Quarterback is one of the most enticing positions in all of American football.
When you turn on the television, you hear plenty of analysts and other sports media influencers either rave or play down the NFL's poster children, the Quarterbacks.
So with all of this media attention and large contracts being given out to these quarterbacks in the pros, what do quarterbacks do every game?
So what does a quarterback do?
As we have touched on before in our 4 Reasons Why Quarterback is the Hardest Position in Football article, it is very important for a quarterback to be the commander of the team.
In 2021, 21 of the 32 NFL teams had their starting signal-caller as one of their team captains.
This stat alone is to show that just over 65% of starting quarterbacks are captains of their respective ball clubs.
Leading an entire team is more than giving the classic motivational speech at halftime or more than breaking down the huddle after the play is called.
It is becoming a well-liked individual with the ability to prove yourself worthy of becoming a leader of your respective franchise.
In a basic quote from a dummies.com article,
"He calls the plays in the huddle, yells the signals at the line of scrimmage, and then receives the ball from the center. Then he hands off the ball to a running back, throws it to a receiver, or runs with it."
These basic responsibilities are all part of being a leader of a team.
You hear a lot of athletes spew about how they watch film and understand their upcoming opponent for the game in the approaching week.
But no one watches more film than the quarterback.
Note: Obviously, yes, an offensive lineman or another position can outwatch a quarterback, but it should be the job of the quarterback to study more than everyone else.
To quickly summarize, a must for a successful quarterback is to prepare themselves and their teammates before the game. They must watch and review previous mistakes and future opponents alike to increase their chances of obtaining a victory.
What is watching film?
Watching film is stated here in a Bleacher Report article:
"Everyone in the NFL watches film in preparation for the game the coming week. Every player starts the week after a game by breaking down the previous game as a unit or in positional meetings.
The coaches will correct mistakes individually and as a unit. Great coaches take the time to teach the correct techniques and to show players where they can improve."
This quote explains that after a game or practice, the team and coaches will collectively watch that specific game/practice and will explain wrong-doings, or compliment players (although rare) on good plays.
Another quote from the same article:
"Once the previous week’s game is dissected and graded, players have to move on to the upcoming opponent. Players, especially quarterbacks, will get a jump on the opponent that same night. If the team played on Sunday, most starting quarterbacks will be watching the next opponent most of Monday night. "
They specifically mention quarterbacks in their responsibility to get ahead of schedule and watch film of their opponent from the impending week.
To build off of the previous point, executing a game plan is very much based on the film that was watched during the week.
Fixing prior issues and planning for the upcoming opponent is all part of making a game plan.
As a quarterback, it is your responsibility to execute the game plan that your coaches craft for you and your offensive teammates.
To reiterate from our previous article, a multitude of plays need to be memorized.
These plays may seem simple on paper, but require quite a lot of "football IQ" to understand all that goes into one play.
For example, as stated in our previous article,
Play calls will vary depending on the level of football you are competing at, but at the highest level, expect a long, grocery like list of words that translates to formations, play types, offensive line protection, and cadence.
What is a game plan?
The official definition is "a strategy worked out in advance, especially in sports, politics, or business."
For Football specifically, a game plan is creating a multi-dimensional sheet of plays for the offense to execute based on certain defensive alignments and techniques that they saw on film.
One of the largest parts of being a quarterback is to give the ball out to other players. Whether that's handing the ball off to the running back or is throwing a 50-yard pass to a receiver downfield, it's the quarterback's job to deliver.
Every quarterback does such a job differently than others. Labels and narratives are formed for every quarterback, describing their play.
As a quarterback, there are plenty of different labels you can have.
The media likes to divide the quarterbacks into plenty of groups, some of the most popular being:
What is a Game-Manager?
A game manager is an accurate, intelligent, decisive thrower of the football. They will rarely force passes downfield, taking fewer risks than any other "archetype" of quarterback.
A downside for this archetype would be their non-risky behavior, they will rarely make big splash plays that are usually needed to win close games.
A few perfect examples of pro-quarterbacks that are of this archetype are Drew Brees, Alex Smith, and some would argue a legend like Tom Brady.
