appear to have little in common in their upbringing or in their personalities. And each man's focus is entirely different: Walsh the offensive innovator and engaging personality, Belichick the defensive genius who appears brash and aloof, and Davis the rebel owner never at a loss for an outlandish word or innovation. But they are united by a handful of common characteristics:

1. They understand the importance of building a culture of accountability.
2. They play a different game from their me-too contemporaries.
3. They build a system and then find players and coaches who fit that system.

Had Lombardi worked in a few other organization, the book might have included Vince Lombardi and the Packers; Bill Parcells and the Giants; Paul Brown and the Browns; and Tom Landry, Tex Schramm, and Gil Brandt of the Cowboys.

The characteristics of these winners are present not only in great football teams, but also in business. And in both football and business, these types of leaders - bold, focused, results-oriented, architectural, system-driven - are rare. But that scarcity is more evident in sports than in business because sports leaders are measured regularly and publicly.

Should you invest in and listen to this book? Take this simple test:

1. If you want to learn more about how successful pro football franchises build teams rather than merely assemble talent, listen to the book.

2. If you enjoy a journey through the recent history of the league and learning the connections among many men whom you've seen roam the sidelines in recent years, listen to the book.

3. If you want to imagine how some superbly talented athletes who never achieve superior results might have had very different career trajectories had they been placed in a different system, listen to the book.

4. If you believe that most NFL coaches and owners are equally talented and that some achieve success merely by breaking the rules or as a result of dumb luck, don't bother listening to the book.

5. If you believe that raw talent wins and sustains NFL championships, don't bother listening to the book.

How did you do on the quiz?

Every year, I choose a sports book that I've read or listened as a gift for two friends who are as fanatic about sports as I am. This year, they'll receive a hard copy of this book for Christmas.

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Great content. Okay writing. Reading--not great

Really informative and engaging content from start to finish. The writer definitely has something to say, and if you are interested in football you will enjoy learning from this book. The author shares important insights from some of football's best personalities.

His writing is, as he might himself say of a borderline starting defensive back, "replacement-level." It is close enough to professional that the reader/listener can follow along. It's a book about football, after all, so I wasn't expecting Victor Hugo.

His reading, though, is stiff and sometimes even distracting because of the stilted delivery; and that is surprising because he is literally reading his own book. Don't let this keep you from buying or listening to the book...just be prepared to fight through the narrator in a few spots...who happens to be the author, too. If Mr Lombardi asked himself what would Belichick do, the answer might be to prepare and practice so much that he could perform intuitively and without thinking in the recording studio.

I heartily recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of professional football.

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great look into what it takes to win superbowls

excellent book by an insider who learned from many great coaching minds. listen up to learn about a coach that requires accountability

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very solid

if you like football stratgegy this a great book. Back office and operational insights are exceptional.

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Wonderful!

In 5 years, this is my first review and I have to say it is one of the best audiobooks I have listened to, from my audible subscription.

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Full of insight from some of the NFL's greatest

The book is about Lombardi's lessons from having worked for some of the NFL's best minds, namely Bill Walsh, Al Davis, and Bill Belichick. Many of the lessons are more broadly applicable than just football, and could apply to running a corporation or being a leader.

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Awesome!!!!

Great detail about a few of the GREATEST Coaches to walk the NFL sidelines. Like the Godfather, I will learn a new fact everytime I listen. Thanks for sharing your experiences Coach!!!

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if you are an avid football fan...must read

This book explains a lot of the behind scene details of profootball working with the Bill's (Walsh and Belichick). Really enjoyed this book!!!

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Great insight into the best football leaders

I listen to a lot of books about business and behavioral finance and things like that and I enjoy them all. However, this short detour into the works of professional football was both fascinating and insightful. I grew up a football fan and loved the behind the scenes of the old 49ers teams and early Saban and Belichick. The stores were interesting, the few X’s & O’s discussions were very insightful and I give an enormous amount of credit to Michael Lombardi for 1) reading the book (it makes a ton of difference to the listener) and 2) not holding back and saying all flowery and glowing things about everyone. At the end, you know who he thinks is at the top of their game and who isn’t and he doesn’t hedge or go overboard - it’s simply his opinion and he backs it up. This was a thoroughly enjoyable listen!

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  • M. J. Blatchford
  • 11-02-18

Thanks Mike

Thanks Mike
As a coaching lifer (basketball mostly but also football, soccer, baseball) and a big NFL and NBA fan, I have followed Coach Lombardi since he appeared on Grantland. While not surprised by the quality of Gridiron Genius (Lombardi is a 'gotta have it' voice now on the Ringer), I was thrilled to learn so much about how the greats go about being great.
Thanks Mike
It is also fitting that Lombardi's key message is that wisdom from antiquity dominates superior thinking today.
Thanks,
Mike

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-17-19

Self congratulatory revisionist history

I was expecting an in depth look at football but all I got was "Belichick = Good, Rest of NFL = Bad". Even then, nothing was covered here that wasn't already covered better and in more depth in 'Belichick and Brady' by Michael Holley.

Lombardi has also jumped the gun a bit on judging some current players. Last I checked Jameis Winston is not having a particular great career and Mitchell Trubisky is looking like a pretty good pick.

There were some good ideas though on directions the game should go to be safer and keep it exciting.