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Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

The legendary football writer Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, died this afternoon at the age of 86. Dr. Z was the first national writer to really bring play-by-play breakdown to the masses. He was breaking down games when there was no Internet, no coach's film available to the public, just your TV and a VCR. His Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football is a seminal work that helps explain the game and is valuable even now, over 30 years later.

Link goes to a story Doug Farrar wrote five years ago about how indebted most modern NFL writers are to Dr. Z's legacy.

Comments

14 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2018, 11:47am

1 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Subrata Sircar // Nov 01, 2018 - 5:44pm

I started watching line play after reading his SI articles and my understanding of why plays are successful or not took a huge jump. He will be missed.

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2 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Mountain Time ---- formerly Ninjalectual // Nov 01, 2018 - 6:41pm

I remember his articles being a bit over my head in elementary school, and wanting so hard to be smart (and old) enough to understand them. I bet every football fan over 30 has a story involving something he wrote.

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3 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by theslothook // Nov 01, 2018 - 9:47pm

He, Zach Lowe, M Tanier and Ben Muth are my favorite Sports writers and they are all great in very different ways.

Dr.Z was a terrific writer and teacher. I was saddened to hear of his stroke and now saddened to hear he passed away.

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5 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Raiderjoe // Nov 01, 2018 - 10:41pm

Wrote great football stuff. Althoufh I never met Dr. Z I do have a friend whow as friends with him
. Would hear Dr. Z described same way I have read othrrs describe him. Could be profane , stronf opinions on certajn players but willlimg to listen to other viewpoints especially if other persln showed strong interest in football anf watched the gamrs

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4 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Raiderjoe // Nov 01, 2018 - 10:38pm

Wrote great football stuff.

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6 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Will Allen // Nov 02, 2018 - 12:02am

Back in the late 90s, I think, Z wrote a piece in which he described a 1971 Monday Night game between a championship Cowboys team, and a terrible Giants team. He called Tarkenton's performance that night, one HOFer, and a nothing roster, against a Super Bowl champ, a roster filled with HOFers (and some guys who should be), the best he'd ever saw. I was amazed, because I always thought that was the best performance I ever saw, but since I was a little kid when I saw it, I wasn't really sure. I was just tickled to learn that the football writer I appreciated above all others had the perception, as a guy entering middle age, of a football game that I had as a little kid. The reason I appreciated him so much is because I knew he really put the time in to understand what was happening on the field. He was the best. Rest easy, Z.

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7 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by dryheat // Nov 02, 2018 - 9:16am

The. Best.

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8 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by TomC // Nov 02, 2018 - 1:58pm

Shit.

For years now when some interesting development in the NFL comes up I have wondered "what would Z say about this," and I guess that will now be a permanent state.

Those of you who came of age when FO already existed may not realize what a wasteland football writing was for a long, long time. Dr. Z was one of the very few willing to challenge conventional wisdom, who knew enough about the game (and had played it at a high enough level) to keep speculations grounded, and who could put an English sentence together. Actually, I'm pretty sure he was the only one who checked all three of those boxes. At any rate, his columns read like dispatches from Orwell or Steinbeck compared to the Dick and Jane everyone else was churning out.

RIP.

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12 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Aaron Brooks Good Twin // Nov 05, 2018 - 10:15am

Those of you who came of age when FO already existed may not realize what a wasteland football writing was for a long, long time.

Was?

Have Fox Sports and ESPN declared bankruptcy?

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9 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by justanothersteve // Nov 02, 2018 - 4:06pm

Very sad and my heart goes out to his wife and other loved ones. I loved his writing, and his analysis was amazing even when I didn't agree with him. It usually turned out I was wrong.

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10 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Bowl Game Anomaly // Nov 04, 2018 - 9:10am

RIP Dr. Z.

As others have said, there was a long time when Dr. Z. was pretty much the only intelligent, thoughtful, knowledgeable football writer in the business. His use of game charting to rate players and teams and his willingness to challenge conventional wisdom was FO before FO.

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11 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by Noble // Nov 05, 2018 - 2:20am

Dr. Z's weekly column on SI.com (likely the only thing worth reading on that site in 2003), was what lead me to Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, which lead me here. Every football fan owes him an enormous debt.

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13 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by dmstorm22 // Nov 07, 2018 - 5:29pm

I found a copy of The Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football in the basement of my parent's place.

My Dad is not a football fan, or at the very least definitely was not when that book came out.

I have no idea how he had it. It was a completely unexpected gift.

RIP to a great sportswriter, and from all indications I've read, a great man.

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14 Re: Paul Zimmerman, Dr. Z, Dead at 86

by johonny // Nov 08, 2018 - 11:47am

He was a good writer first, a sports fan second. Like Dick Schaap he combined his talents to make sports writing a much better industry. He will be missed.

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