QB Thought process for analyzing a pass play
I. What is the defensive personnel in the game?
- A. What are the protection capabilities?
- B. What does it take to “go hot” — i.e. a sight adjust or automatic route (if applicable to the protection call); in other words, who must blitz to trigger this?
- C. What does it take for a route adjustment from the receivers?
II. What is my pre-snap read?
- A. Is the theory of the play acceptable when compared to the anticipated defense? (Is the defense still shifting?)
- If not acceptable, what is the best available audible?
- If acceptable (pre-snap, at least), are there route adjustments based on the pre-snap alignment of the secondary? Does the drop need to change?
- A. What is my read (be alert for secondary rotation)?
- B. What is my progression?
- If man?
- If zone?
- Who do I “see” (if zone)?
- C. What is my drop?
IV. Game situation in decision making process
- A. Down and distance (time)
- B. Match-ups by personnel (where are our studs?)
- C. Best route runner for specific situations
Hat tip to Bill Mountjoy for the above.
Update: A few extra notes on the above.
One, one question was about why the QB has “what drop is it” under post-snap rather than pre-snap. The basic answer is that he doesn’t actually do it until after the snap, but that gets to the larger point that the quarterback’s concerns are driven by the playcall.
It seems like a lot, but practicing this stuff over and over again makes it manageable. It counsels for not giving a guy so many concepts he can’t master them all. Mike Leach throws the ball more than anyone in the country but maybe has the fewest pass plays. He has like 10-12, and his quarterback can check to any one he wants at any time. There’s wisdom in that.
Some of the things on the list are play-specific, while others are done on every play. When a QB gets to the line he scans the defense, but doesn’t just look at it randomly.
One team I know coaches it this way: QB begins by looking at the corner to his left (defense’s right corner). What is the corner doing? Press man (looking at the QB?), or zone (looking at you)? The QB then scans his eyes across to the safeties (how deep are they? where are they on the field? in the middle, or on the hashes (cover 2)?), then to the cornerback on his right right (defense’s left cornerback). The QB then brings his eyes across at the linebackers’ level, asking himself, Where are they? Where is the run strength? Are they sitting back for zone? Are they up on their toes to blitz? He also looks to the defensive line in their peripheral vision as he goes. (On run plays, can look at them a little closer.) Then he scans back to the cornerback on his left again, and repeats the whole process.
Some teams too, to further emphasize the quarterback’s reading (and interpreting) the defense, put the number of safeties in the cadence. (“Go! 2! 2! Set, Hut!”) If ask some QBs how many safeties there were, he may shrug, but if you put it in the cadence he is sure to know.
Finally, again, the playcall dictates what the QB looks at. If it is a play-action pass he’s thinking about whether he needs to check out of it because the protection won’t hold. If it is a run — particularly a trap play or an option — he’s thinking about whether to check the play to the opposite side because of defensive numbers, or the alignment of the defensive line. On passes the QB wants to know if the cornerbacks are playing soft or up. If soft, and if the linebackers are tight to the formation, maybe a run will get stuffed so he wants to check to a quick outside pass (this can also be done just by a “look” between QB and receiver).