Q&A With Vic Carucci: Super Bowl Blueprints: Hall of Famers Reveal the Keys to Football's Greatest Dynasties

Photo Courtesy of Vic Carucci

Author: Vic Carucci

Author Bio:

Vic Carucci has covered the NFL as a writer and broadcaster for five decades. During his wide-ranging career, he has been a national editor for NFL.com and contributor to NFL Network, a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns and an NFL writer and columnist for the Buffalo News. He is a co-host for SiriusXM NFL Radio and a contributor to WGRZ-TV in Buffalo. 


He has received multiple writing honors from the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writers of America and is a past president of the PFWA. He is the author of 10 previous books about pro football and a member of the selection committee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

 

1.  When did you first fall in love with sports?

My earliest memory of when I became obsessed with sports was in grammar school. Though my parents and older brother weren’t big sports fans, we lived in a neighborhood where so many of my friends and their families were. It was only natural to become a part of that culture, whether it was playing or watching.

I was so enthralled with the NFL, beginning in the early ‘70s, our family would actually schedule Sunday dinner (a big deal in an Italian-American household), around the games on TV. It was that love that fueled my desire to become a sportswriter, because I identified it as the best way to become closer to the game (after eliminating a future as an NFL player or coach).

I was blessed that my entire family supported my love for the game, including when my dad would drive me to the high school football games I covered as a stringer for our local newspaper before I had a license.

 

2.  What was the writing process like for “Super Bowl Blueprints”?

Incredible. Of the 11 books I have authored/co-authored, this was the most challenging, largely because it was most labor-intensive. It required the two of us interviewing (mostly via Zoom) 32 NFL luminaries (most of whom are Pro Football Hall of Fame members), from every level of the game, and my job was to organize and weave all of that material into oral-history form.

Thanks largely to Bill’s status as a Hall of Famer, I had what felt like an exclusive, all-access pass into the minds of best and brightest to ever have been a part of this game. That, along with what I believe was an amazing finished product, made this the most rewarding of the books with which I have ever been involved.  

 

3.  What was it like co-authoring this book with Hall of Fame NFL executive Bill Polian?

Incredible. Amazing. Pick an adjective. Bill’s brilliance, alone, makes him someone from whom you can gain so much knowledge and insight well beyond football. His ability to see the big picture, all of the small pictures, and especially a knack for anticipating what’s around the corner were the cornerstones of his career as one of football’s all-time great talent-evaluators.

What blows my mind, though, is how beautifully he adapted to all of what he did/has done since his final season as an NFL club executive. We have collaborated on two books, and in both, Bill poured every ounce of heart and soul into the process. I was an awe of the amount of time and effort he invested. Granted, neither of us was a volunteer, but I can say, unequivocally, this was a true labor of love for both of us.  

 

4.  What is a life lesson from Bill that you’ve applied to your everyday life?

“Total organization wins.” It is actually a quote from Marv Levy, another Hall of Famer, but Bill has incorporated it into (it seems) almost every of the countless football conversations we’ve had. By “total organization,” Marv was referencing every part of a football team, from ownership down to the folks who wash and dirty socks and towels.

I think it applies to all walks of life. It’s a statement that says everyone, whether in a company or a family, is accountable to everyone else. That has always stuck with me.

 

5.  Being that you are an exceptionally accomplished sportswriter you are accustomed to writing in adverse and time-limited situations, what would you say is your favorite place to write?

Where I am now, my home office. When we built our house nearly 35 years ago, I said to my wife, “Let me just design my office. You make the choices on everything else that we’ll build around it.”

I was probably only half-kidding. It is, to a large degree, my sanctuary, a place I find peace even during the most stressful times of meeting deadlines that are a constant in this profession. But I’ve always loved it when my two daughters, when they were young, would like to join me in the office to work on their own writing/drawing projects.

Now, their sons, like to spend time in here watching videos of the Marvel Avengers and big trucks.

 

6.  Is there anything specific you are excited for readers to learn about in “Super Bowl Blueprints”?

It’s hard to pick one item, because there are so many great perspectives and anecdotes throughout. But probably the one that I think readers will find the most fascinating is the way Terry Bradshaw opened his soul to us in discussing his troubled relationship with Chuck Noll.

