The expectations for quarterbacks in the NFL are huge, from coaches, players, and especially the fans. They’re the leader of the team and the face of a franchise. Every move they make is scrutinized and the pressure can be intense. It takes a special player to put all that aside and go out and play their best.
So what are the skills a quarterback needs to be successful? There is so much preparation involved with being a quarterback, from honing their natural throwing ability, to studying the weekly game plan, to staying cool under pressure when things aren’t going their way. Whether they’re a Hall of Famer like Johnny Unitas or an up and comer and possible number one draft pick like Kentucky’s Will Levis, to be a great NFL quarterback, they will need a variety of talents to be a success.
When a quarterback has a cannon for an arm, no receiver is out of reach on the field and defenses have to account for that. With a quarterback behind center who is a deep ball threat, it keeps the defense honest and opens up the possibilities for an offense to succeed.
One of the most important abilities for an NFL quarterback is to be precise with their throws. In college, the game is slower and quarterbacks can watch their receivers get open and make the throw to them. In the NFL, defenders are faster and throws have to be based on timing. A quarterback only has a few precious seconds before the pocket collapses, so they need to make their throw before the receiver has even finished running their pattern. Quarterbacks throw to a spot where the receiver is going to be, so to be a success, it’s vital to be accurate.
Knowledge of the Game
Quarterbacks are required to know their playbook backwards and forwards. Not only do they need to know their own assignment, they need to know what everyone else is doing so if someone is in the wrong position, they can adjust them so everyone is on the same page.
Quarterbacks study hours of game film to learn about opposing defenses. They need to look at a lineup before the snap and be able to recognize what the defense plans to do. If the offense isn’t set up for success, they must audible into a more favorable play. Quarterbacks with the ability to learn defensive habits set themselves apart.
Being smart with the football is another common trait among great quarterbacks. When a play isn’t working, sometimes the right decision is to throw the ball away or take the sack to avoid an even bigger loss. Quarterbacks who are too risky can lead their teams into bad situations by throwing interceptions, which can be devastating.
Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game of football and quarterbacks who can manage them effectively give their teams a better chance of winning. A quarterback who doesn’t use injuries as an excuse for poor play is an inspiration for their team and a common trait of many successful quarterbacks.
Successful quarterbacks often seem to know when a defender is about to hit them and can make the throw just in time. They have a keen sense of anticipation, almost like they have eyes in the back of their head. There is a glaring difference between quarterbacks who have this ability and those who don’t. Quarterbacks with pocket presence keep their eyes downfield until the very last second, giving their receivers the chance to make a play. Quarterbacks often take a hit from a defender after doing this, but it’s a small price to pay for the success of the team.
Quarterbacks who can escape the defense and extend a play are a sought-after commodity in today’s NFL. They duck or turn away from defenders and use their feet to create separation, which buys them time for their receivers to get open. They’re able to avoid sacks and keep their team in the best position to win.
Successful quarterbacks study the fundamentals of the game. They practice footwork, the throwing position of their arm, and anything else that eliminates sloppy play. Using repetition, they hone these skills until they become second nature, so they don’t have to think about them when the game is on the line.
Making It Look Easy
Great quarterbacks often seem like they’re unstoppable, but their success comes from an immense amount of preparation. They’ve worked to minimize their weaknesses and get the most out of their natural ability. It’s all in the quest for their team to win throughout the season, the playoffs, and ultimately, the Super Bowl.