Welcome back to Quarterback Tips. Today we’re going to continue where we left off in Part one.
As in part one, the list of skills and abilities that we’re going to look at come from some extremely credible sources; a 3-time Super Bowl Champion head coach, and a gentleman with nearly 30 years of scouting experience at the NFL level.
Of course, I’m speaking of the late great Bill Walsh, and Greg Gabriel from the National Football Post, a gentleman with nearly 30 years of NFL experience in scouting. If you want to personally check out their articles on the topic, check out Bill Walsh’s How I Evaluate Each Position: Quarterback and Gabriel’s Scouting Quarterbacks from the National Football Post.
Spin. Gabriel mentions that players with average arms can still be successful if they have good spin on the ball when they let it go. Gabriel on what he looks for in ball spin:
When the ball comes out of the quarterback’s hands I look for a ball that has a tight spin and doesn’t flutter. A tight ball has a chance to “cut” through wind, but if a quarterback throws a loose ball the wind will take it all over the place.
Ability to play injured. Coach Walsh on why quarterbacks need to be able to play injured:
Quarterbacks must be able to function while injured. The pro season is about twice as long and more punishing than a college season. They are vulnerable to getting hit hard every time they pass. They must be able to avoid being rattled, get up and show they are in control and can continue to lead the offense.
“Spontaneous genius.” This is a term that Coach Walsh used to describe a quarterback’s ability to make good decisions on-the-fly in crucial moments during the game.
Coach Walsh on why it’s so important:
The single trait that separates great quarterbacks from good quarterbacks is the ability to make the great, spontaneous decision, especially at a crucial time… This is where the great quarterback uses his experience, vision, mobility and what we will call spontaneous genius. He makes something good happen. This, of course, is what we saw in Joe Montana when he pulled out those dramatic victories for Notre Dame.
Instincts and intuition. Coach Walsh on the importance of these two attributes:
…there must be instincts and intuition. This is the area that can be the difference between a very solid quarterback and a great quarterback. This isn’t an area you can do much with as a coach. You can certainly bring a quarterback up to a competitive standard, but to reach greatness the quarterback must possess that inherently…
Gabriel on instincts:
To be a successful quarterback in the NFL you have to have outstanding instincts. He has to anticipate and understand things extremely well. Intelligence is important, but in my view instincts are even more important. There have been many great quarterbacks through the years that didn’t have great natural intelligence but their instincts for the game were off the charts.
Ability to read defenses. Coach Walsh stated that this is not something they expect college quarterbacks coming into the league to be able to do right away. One of the things he paid attention to when evaluating this ability in
quarterbacks, is whether or not they’re able to consistently locate his secondary or emergency outlet receivers with ease, or with a frantic sense of desperation.
Coach Walsh went on to give a clear example of what he looked for when evaluating a passer’s ability to read defenses:
This should work like a natural progression, not a situation where it’s — “Oh, my gosh, now I must look over here … no, over there.” You can see which quarterbacks handle these situations with grace. These are the types who have a chance to perform with consistency in the NFL.
Ability/scheme match. Gabriel says that this is the first thing he considers when looking at a quarterback. He doesn’t want to waste time analyzing a quarterback that doesn’t have the tools and skillset to run the NFL team’s offense.
Timing. The best quarterbacks play as-if they have an internal, subliminal time clock running that tells them when to throw the ball. Quarterbacks have to instinctively know when to throw the ball, based on each player’s route that they’re running on any given play.
Release. Gabriel says that when he’s analyzing a player’s release, he looks for a tight, compact delivery, because these attributes help the quarterback get the ball off quickly.
Touch. Having a rocket for an arm is useless, if you can’t throw the ball in a manner that it’s catchable. That’s the definition of touch. Walsh on the importance of touch:
Touch is important, especially in a medium range passing game. One of Joe Montana’s most remarkable skills was putting the right touch on a pass so that it was easily catchable by a receiver, who often did not have to break stride.
Quick delivery. Walsh on what he looked for when he evaluated the quickness of a passer’s delivery of the ball:
…one that is not telegraphed to help the defense, gives the quarterback an advantage when he finds his intended target. That’s when it is essential to get the ball “up and gone” with no wasted motion. Some of this can be acquired by learning proper technique. to a certain degree, a quick release is related to a quarterback’s reaction time between spotting his receiver and getting the ball “up and gone.’
Arm strength. Coach Walsh and Gabriel both agreed on the fact that arm strength isn’t as important as many people make it out to be. In his article, Gabriel says that arm strength is more important in colder environments:
If you’re looking for a quarterback to play in Chicago, Buffalo or New York, arm strength can be more important because of weather conditions. Players with weak arms are going to struggle in those places.
Observing the Skills In-Action
Well, it doesn’t take a scout to see that Aaron Rodgers has a cannon for an arm. His arms strength is on display play after play on the video. Remember when Gabriel said that arm strength is more important in colder climates? Mr. Rodgers here plays in Green Bay. ‘Nuff said.
I know you can see his quick delivery in multiple plays on the video, but check out the red zone play at the :39 second mark. That’s the kind of quick delivery scouts want to see in quarterbacks. If you pay close attention to his throwing motion, that’s the compact delivery that Gabriel looks for.
Check out the play at the :52 mark. He hits Driver on the out in the red zone the split-second Driver made his cut and headed towards the sideline. The play at the 1:18 mark shows his exception timing as well. Notice how he threw the ball at the exact right moment… there was only a small window of time between when the receiver made his break, and when the ball needed to get there, before the receiver ran out of bounds.
Even though we featured footwork and accuracy in Part 1 with Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers has the footwork and accuracy that are extremely important traits to have in a quarterback that’s running your West Coast Offense. This obviously means he’d get a passing grade on Gabriel’s scheme match checkbox, if he was scouting for the Packers.
If you play close attention, you’ll notice that Rodgers’ targets very rarely have to work hard to catch one of the balls he throws. That’s because regardless of the distance of the throw, Aaron has a tendency and the ability to put touch on the ball to make it more catchable for the receiver.
Former NFL QB and current-day announcer Rich Gannon was even quoted as saying Rodgers was “a very instinctive player”, who “knows exactly where the pressure is coming from in the pocket.” Obviously to earn that kind of praise, you need to be instinctive, and be able to read defenses.
And he can play injured. He endured two concussions in the 2010 season and still lead the Packers to a Super Bowl championship. He also played in the 2011 Super Bowl with a shoulder injury.
And last, but not least, Rodgers definitely has the “spontaneous genius” that Coach Walsh spoke of. The man has came-up clutch in several games and nail bittin’ situations over his short career. Out of the several on the video, check out the play at the 1:27 mark. As soon as the first defender missed him, he instinctively knew to scramble for the goal line. He didn’t even hesitate.
I wanna hear from you. Did we leave anything out? Let us know in the comments!
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