Master NFL historian writes masterful 100-season history

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              FILE - In this Sunday, Aug. 29, 2010 file photo, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow warms up before a preseason NFL football game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Denver. Joe Horrigan calls it a “many decades love affair with football.” Readers of his book, “NFL Century,” will call it masterful. New Broncos coach Vic Fangio snipped the annual summer ritual of Denver Broncos veterans giving rookies hideous haircuts. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
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Joe Horrigan calls it a “many decades love affair with football.”

Readers of his book, “NFL Century,” will call it masterful.

Horrigan, who retired as the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s executive director on June 1, is America’s most foremost historian on pro football. His book, published by Crown, is a superb compilation of anecdotes, little-known facts, insightful analysis and memorable quotes.

While Horrigan jokes that he wasn’t there in 1920 when the league was founded, he makes the readers feel as they are in attendance for many of the significant events through 99 seasons of the NFL. Wisely, Horrigan examines important trends as well as in-depth looks at the players, coaches and executives who turned pro football into America’s Game.

“I wanted to identify the important but not always visible recurring themes that emerge throughout the league’s history,” Horrigan writes, “link decisions to decision makers, identify the circumstances of play that influenced the league’s development, and, when possible, explain the resulting impact. I wanted to separate fiction from fact, offer a slightly different look at some familiar topics, and share some lesser-known stories that also helped shape the league’s colorful history.”

Among Horrigan’s most enlightening tales is the story of the Cleveland Browns‘ dominance of the AAFC in the 1940s and subsequent powerful move into the NFL. Horrigan digs deep to analyze how Paul Brown built his franchise, strengthened it, then laid waste to one league before winning championships in another one.

But everything in the book, from the roots laid in Canton, Ohio, to the exhaustive look at Roger Goodell’s commissionership, is, well, Hall of Fame caliber.