The Pro Football Historical Abstract

pfha_medMy 2008 book won the Nelson Ross Award, presented annually by the Pro Football Researchers Association for “outstanding achievement in pro football research and historiography.”  I took the analytical methods that formed the basis of my annual football preview books and applied them to past players. The result is an exhaustive look at the history of pro football.

It begins with a look at how the game has evolved over the years. I delve into the changes in playing styles, and the rules, and how other external events affected the game on the field. The centerpiece is my rating and ranking of the top players at each position from 1920 to the present. I take a detailed look at nearly a thousand players, with new insight on their playing styles and their strengths and weaknesses on the field.

What the critics said about the book:

The most ambitious and fascinating football book of the year… impressive in both scope and execution. Lahman’s insight into the styles of so many players across time makes for a lively, enlightening read. Highly recommended.”
— Library Journal (starred review)

“Lahman tries to do for football what Bill James once did for baseball.”
— USA Today

“The best football book of the decade.”
— Pro Football Researchers Association

The book is nearly 600 pages in hardcover. It’s available from Amazon and other bookstores.

ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia

pfe2007There hadn’t been a pro football encyclopedia on the market since 1999, which was a little surprising when you consider the tremendous popularity of the game. Pete Palmer and I had been talking about producing a new one since the summer of 2000, and in 2006 we finally had our chance. Pete spent several years working with researcher Ken Pullis to develop a new statistical database, based on an exhaustive game-by-game reconstruction of the historical record. What we ended up with was the most complete, accurate, and up-to-date football database ever compiled. There are several new features in this book, things that haven’t been published anywhere before. The encyclopedia also incorporates some of my analytical work, based on my compilation of play-by-play accounts for games back to 1960. The biggest advance of all might be the price — Barnes & Noble is selling the book for as low as $17.96. Compare that to the $59.95 cover price for the last edition of Total Football, and you’ll see why we were so excited about bringing this book to market.

The critics loved the book. Sports historian John Thorn called it “an all-time great book from an all-pro team of experts.” Doug Drinen of said “I have many football reference books on my shelf, but the ESPN Pro Football Encyclopedia is the one I will reach for again and again.

The second edition of the book included a number of new features, including a lengthy chapter I wrote on the evolution of football strategy. more…

Pro Football Prospectus

pfp2003The annual Pro Football Prospectus was described by as a “paradigm-shifting work,” and former Green Bay Packers head coach Mike Sherman called it “one of the most comprehensive evaluations on the market.” I created this series in 2002 with co-author Todd Greanier, as a spinoff from the successful and popular Baseball Prospectus brand. We had a hard time attracting the same kind of following for pro football that those folks developed for baseball, mostly I think due to a lack of support from the publisher. It’s hard to market a book as a fantasy football guide when it doesn’t hit the store shelves until after most fantasy drafts have been completed. Still, there is some good work in the three editions of this book published each summer from 2002 until 2004. (The book was published with the title “Pro Football Forecast” in its 2004 edition).

Reference Books Edited

Reference books are a collaborative effort, especially when one volume contains 2500 pages. To date, I’ve had a major role in creating seven of these behemoths.

Other Books as Contributor

I’ve contributed content to more than a dozen other sports reference books and sports annuals over the past ten years, including…

  • 2008 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
  • 2007 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
  • 2006 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
  • 2005 ESPN Baseball Encyclopedia
  • The Baseball Encyclopedia (2004)
  • Deadball Stars of the National League
  • Total Baseball Trivia (two editions)
  • Sports Illustrated Sports Almanac (2000 & 2001)
  • Baseball: The Biographical Encyclopedia (two editions)
  • Big Bad Baseball Annual (1998 & 1999)
  • Rotisserie Baseball Analyst (1990 & 1991)
  • The Great American Baseball Stat Book (1988 & 1989)