Say the word “Quarterback” and what image comes up in your mind? Is he tall? Quick? A leader? Does he have a big arm? Is he even a he?
There is so much more to being a quarterback than just the nuts and bolts of the position in football. A quarterback has to be a Quarterback. A leader on the field and off. Fearless. Strong. Courageous. There are athletes with many of these qualities, so why are there so few real Quarterbacks?
Michael Jordan was a quarterback, so was Magic Johnson. Cal Ripken’s a Quarterback, so is Mia Hamm. None of them play football, but all have the Quarterback’s sensibilities. Awareness. Instinct and a sense for the dramatic.
The quarterback is usually the best athlete on the field. Especially in recreational and high school play, a coach takes the best athlete and says “you’re the quarterback.” Then the coach proceeds to coach the rest of the team, working on plays, getting the kids who can’t catch to at least try and trying to bring the kids who can’t play to a level where they might be able to do something. And the quarterback stands there. He’s still the fastest, throws it great and loves to play, but it’s all natural.
Too many coaches spend so much time with their deficient players trying to get them to contribute that they forget to coach their good ones. When a quarterback gets to college, most times he’s still a good athlete but ill prepared to do the rudimentary things necessary to be a Quarterback. Footwork, arm angle, defensive reads, for most, they’re foreign languages. Coaches’ sons are the exception, getting that little extra help off the field, preparing them for the next step. When a player arrives in college with most of the fundamentals, the quarterback coach (if there is one) can spend his time on the nuances of the position. If not, there’s a lot of work to be done.
Even in the NFL, quarterback coaches work on the basics every day. Chris Palmer as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars designed specific drills for the quarterbacks in practice, working on fundamental things that carry over into a game.
Add up what it takes to be a Quarterback. Make a list and you’ll find only a handful currently playing who measures up.
It’s the most important position in sports. Sam Huff said about the 1958 and ’59 NFL Championship games, “They had Unitas, we didn’t.” How can one guy determine the outcome of the game, just by walking on the field? He can if he’s a Quarterback.