What is a Gun-Slinger?
This is personally my favorite type of quarterback as they bring big plays quite often, forcing risky passes down the field, and they usually have quite a bit of trust in their receivers. They will throw players open with pure-arm talent.
A drawback for this archetype is that with their big risks, there will be consequences, such as idiotic interceptions and pass breakups.
A few examples of this type of signal-caller are as follows; Brett Favre, Philip Rivers, and the up and coming superstars, Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, and Justin Herbert.
What is a Duel-Threat?
A dual-threat quarterback is the new age of quarterback. These players are usually much faster, elusive, and agile than normal quarterbacks. They will make beautiful plays with their legs and athleticism. They will extend plays to make a throw downfield or just run away from defenders to pick up positive yardage.
A pitfall of this prototype is that usually, these athletic signal callers have less arm talent than Gun-Slingers. But this issue is slowly going away as new-age quarterbacks like Kyler Murray can do it all. These dual-threats are usually often injured and can be unreliable.
A few examples of this class of quarterback is the legendary Michael Vick, the young phenom in Lamar Jackson, and the aforementioned Kyler Murray.
This is an underrated task for plenty of quarterbacks. As they say "availability is the best ability" and when you are the team's most valuable asset, staying available to play is extremely important.
In an age where passing the ball is as prevalent as ever, the chance of a quarterback taking a painful shot from a defensive lineman is very high.
As mentioned before, dual-threat quarterbacks use their legs to make plays, when doing so you are declared a free-runner and the quarterback-friendly rules no longer apply.
This article by USA Today is a perfect explanation of some of the quarterback-friendly rules that are in play in the NFL.
So, how do quarterbacks protect themselves from injuries?
The best way is as a runner, you slide down before taking a large hit or any impact from a defender. Another way to protect yourself is running out of bounds instead of fighting for more yards.
As a passer, you can get the ball off quickly, in a game-manager style of play, giving the ball quickly to your best playmakers.
A common question that is asked is, why is a quarterback so important to a football team?
To answer such a question, it depends on the offense, but for 99% of offenses, the starting quarterback's availability is nearly directly correlated to wins and losses. Obviously, there are very capable backup quarterbacks, but ensuring your starting signal-caller is available is extremely important.
This article by ducksters, provides us with a quote saying;
"The quarterback is arguably the most important position on a football team. The quarterback leads the offense and sets the tone for the team. The first thing the quarterback does is call the play in the huddle."
Without your leader, an offense can be very lost and clunky. For example, look at what happened when the 2011 Colts lost arguably their franchises' best all-time player in Peyton Manning, due to a season-ending injury.
These are the stats of all the quarterbacks that tried to replicate the success of Peyton Manning:
They combined for a horrid 2-14 record and a combined 3223 passing yardage total. As for a touchdown to interception ratio, they combined for 14 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. That 1:1 ratio is plainly awful.
With Peyton Manning in the year before (2010) his stat line was:
By himself, he had nearly 1,500 MORE yards than the other three quarterbacks! He also had 19 more touchdowns and only 3 more interceptions than those three quarterbacks combined. His touchdown to interception ratio is just under nearly double that of the players after him. (2:1)
Also to mention the most important stat is that the Peyton Manning-led 2010 Colts team went 10-6, miles better than the 2011 Colts that went 2-14.
These stats alone should prove how important a good signal-caller is compared to a below-average one.
Another frequently asked question is do quarterbacks kick the ball?
The short answer is no. The long answer is unless you are in a lower level of football, kicking for a quarterback is extremely rare. Quarterbacks can sometimes punt the ball, to fake out defenders, in a trick-play type of situation. But even this is seen very very rarely.
If you are interested in watching quarterbacks kick because it is so rare, check out this video:
Quarterback is a very difficult job for all levels of football, becoming a successful one requires pre-game work to split-second decision making.
The five tasks we went over were:
All in all, whether you are a fan of Tom Brady or the new-age Patrick Mahomes, these quarterbacks are often taught and go by these same rules. Without these basic fundamentals and rules, quarterbacking would be a lost art.