A coach cannot hide this position in the game. Sure you may have a powerful running back or great skill players, but without the quarterback sooner or late you will have to win a game on this positions abilities. The better your quarterback is the greater your potential for achieving team goals are. So why am I spending time on a well talked about position?
The number one question I get asked is quarterback related. So I decided to create a series of articles, that I feel would answers these questions and create a check list for other coaches. The quarterback is the single most important position on the field, and warrants this discussion.
Part 1 will encompass the general structure of a quarterback. These next points are coached points, and must be evaluated and nurtured. This is where you create you daily individual practice schedule, and off the field leadership meetings.
The most important ratio to factor into the Quarterback Equation: Mental is to Physical as 4 is to 1. The mental stability of your quarterback is 4 times more important than his physical abilities. I hope I can show you how the mental side leads to more touchdowns, first downs, and positive plays, than any 4.4 speed, strong arm, size, or other physical ability. Sure you may be able to get by with sheer physical ability for a while, but sooner or later someone will have a plan for him to have to make decisions. Take a look at this chart, we will go dive deeper into it in a later post in the series.
General Evaluations of a Quarterback
Decision Making (pre/post) Snap (Mental)
Decision Making is the complete make up of playing quarterback. When you start evaluating your quarterbacks, where does your percentages fall when making good/bad decisions? It is only when you define this that you are able to start to fix any deficiencies. Was this a pre-snap or post-snap issue. If it is a pre-snap issue it will definately create problems in the post-snap, because is was wrong from the initial start. What if it was a post-snap problem? He had it right to begin with but something made him panic or change. This is completely why the most important part of the equation of playing quarterback is decision making. The ball is snapped to his hands every play. I challenge you to go to practice if you are having troubles, and have someone chart a plus or minus based on purely on decisions. You might be surprised and enlightened. I always like to remember that, When you know what the value of your decisions are, you are more likely to make the right ones. Which leads us to our next phase of evaluation.
Understanding (Mental) Your Offense and How it Dictates the Defense
Their decision making abilities is predicated on understanding the “what” and the ‘why” inside your offense. This is where you find out why they are having pre/post snap mistakes. As you are going through your daily practice, this is what you make note of and search ways to get him a greater understanding about the offense.
You also have to be able to see their limits of understanding. I have seen many players who could diagram plays on paper, or tell you exactly what they were supposed to do in the if/then, but when it came time to actually do it would falter. If this is continual you have selected the wrong player as quarterback, or you have to settle with threshold of what he can do. Remember this places limitations on your teams rate of success, and you will have to coach around that.
We should not expect this player to be able to diagram and philosophy about the offense, but we should have him to the point where he trusts the system, and throws the read based on what he saw. This is the only way we can diagnose where the breakdown is. Essentially (as a coach) stop talking and start listening and observing.
Be the right type of person and teammate (Mental)
One of the most (if not) important characteristics of the position. What kind of person or teammate is he? How does he react when his receivers drop a ball? How does is his body language when he throws an interception? How does he react when he gets sacked? If any of these have a continually negative response, you are playing the wrong player at quarterback. Is he a servant leader? Does he try to take the blame when things are bad, and give the credit to others when it is good? Does he try to make others around him better by helping them?
No one is going to follow, count on, put their trust in someone who is up and down with the responses in a game. As a coach you are not going to be able to coach someone like this during the ebb and flow of the game. You only have a few precious minutes between possessions, and how much time are you spending as coach or psychologist?
Footwork & Physical Mechanics (Physical)
The part of playing quarterback that makes millions of dollars each year. Is your quarterback interested in the finer details of this phase? How consistent is your quarterbacks footwork? The timing/depth of the drops? The steps on run plays? How does he work in the pocket with pressure? Where is the ball carried in the drop?
This phase allows him to make the physical play after the mental decision has been made. His mechanics need to be flawless, and as consistent as humanly possible.
Throws (Accuracy, Velocity ) (Physical)
Arm strength has always been last in my opinion. Simply because we have all types of kids who can throw a ball 50 yards, but that does not make them a quarterback. In fact when it comes to throws the first thing I look for is accuracy. If a players is naturally accurate, then that can be improved upon to a greater extent. If he is of high school age, and he is not accurate, you might can make him marginally accurate by the time he graduates. Accuracy is a lot like speed it can be improved upon but not exponentially.
How does he use his velocity? Does he throw a 1 yard shallow with the same power as a 12 yard comeback? Can he switch “clubs” based on the route? If he can throw it throw a plate of steel that is great, but does he know how and when to use that gift? If he has one mode, can you imagine trying to win at golf with just a driver?
Why this has always been last in my evaluation? Arm strength and accuracy is impressive during drills, and pick up games, but if he cannot master the mental aspect, well then you just have a sniper rifle with not sites/scope. It is why I spent and studied so much on the cognitive side of playing quarterback.
This first article is just an introduction to the depth we will be discussing. I wanted to give you a “rough” outline at evaluating a potential quarterback. As we move forward the subject will get deeper and more detailed. My goal is for you to be able to develop a definite check list for evaluating your quarterbacks.