Tony DeMeo

Book Review – The Perfect Pass

The Perfect Pass

By: S. C. Gwynne

If you are a football coach, football fan or simply a guy who likes a good story, S.C. Gwynne scored a touchdown with his book The Perfect Pass. It’s the story of Hal Mumme’s quest for “The Perfect Pass” Mumme started the quest like a Don Quixote with a whistle and was later joined by Sancho Panza with a clipboard better known as Mike Leach. These two free thinkers changed the way college football is played today.

Gwynne traces the start of Mumme’s college football career starting with his disappointing stint at UTEP as the youngest Offensive Coordinator in Division IA football. UTEP won 7 games in the 4 years Hal was there.

Hal’s next stop was a Head High School coach at Copperas Cove HS in Texas. That’s where he learned about Tiger Ellison and The Run & Shoot Offense. Tiger, an early innovator in the passing game became a major influence on Hal. The Run & Shoot was tweaked and updated by Mouse Davis who was also a major influence on the Hal Mumme Philosophy. – Mouse was coaching the USFL Gamblers when Hal met him and Mouse detailed to him the inner workings of The Run & Shoot Offense.

Hal also became intrigued with the BYU Pass Attack put together by Lavelle Edwards. He liked the BYU scheme because of the simple reads and the use of a Tight End. Hal also developed the Quick Screen that became like the USC student body right sweep – putting bodies in front of a speedy ball carrier. (I stole this play from Hal) Still Copperas Cove couldn’t win more than 50% of its games.

Next stop was the worst college job in the USA – Iowa Wesleyan College. But here is where Mike Leach joined Hal in a partnership that could be compared to Butch & Sundance, Batman & Robin or Robert E. Lee & Stonewall Jackson. Two great football minds with the same quest: The Perfect Pass. Leach not only was a great coach but another “outside the box thinker”

It was at IWC where Mumme really developed his theory of Offensive Football. Hal believed in throwing the ball all the time in practice. He believed in high completion percentage. The system must:

1. Be simple & easy to teach

2. Threaten the entire field

3. Play the game as a 4 down game – give yourself an extra down

4. Few Plays – many reps (so they could do it in their sleep)

5. VS 3 Deep go deep – vs 2 Deep – crossing routes

It was at IWC where Hal developed “The Mesh Pass” – the Double Crossing Routes that became a pillar of The Air Raid Offense. The Mesh Pattern had a built in Deep throw but high % throws if the deep shot was covered – a great concept covered in the book.

As great a job as Mumme & Leach did at IWC, the Air Raid Offense really took off at Valdosta St. in Georgia. It was at VSU where Hal simplified the offense & became a nightmare for defensive coordinators everywhere. Mumme had carefully woven elements of The Run & Shoot, the BYU System, Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense and his own ideas into a passing system college football had never seen.

His next stop was the University of Kentucky which he promptly turned around and put in a bowl game. But here’s where the Mumme Leach team split when Mike left for Oklahoma as an OC & then to Texas Tech as their Head Coach. That was like Lee losing Jackson.

This is a great read which follows Hal Mumme’s quest for the perfect pass all through his career which reached its zenith when his Kentucky Wildcats upset The Crimson Tide of Alabama. This would be like Phyllis Diller beating Halle Berry in a beauty contest. Yet the Air Raid Offense gives the underdogs a chance.

I could not put this book down when I started reading it. S.C. Gwynne captures both the joy and the anguish of a guy trying to do it differently from the conventional way. The triumphs & tribulations of Mumme/Leach on their search for their “White Whale” The Perfect Pass are well documented.

I’ve borrowed many ideas from Mumme/Leach school of offense and they became big additions to the Triple Gun Offense. I highly recommend this book, it’s informative and entertaining and a must read for anyone interested in the inner game of football strategy.

Tony DeMeo