It's a continuum that, once Reese set it up in '46, began cranking out results that stunned even him. Picking about 60 college games a weekend during that season, Reese had some weeks when 91% of his selections were correct.
Through top draft choices and big trades, franchise shifts and coaching changes, from Sammy Baugh through Boomer Esiason, Reese's system has stayed the same. He has been tempted to fiddle with it. Once he was tempted to devise a way to factor in injuries. "But I found injuries really don't make any difference," he says. "The replacement player usually performs as well as or even better than the one he takes the place of. Look at [quarterback] Mark Rypien this year for the Redskins."
In this NFL season, with so many quarterback injuries, Reese's system has been severely tested. After going 20-8 the first two weeks, he was a nightmarish 7-7 the third and was struggling at a 61% clip midway through the season—perhaps the worst slump of his career. But his faith in his system remains unshaken. "It's been a crazy year," he says. "There have been four or five games where the bounce of a ball decided it."
This season is the first in which Reese is not picking college games. "It was too much," he says. "I have too many other things to do." That includes keeping up with his three children and four grandchildren, working on his fourth book on family genealogy and getting in a good game of Scrabble with his wife, Hope.
However, Reese has not forsaken the pros, who have stayed fairly true to his system's form. San Francisco began the year as his No. 1 team, with a 908 power rating. Midway through the season the 49ers remained on top, although they had slipped to 889. "That's about a B-plus," says Reese. "I've always looked at this rather like grades in school. A 90 is an A, in the 80s is a B, and so on."
On Reese's report card Detroit was at the bottom of the NFL's heap with 779 points—still a solid C. "Hey, these are the pros," says Reese. "None of 'em are flunkers."