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September 29, 2003|Larry Stewart

What: "Beyond Xs and O's: My Thirty Years in the NFL."

Author: Jim Hanifan with Rob Rains.

Publisher: Sports Publishing LLC.

Price: $22.95.

Assistant coaches rarely get much recognition, and that usually goes double for offensive line coaches. But that's not the case with Jim Hanifan, who is famous enough to author a book.

Hanifan, the offensive line coach of the St. Louis Rams, may become the first coach elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame largely on his success as an assistant.

Hanifan spent six seasons (1980-85) as head coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. But it is his work as an assistant coach that has gotten him the most recognition.

In this 159-page book, Hanifan tells his story, beginning with his youth in Covina. He starred at Covina High and went on to play at California, where he was an end on offense and defense. He led the nation in receiving in his senior year.

Hanifan played in the Army for Don Coryell, who would have a big impact on his life. Hanifan was reunited with Coryell after coaching in Covina -- at Charter Oak High rather than his alma mater -- and at Glendale College. Coryell, after going to San Diego State, hired Hanifan as an assistant. While in the car one day, Coryell casually told Hanifan he would be coaching the offensive line.

Hanifan, in this first-person book, talks candidly about the many characters he has coached over the years. There are a number of stories about people such as former Cardinal Dan Dierdorf, who wrote the foreword for this book, and Conrad Dobler, another former Cardinal.

Hanifan also writes about the pain of being fired. He was fired as coach of the Cardinals by owner Bill Bidwill after the 1985 season. Hanifan talks about what was wrong with the way Bidwill ran the Cardinals, although he also finds positive things to say about Bidwill.

Hanifan is not so kind to one of Bidwill's confidants, a St. Louis attorney named Tom Guilfoil.

"This man never played one snap of football in his life, he never coached one day of football in his life," writes Hanifan. "Yet here he was telling the owner who should stay and who should go."

Hanifan also writes about the late Gene Klein, who was the owner of the San Diego Chargers, the team Hanifan left to return to St. Louis as the coach of the Cardinals in 1980.

Hanifan was under the impression Klein had been informed about the job offer. He wasn't. When Hanifan called Klein to apologize, Klein called him a "no-good, rotten SOB."

Hanifan thought Klein was softening toward the end of the conversation when he said he'd always have a job for him -- "until he told me it would be shoveling manure for his horses."

-- Larry Stewart

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