Bill Walsh and Joe Montana on the fundamentals of quarterbacking

Old but good stuff from the master:

Walsh’s progression of teaching is the same one I have long used and advocated:

1. Before they can throw, quarterbacks have to learn to make good drops. I’ll make them take drops for 50 yards until they learn to do it and I’ll let them throw.

2. Then we work on 3-step concepts, hitch, slant, and the fade. Use the Airraid Pat And Go drill.

3. Then when you begin working on the five-step drops (three-steps from shotgun), the first routes you work on are the 10-12 yard speed out (6 vertical steps to 10 yards and then two “roll” or speed steps to the sideline at 12 yards), the five-step skinny post and the vertical “Go” route. Each is thrown off of 5-steps (or three from gun) on rhythm — i.e. once the fifth step hits it is “plant and throw” and there is no hitch up step. I do these first because it teaches the quarterback rhythm, timing, footwork, and how to transfer his weight on drops to his throw. And you quickly find out who can do it: If a quarterback can’t throw these routes on rhythm, he can’t be the quarterback in a pass first offense. In high school if a guy can’t make the 12 yard speed out throw to the wide side that’s okay, but he should be able to throw the skinny post to the wide side and the speed out to the boundary.

4. The five-steps and hitch step come in on the next set of routes, which in a quarterback’s progression should be the second read — the quarterback’s reads sync up with his feet. These routes are the 12-yard curl, snag routes, and so on.

Once these fundamentals are in, you keep working on them throughout the season as you pull him along Boise State’s Chris Petersen’s stages of quarterback development:

  • Strict progression. Tell him to read first receiver, second receiver, and then third receiver — and then run like hell if they aren’t open. In Petersen’s view, if they don’t know anything else they can know, by rote memory, who they are supposed to throw to. This doesn’t require them to have any advance knowledge of the defense and it is where every quarterback begins.
  • Progression with coverage keys. The same progression concept as above except that the progression and sequence of receivers is determined by what the defense is doing. How many safeties are there? What kind of leverage are you getting from the cornerbacks? Is it a blitz? Is it man or zone? Once you’ve determined that, it’s one-two-three.
  • Coverage reads. This is the advanced NFL stuff: Tom Brady sees the defense doing X, so he looks one way and then rifles it back to the receiver he always knew he was going to because he understood the coverage, he understood the technique the defense was playing, and he understood the theory of the play he was running. There are few, if any, college quarterbacks who ever do this kind of thing.

  • Good stuff Chris

  • Mr.Murder

    The Walsh footsteps to timed throws video on youtube is what I used to teach my passer the footwork from day one. Usually play the thing while he’s throwing and you will see the Qb listening(one two threw, throw) and he will time it out.

    Got to where I could count to the fifth step and call the ball out on the route and it was automatic.

    He did it so well the coach of the team who won the title in our league used my quarterback’s film to teach his quarterback how to hitch step on throws. Told my quarterback that he was using the hitch step and developed that from watching our play, when I watched him warming up the week before we played. He told me”yeah their head coach filmed me in games and warmups and used it as an instructional video for his team.” That is how I watched their passer grow in his mechanics because to start the season all he used was his arm, and he was good, but he became very good with the feet used as part of the equation, as he watched my guy and started to copy the hitch and you could see his improvement.

    Credit goes to coach Walsh.

    My guy fell in love with the hitch step though, and would take it every time. Told him sometimes you have to throw without a hitch because it may give a defender time to break on the ball for defenders looking in, like on safety help or loose man(matchup zone) coverage to deeper targets on the outside, and especially some quicks.

    Where Walsh did the countdown(one, two, three, hitch) and five hitch, we’d do it on certain plays in practice and it was automatic, the timing and tempo. My Qb would go home and watch the entire series on it and every time the technique needed reinforcement Walsh’s words were repeated to him in practice or games. Usually could correct any throwing flaws with such a reminder. If his feet aren’t moving right he will usually cross his body and improper tortion will have him push through a pass. Footwork is critical to helping his torso aim the ball and deliver it with consistency. Velocity and accuracy are essential, the past methods seen teaching usually only stress one of the two items, though Walsh clearly stated that a touch pass was more catchable and far more important.

    Combine the Walsh footwork instruction with the Slack system for technique and progression and you’ve broken the code of critical quarterback mechanics.

    You cannot always set the feet just right but when you pass with purpose you move them in concert with the plan of where you deliver the football. Other drills and reps can be used for the times you can’t do it. Most of our plays were from empty sets or with a half roll so it was often kind of  a fire drill, and his footwork at those times was amazing given the pressure faced and how well he took care of the football, the game clock, and even in throwing the ball away to try on another down.

  • Will Veatch

    A variation of the progression with keys approach is having the QB read the defense pre-snap to see where he will “probably” throw, though the order of the progression does not change.  Running Airraid Mesh vs. 2 safeties, the QB knows he will read the CB high/low and will probably hit the corner route or the RB swing.  Vs. single safety he knows he’ll more likely see C3 or man so he will read the OLB in/out and probably hit the crosser.  This gives the QB more confidence and anticipation but keeps the simplicity of the unchanging progression.  Kind of like when area scheme pass protectors look pre-snap for the defender they will probably block.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing these videos.  This is awesome, especially for a 49ers fan like me.  Watching Walsh, Montana, Jones, Craig, and Sapolu really brought back some great memories.