 

7.  How do Super Bowl teams from the 1970s differ from modern-day Super Bowl champions?

The biggest difference is, because of the absence of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap, the ‘70s teams were able to stay together for far longer than modern-day clubs.

I think that created tighter bonds and, obviously, greater familiarity between the players and coaches and ownerships. The NFL’s popularity was still growing, so the league and its franchises operated with a bit more intimacy that led to more sharing of anecdotes, with considerable detail.

 

8.  What makes "The Patriot Way” a modern standard for winning Super Bowls? And what can non-Super Bowl teams learn from their blueprint model?

To some degree, it’s a bit overstated, but understandably driven by the Patriots’ sustained success.

There isn’t a simple way to describe it, but to me, it has always come down to an understanding of an organization that has a singular view (Bill Belichick’s) of what to do and how to do it and finding the right players, coaches and support personnel to carry it out.

Attention to every detail, no matter how small. The ability to treat each play, each game and each season as a separate entity.

 

9.  Is there a secret to winning in the NFL?

It isn’t a secret: If you have a great quarterback, you win.

 

10.  What made the west coast offense so hard to stop in the 70s & 80s and is this still a workable offense to win championships in the modern era?

First, talented players mean more than any scheming, and Bill Walsh’s 49ers, credited with introducing the NFL to the West Coast offense, had an abundance of talent throughout their offense.

Second, defenses struggled with a passing game that attacks all areas of the field, with an emphasis on the horizontal rather than the vertical, and uses shorter/intermediate throws to take the place of run plays. Those began to be known as “long handoffs.”

 

11.  Who did you have the most fun interviewing for this book?

Tough one. We had a lot of laughs throughout. Terry Bradshaw stands out (I’m sure that won’t surprise anyone). Jerry Jones was his usual dynamic, big-personality self. Jimmy Johnson, too.

 

12.  What is the best sports team that you have ever covered?

The Bills team that went to four consecutive Super Bowls.

 

13.  What's your best advice for getting over writer's block?

Treat it as non-existent, which is what I’ve done for the majority of my career. Writing is thinking. If there is such a thing as “writer’s block,” it simply is another way of saying the thoughts you bring to your document aren’t formed enough to move your fingers over a keyboard.

Another basic rule I’ve followed is write the way you speak. Speaking tends to come more naturally to most of us, so treat the writing process as another form of speaking. In your first draft, don’t get caught up in applying correct grammar. You can go back and clean it up later.

 

14.  What's the best advice you have ever received on happiness? 

To borrow a line from Lynyrd Skynyrd: “Be a simple kind of mind. Be something you love and understand.”

 

15.  Do you plan on writing more books in the future?

My typical answer in the early aftermath of completing a project is, “I’m too exhausted, mentally and physically, to even give that a thought.” Invariably, usually after a year or two or three go by, I find there’s another one in me. Besides, it probably makes sense to bring the entire collection to an even dozen.

 

BONUS QUESTION: What would it mean to the city of Buffalo if the Bills were able to win a Super Bowl?

I can’t even imagine. I don’t know of a town that would find greater joy in celebrating a Super Bowl championship. The Bills aren’t “a story” in Buffalo. They are “THE story.” They dictate the majority of conversation year-round, even from the more casual of fans (though I don’t know if they truly exist).

Years ago, when Buffalo was more of an industrial town and long before the Bills played in a Super Bowl, a study was done on how well factories performed on the Monday after a Bills win versus after a loss. There was a significant difference. Winning equaled stronger production. The mood of the area continues to greatly depend on the Bills’ fortunes.

The Bills are Buffalo’s lone link to the big time. I realize the same could be said for Green Bay, but the Packers have more of a regional following that includes the entire state of Wisconsin. The celebration of a Bills Super Bowl win will likely know no end.

 

Places To Find More From This Author:

Twitter: @viccarucci

Sportswriting: www.wgrz.com

 

Get Your Copy of Super Bowl Blueprints Today!

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