We salute the Quarterback
In order for a quarterback to be good at their position, he must possess not just athletic skill, but other intangibles that most other positions in football and other sports does not require.
Attention to detail, the patience to study film, the preparation to not just read the playbook, but be able to understand it and teach it those around you.
In baseball, players have to know a few signs. In hockey, players have to understand the forecheck and defensive zone play. In basketball, a player has to know a couple different offensive and defensive schemes.
A football player has to know an entire binder of plays knowing that one mistake can cause a broken play that could result in a turnover that could result in the loss of a game that could result in the end to a season.
And then there is the quarterback. Not only does he have to know his job on each play in that binder, he has to know everyone else’s job as well, including the opposing defense.
Is playing quarterback the toughest position in sports?
It’s one thing to want to be the quarterback in the back yard or on the playground. It’s an entirely different responsibility to lead a team’s entire offense.
In this issue of Let’s Play Football we highlight several high school quarterbacks who are having very good seasons. These players may not be destined for the NFL, but they have proven on the high school gridiron that they can play the position and play it well.
One thing we learned about these young men is there is a lot more to a quarterback than the ability to chuck a football. In fact, for an athlete to succeed at the quarterback position, arm strength and accuracy is just one of several components he must possess. Many attributes don’t even involve athletic ability, but the ability to truly understand the game, be a leader in the locker room and on the field, not just watch but study countless hours of film, and then translate what one sees on that film to the field come Friday night.
It truly takes a special person to be a top-end quarterback. The time put into the position is more than any other position in sports. No other athlete is required to watch hours of video, studying the smallest of details just to find the one wrinkle in the defense that might give him a small window for success.
All the great quarterbacks we have seen play in the NFL over the years are not just talented throwers, but obsessive about their craft. The best ones are also uber-competitive.
Tom Brady certainly wasn’t an athletic specimen coming out of college, but it was his competitive nature and impeccable preparation that helped him evolve into the most successful quarterback the game has seen. We can be in awe of Patrick Mahomes’ athletic ability, but we don’t give enough credit for how brilliant he is at reading defenses and making plays other quarterbacks wouldn’t dare try. Kirk Cousins is arguably one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the world, which goes to show how difficult the position is. With 32 NFL teams, maybe half of those teams have a quarterback that is considered above average and has a secure starting job.
There is enormous pressure that comes with playing the position, which likely scares a lot of kids away from playing it. For those who do line up under center, they understand that playing quarterback is like hitting a baseball. Perfection is something to certainly strive for, but will never be achieved. A good quarterback must have the inherited nature to brush off a bad play and look forward to the next one.
Short memories are essential at this position and requires a mind that won’t dwell on mistakes but instead find ways to fix them.
A quarterback’s mind must be able to make lightning quick decisions, looking for seams in routes where they can place a ball in a small window giving their receiver a chance to make a play while avoiding an opportunity for the defender to make an interception.
After making that decision they still have to make a throw with the precision a surgeon would envy. And they have to do it all with bodies and arms flailing in front of them with very large men trying to bring them down and pile on top of them.
If football isn’t the toughest position to play in all of sports it certainly has to be the toughest one to master.
That explains why the very best of them make upwards of $40 to $50 million a year. There simply isn’t very many great ones much less very good ones at the NFL level.
That’s why we felt a need to tip our cap to not just those quarterbacks featured in these pages of LPF, but to all those who have the courage to take on such an arduous task that requires a tremendous level of responsibility.
We salute you.