Now the real fun begins. We are going to start talking about player positions. What they are, what they do and who some of the more well known players in those positions are.
Let’s start with some popular quarterbacks of all time. Can you name any of these famous quarterbacks? Leave a comment with your guess corresponding to the number in the upper left corner of their picture.
The quarterback is probably the most loved and the most hated player on the football team. They get all the attention from the fans and the press and then on game day, they get all the attention from the defensive line.
All this positive and negative attention commands a whopping salary and this year Ben Roethlisberger, of the Pittsburgh Steelers, will make the most of any NFL quarterback in the league with $53 Million over the next two seasons.
Why so much money? Because teams consider the quarterback to be the most important position in professional football, and they will pay these guys accordingly.
So what exactly does the quarterback do? Basically he is like the director of a movie. He is in charge of telling his offense where to go and what to do in order to score. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on the quarterback as all eyes are on him when the play starts.
It starts with the huddle. Before any play starts, the quarterback and the offense get in a group (or huddle) and the quarterback tells his 10 teammates (remember: there are 11 players from each team in each play) what play they are going to execute. He does not decide this on his own. The coaches will tell the quarterback what play to call either by signs from the sideline or if it is a pro game, the quarterback will have a small radio in his helmet to hear the play from the coach.
**Interesting fact: If you see a green dot or sticker on the back of a professional football helmet, this means it has an electronic device in it!
The first line of offense is usually a tackle, a guard, the center, another guard, another tackle and a tight end. The quarterback will line up behind the center (the player in the middle) at the start of each play. The center is usually a very big guy that hikes or “snaps” the ball to the quarterback. Depending on the play, the quarterback will drop back or take 3, 5 or 7 steps back to figure out what he is going to do with the ball.
Sometimes the offense will line up and the quarterback decides that the play they were about to execute won’t work, and the quarterback may decide in the last few seconds to change the play. This is called an “audible“, changing the play at the line of scrimmage (where the play starts).
If the play is going to be a passing play, the 6 guys will create what is called the pocket after the ball is snapped, so that if the quarterback takes 3, 5 or 7 steps back, (also called dropping back), he is protected and has time to throw the ball.
Sometimes the quarterback will will start the play 6-8 yards behind the center instead of taking steps back. This is called lining up in the shotgun formation. The center will hike the ball through the air and the quarterback will catch it. This allows the quarterback to see the defense and his own receivers better and decide who to throw the ball too. The only problem with this sort of play is that if the quarterback starts out in shotgun formation, the defense assumes he is going to throw a pass and it makes it easier for them to defend. There are exceptions when the quarterback still gets in shotgun position and hands off the ball to a running back instead of passing.
The quarterback’s main job is to get rid of the football as quickly and accurately as possible all the while the defense is going to do everything they can to prevent the quarterback from executing the play. It takes a lot of athletic ability and mental strength to be a quarterback.
Here are 8 qualities a quarterback must have to be successful:
- Arm Strength – The quarterback needs a certain amount of strength in his arm in order to throw the football at a high speed. The goal is to complete a pass before the defense can do anything to react to it.
- Accuracy – There is a small window of time while the quarterback is in the pocket and a receiver downfield is open to complete a pass. A quarterback must be accurate at throwing, so the receiver can catch it, as well as strong.
- Leadership – A quarterback is the team’s offensive leader. He should be willing to work the hardest, be courageous and set a good example on and off the field. Along with the desire to win, a good quarterback should want to see his teammates do well. He should be inspiring and encouraging even in the midst of harassment from the other team and fans.
- Intelligence – Quarterbacks need to be “football smart”. In other words, be able to interpret, explain and call plays accurately as well as being skilled to handle pressure. Football teams have a playbook and it’s not for relaxed reading. High school playbooks have the least amount of plays to learn but once you get to college and the pros, there can be as many as 300 plays, running and passing, and a quarterback has to know them all!
- Mobility – A quarterback is not one of the ginormous football players we often think of when it comes to football. They need to be able to move quickly or have good feet, in order to avoid being tackled. The quarterback must have good balance as he is constantly moving forward and backward to execute a play.
- Release – A quarterback that has a quick release means that he is able to get rid of the ball quickly. In other words, as he raises the ball in his hand (like in the photo above) he releases, or quickly brings his arm forward and lets the ball loose. A quick release is one of those things that a player has an inherent ability to do. Throwing a football can be improved upon with practice and training but a quick release is something a good quarterback is born with.
- Size – Size does matter when it comes to quarterbacks and football. Ideally, a quarterback needs to be tall enough to see over the huge linemen in front of him and be able to see down the field to his receivers waiting to catch the ball. College and professional quarterbacks vary in size. The physical demands put on a quarterback during games makes how much he weighs very important. Any good defense is taught to inflict as much pressure (and pain) on the quarterback as possible. So he needs to be in tip top physical condition.
- Vision – A good quarterback can see what is going on around him out of the corner of his eye. All the while he is scanning the field, looking for his receivers, he needs to be able to peripherally see if the defense is close to getting to him and be able to react quickly. Sometimes, after scanning the field for his target, the quarterback will totally shift his focus to another part of the field. This is to trick the defense into thinking he is going that direction instead of where he is really going to go with the ball.
As you can see, the quarterback might just be considered the most valuable player on the team. No other position has to know as much, be able to do as much and think as much as the quarterback. There is a lot to learn when it comes to this position and we have only just begun. Tomorrow we will dig into some of the passing plays quarterbacks use and what determines which passing play he will call. Passing can be one of the most exciting parts of a football game so stay tuned…..