But there are lingering questions about both Smith and Reid. I’ll let others address whether the Chiefs overpaid for Smith, but I’m still not so sure that the fit is as good as it would seem. As is West Coast offense tradition, when Reid’s offense was at its best, it was as much about throwing vertically — with deep passes to Terrell Owens or DeSean Jackson breaking open a game — as it was about short passes underneath. Smith has never been known for his ability to throw the ball down the field. And of course, one of the biggest knocks on Reid in Philadelphia was that he would never stick with the run; much of Smith’s success in San Francisco came when supported by Harbaugh’s deep commitment to a power running game.
This is the specter that hangs over this trade and the marriage of Smith and Reid: the specter of, well, Jim Harbaugh (scary thought).
Everyone points to the spectacular plays, but it’s making the system’s simple, routine plays that puts Smith in elite company. As Tom Brady is fond of saying, good quarterbacking is often as much about minimizing mistakes and making good plays as it is making great ones. “It really goes down to making routine plays,” West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said after the Mountaineers’ 800 yards of offense against Baylor. “You lose sight of that because everything in your mind goes to great plays.” Dawson’s description may sound bizarre, but true excellence is typically banal. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning each mastered the simple things to the point that they could perform them repeatedly, whenever called upon, no matter the situation. Being a quarterback is maybe most of all about making the difficult look routine and, at the college level, Smith is doing just that.
Coaching is about putting players in positions to succeed. Griffin’s potential is nearly limitless, but as a rookie playing his first game, he’s not Tom Brady just yet, and asking him to throw 40 or 50 traditional drop-back passes was not going to give Washington its best chance to win. Shanahan has clearly gone into this year with an open mind — something many otherwise excellent pro coaches don’t do often enough — and he’s blended his tried-and-true West Coast/zone-blocking offense with some of the best andsimplest principles Griffin executed so well at Baylor.
I’ve been going through the Smart Football home archives, and I found this old gem: Quarterbacking the Steve Spurrier Way, back from Spurrier’s Florida days (this is from the mid-1990s), where the Ol’ Ball Coach, with some assistance from a slightly mulleted Shane Matthews, demonstrates proper quarterbacking fundamentals. What Steve shows doesn’t feature the latest technology in quarterback mechanics, but the video is exactly right when it says that — for that era, at least — when you’re talking quarterbacks, you’re talking Steve Spurrier. Part 1 of the video is below and Part 2 can be found after the jump.
The video (including in Part 2) doesn’t really cover the schemes Steve used to use back then, but that is something I discuss in The Essential Smart Football, among other topics.
Update: Part 2 is now up, and it can be viewed after the jump. (Apologies for some of the technical difficulties in the quality of the video; it’s obviously from a pretty old VHS tape.)
Ever since the rise of the T-formation and the modern notion of the quarterback as passer and team leader, young QBs have received varying amounts of training for the position. If his father was a coach — like Elway’s was — or if he happened to live in Granada Hills, California, he might learn the sophisticated skills necessary to continue developing. But if not, it was unlikely that he’d ever receive that sort of necessary coaching. The long history of quarterback draft busts has taught us that athletic ability alone does not make a quarterback. A great quarterback is instead one of sport’s oddest confections: He is the athlete whose success depends as much on his brain as on his body. One can’t help but wonder how many would-be great quarterbacks never had the chance to develop because no one taught them the intricacies of the position; like some football equivalent of Gray’s Elegy, who knows how many mute inglorious Mannings remain forever obscure to history.
In recent years, however, the situation has changed. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are harbingers of an approaching age of quarterbacks who are both better athletes and better trained at a young age than ever before. In a decade or so, the debates about a player like Tim Tebow — that NFL teams must choose between quarterbacks who are passers and quarterbacks who are athletes — will seem quaint and ridiculous. Nowadays, coaches at the lower levels put their best, smartest, most charismatic kids at quarterback and develop them. The new age we’re entering will be something of a Hunger Games for young quarterbacks: By the time they reach the NFL draft, they will be among the best, most talented, brightest, and best-trained candidates we’ve ever seen. Instead of asking ourselves what traits we prefer, we’ll be asking why we ever thought we had to choose.
This is exactly the role Tebow should have had in the NFL from day one. Former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels famously traded up to draft Tebow in the first round, an exceedingly high spot for a player that is, and remains, a work in progress. Although it was preposterous when so-called scouts and experts claimed that Tebow should have been converted into a tight end or halfback (he will succeed or fail as a quarterback, the position he has played his entire life), it also was apparent that he needed to make significant progress in a variety of areas to be an effective NFL quarterback. Despite the tenor of the debates, in the NFL player evaluation is less about black-and-whites than it is about shades of grey and the interplay of two factors: roles and value.
Read the whole thing. This was originally intended to be a quick piece but it kind of ballooned out (the subject will do it to you). I do think it’s important to this story that Rex Ryan has been around football for a long time — and his Dad obviously even longer — so the calculus of the quarterback-as-run-threat is not lost on him. But of course Tebow’s long term success will be driven by his ability to read defenses and locate receivers more quickly than he has been able to so far.
From recruiting, to the NFL draft, to just day-to-day coaching, no position gets more scrutiny than the quarterback and no aspect of being a good quarterback is more difficult — or mystifying — than the quarterback’s throwing motion. the question remains: Can a quarterback’s throwing motion be improved?
While reading the article, The Pursuit of the Perfect Throwing Motion by David Flemming, I was intrigued by some of the things he learned from his study. In particular, he discovered throwing the football is the most complex motor skill in all of sports. With most exercise scientists and kinesiologists agreeing, more people are finding out what most coaches have known for quite some time. Changing a quarterbacks throwing motion is challenging and can be flat out intimidating.
Once most people come to this conclusion there tends to be two schools of thought as it relates to changing quarterback throwing mechanics.
It’s all about the footwork (the feet are what throw the ball)
You can’t change a quarterbacks mechanics (he can either throw or he can’t)
This is the dilemma I found myself in as a coach five years ago after getting upset in the first round of the playoffs. Having to watch a very talented sophomore quarterback struggle with his mechanics that season pushed me to a path of pursuit on how to teach the perfect throwing motion. As I began my research through clinics, DVD’s, books, college visits, and local guru’s, I had compiled a list of coaching points like, “Stand tall, step small”; “Flick the booger of the finger”; “Pick the dollar out of the left pocket”; “Turn the key”; “Answer the phone with ball”; “Crush pebbles with your feet” ; “Slap the wall”; “ watch how Brady, Montana, or Elway throw” and the list goes on and on. At the end of it all I was left with a myriad of different philosophies and techniques and the same conclusions that Flemming had in his article. As a result, I had almost submitted my belief on throwing mechanics to one of the two prevailing schools of thought. It wasn’t until I came across a 3 DVD set on Passing Mechanics by Darin Slack that I knew that I had finally found someone who had cracked the code on how to teach and train the most complex motor skill in all of sports. He was explaining the “Why” behind every motion and drill. He was backing every movement up with science and biomechanics. I felt like I had just discovered gold.
I no longer had to submit to the two schools of thought on mechanics and what I didn’t believe to be true. After 5 years of coaching quarterbacks at Jenks High School and working for the Darin Slack Quarterback Academy here is what I have learned as it relates to the two prevailing schools of thought: (more…)
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