Five championship winning professional coaches from around the world are interviewed in Netflix’s new five-part documentary series “The Playbook.” The show is a relatively informative, somewhat uneven look at the different careers and philosophies of the coaches interviewed.
The show is divided into five episodes with each one focusing on a different coach. The format does a good job keeping each new episode interesting as the viewer is never focused on one coach for too long.
The first episode focuses on NBA coach and former NBA player Doc Rivers. His episode examines his championship run with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and lightly covers the controversial recording of former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling going off on a racist tirade.
It’s unfortunate timing that the series was released only a few days after his Clippers team was unceremoniously eliminated early in the playoffs this season. Rivers’ playoff misfortune this year somewhat undermines the impact of his episode, but it still is an informative and enjoyable pilot.
Another memorable episode follows Jill Ellis, the United States Women’s National Soccer Team’s coach from 2014-2019. This episode focuses on her advocacy in getting female soccer players paid as much as their male equivalents.
Probably the best episode was the one focused on soccer manager Josè Mourinho. Mourinho has a very blunt personality and is even mildly hostile toward the interviewer for the show, rejecting many of the questions directed at him.
Mourinho has a history of being aggressive toward journalists and other coaches but always forms a personal relationship with his players. He tells a funny story of the time he was banned from a game and had to hide in a laundry bin in the locker room to not be caught. It’s clear that beneath his cold exterior, he has a profound love for coaching soccer.
The show is entertaining but uneven at times. There are a few episodes that are more interesting than the others. The short 30-minute runtime of each episode also doesn’t allow for any one topic to be fully explored.
The overall runtime of the whole show is only slightly longer than a feature-length documentary but covers enough material for five. In-depth documentaries like “The Last Dance” show that audiences don’t mind extremely long documentaries.
Another issue with the show is that there doesn’t seem to be a consistent theme throughout the episodes. Some focus on social issues while others focus on the personalities of the coaches. It makes it feel as though the interviews were done without a concept in mind for the overall show.
“The Playbook” isn’t a must-watch Netflix show but it also isn’t worth completely dismissing. There are a handful of fascinating stories told by the different coaches that even non-sports fans can enjoy. With so many great sports documentaries out there, it is hard to fully recommend “The Playbook” but it is relatively well made and informative.