How do you know who the guy is that should be your Quarterback and what should you be looking for in him?
The Physical Requirements of a Quarterback
The first issue is the physical requirements. I feel that a Quarterback should be able to do the following things:
- Read coverage
- Read run defenders (QB read game)
- Protect the ball
- Run the ball
- Make the passes the system “needs” to
Read the Coverage
Let’s dive into these physical requirements before we turn ourselves to the mental requirements of the position. I feel that a Quarterback must be able to read coverage. For us, we keep those reads to a minimum. We teach all Drop Back concepts as a Deep to Shallow to Mid read and keep that rule standard (with few exceptions). We also teach our Quarterback to read a few things high to low or inside and outside. That’s it. We do not want to bog him down on a bunch of reads, we just want him to play.
Read the Run Game
We also teach him how to read a defender in the run game. This is also uncomplicated. We essentially teach him the two movements he will see from a generic defender such as a Defensive End or a Linebacker and we tell him to do one thing until that defender does the other. For example, when reading a Defensive End, we tell the Quarterback it is a give until the D End reacts a specific way and then it becomes a pull. Do not overcomplicate his life, but make sure he understands and can do what you want.
Protect the Ball
The next point is to teach the Quarterback how to protect the ball. I mean how to physically cover the ball and keep it safe from a fumble, and how to mentally keep the ball safe and secure by what you do with it throughout the play. This can bleed into the mental aspect of the position, but where the Quarterback decides to go with the ball and the sort of risk he puts on a certain throw or pitch matters. He needs to be taught how to make these decisions safely and as was said before, this dovetails into the mental aspect of the game.
Run and Pass the Ball Within the System
The last two points work together. Make sure the Quarterback knows how to run the ball and make the throws your system needs. What I mean by this is some Quarterbacks are Zone Read and slash and burn guys, and some guys are Power Read bruisers, but they all need to be evaluated to make sure they can run the ball in some way. They may not all be able to throw a seven step Post, but they all can throw a Hitch or a Bubble based upon coverage. It is up to you to evaluate if the Quarterback can do enough to run your system.
It should be noted that sometimes the answer is no, but he is the best that you have. That means some re-tooling of your system might be in order or changes might need to be made to what you call to enhance his likelihood of success. It is essential that you as a coach evaluate what you need him to be able to do physically and then test him to see if he can do it. It is very likely he will do some things really well and will struggle in other aspects. In my opinion, you need to re-tool some pieces of your system to fit what he does well while also improving his deficiencies so that he can be successful.
The Mental Aspects of a Quarterback
The mental aspect of coaching the Quarterback is as important, if not more, than the physical aspect of playing the position.
- Knowledge of the Game/System
The mental aspects of being a successful High School Quarterback mean more to me than the physical skill sets. The reason for this is simple: only Head Coaches and Quarterbacks have records kept. When the television announces comments on win or loss records it’s never about the Left Guard. These stats are reserved as criticism or as praise for the Head Football Coach and the starting Quarterback. As a result, there is a great deal of mental pressure and perseverance required for greatness.
Let’s start at the first point – Poise. Poise, for me, is the Quarterback being able to handle disappointment and defeat without losing control of his focus. When a Quarterback makes a wrong read, throws an interception, or loses a game, he will face the wave of emotion about how that loss affects the season, his legacy, the playoffs, etc. He has to be the kind of guy that feels the sting of that disappointment, but doesnt show it to the world and doesn’t allow it to negatively affect his work. I want defeat to affect his work, but in a positive manner. I want him to become more focused and more driven because of that loss or mistake. This is Poise.
It is a natural next step to talk about his Confidence. Confidence is his ability to learn, adapt and grow while taking risks despite the fact that he makes mistakes. Good Quarterbacks make mistakes. They must because the job involves being able to take risks and lead a team into harm’s way. If he never fails or makes a mistake, he has rarely ventured into real competition. In short, if he has not failed, he has not tried to succeed. Fail, move on, grow and adapt to the mistakes. I tell Quarterbacks all the time, “I don’t need guys that are perfect, I need guys that get the job done after they have made the inevitable mistake.”
Let’s turn to Toughness. I once had a student teacher and he asked me, “What was the top quality a teacher had to possess in order to be successful?” I simply said, “Toughness.” The same is true of a Quarterback. Physical toughness is required for sure, but it is a given attribute. If you are not a mentally tough young man, then you likely have already been exposed and removed from the First Team Role. The mental toughness is the bigger piece.
I just graduated a Quarterback that started his first year with a 3-3 record as a starter. He was benched once during his sophomore year and didn’t get to start all 9 games. He handled this, not with pouting, but with poise and believed he could lead and get the job done. He started the next two years and went 17-6, won two District Titles, and played for a State Championship. He finished his career as a starter with a 20-9 record. There was a large amount of mental toughness as he had to manage the benching and the early losses, then grow through that process.
Knowledge of the Game
Next comes Knowledge of the game. My Quarterback knows what a Three Technique is and he knows the difference between Palms (Trap Cover 2) and Country (Cover 4). He knows what a force player is and he knows what the contain defender’s role is on each play. I feel that many coaches are overlooking the teaching of those key metrics. I would suggest that Quarterbacks need to know, and coaches need to require them to know how the game is structured, its rules, and its style so that they can be more successful. It then leads right into that your Quarterback knowing your system to mastery. It is with utmost importance that you select a gym rat that loves the game, wants to learn your system and is willing to spend time in the offseason in your system so that he knows it inside and out.
Lastly, Leadership is the main component of a winning Quarterback. There are other traits that matter such as arm strength, running ability, and so on, but all fall away in the face of leadership. A Quarterback must be able to lead and he must lead by example. He must be a leader during weight lifting, during conditioning, during drills, and during team periods. He must lead when you win and lead when you lose. He must go out and do public service and lead fundraisers. In short, he needs to be the billboard of your program. He has to be the same leader in the classroom that he is on the field. He may not be the team’s best player (although that helps), but he must be the guy that everyone rallies around. If the guy you have selected is not that guy, then you might need a new guy.
I do not think great Quarterbacks come out of a box, they are molded, trained and are built through good coaching. However, there are innate skills that some people possess that others do not. Some people are born with certain traits that make them more likely to be leaders and some people do not have those skill sets. I think it’s important that a coach begins by isolating and finding these traits as soon as possible when he starts interacting with players.
I just graduated as a quarterback that rewrote the record books at Emmett High School. He was a scrawny, weak, and shy freshman, but as I watched him play the game, I saw him in his element. He was charismatic on the field, he had no fear, and he was confident, poised and dripped with the desire to win. Those traits showed me he was our guy. Even as a sophomore, he got benched a few times for mistakes and grew through that, becoming the greatest Quarterback our school has ever seen. This ability to bounce back from adversity and overcome defeat to lead a diverse group made him our guy. The acquisition of your guy is critical and a decision that will drive the trajectory of your program.