New Grantland: Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III: The Future Is Now — The stars are aligning for a generation of great NFL quarterbacks

It’s now up over at Grantland:

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.

Read the whole thing here.

  • I’m not trying to be a dick, but ”
    I’m even more confident that in 10 years, if not Luck and Griffin, many others will have risen to the challenge.” is literally one of the dumbest sentences I have ever read.  Way to go out on a limb and suggest there will still be QBs in 10 years.  Also, a pretty weak ass hedge after a touting Luck/RGIII so much in that story.

  • smartfootball

    If you read it in context, it’s clear that what I’m saying is that RG3 and Luck are part of a larger trend, and it’s that larger trend that I’m describing — ever better QB products and candidates. It’s important to the story that it’s not just about Luck and Griffin. No one else had any issues understanding that.

  • It’s funny that whenever someone says “I’m not trying to be a dick,” it’s followed by a completely dickish statment.  Regardless of whether or not you were justifiably confused by the statement in the article, there were many, many more diplomatic ways to express that feeling than the way that you chose. 

  • Chris, let me preface this by saying I know nothing about the quarterback position (other than what I’ve gathered from a fan’s perspective – no training, no books read, no first hand experience of coaching whatever).

    But I bet I can predict who will be a good and a bad quarterback, and here’s why.

    There’s too many variables that go into the decision, who is the coach, who is the quarterbacks coach, who is the receiver, who is the running back, ‘who is the defense’ – what is the division. (even who is the backup quarterback!) But the one constant is mental attitude and work ethic. The work ethic of a 7th rounder or an undrafted kid who is maybe the 6th best can go on to be the best there ever was, while the first pick in the draft is going to be the last.

    When Manning was drafted and asked what he was going to do with his signing bonus, he said ‘earn it’. He was so perverse he went to wendy’s and sat in the parking lot eating in the car by himself. He purposely had nothing at his apartment so he would have nothing to come home to after school. His parents allowed him to be so one-sided in life (not knowing how to use a can opener, not knowing how to order take out, not knowing how to choose proper suit colors) that he was allowed to be totally and utterly consumed by activities related to progression in one thing – his field of study. [see polian’s comments on about what Manning would do after each pro bowl].
    Brady even said point blank ‘hey, drafter’s are idiots but they’re right. I should’ve been drafted in the 6th round. Mel Kiper shows he’s an idiot because he thinks he made a mistake. I was one of the worst quarterbacks. I didn’t listen to my coaches. I didn’t do what it took to improve each day. I *became* the quarterback whose daily habits, when so aligned after many days and years, corresponded to a work ability that in comparison to others was superior”. That work ethic is entirely and utterly perverse – no one but a masochist likes to get that uncomfortable, almost impossible on the nervous system, in order to take on the daily habits required to force brain stem regulated habit relegation. Now what Manning and Brady do is so engrained it causes withdrawal – they cant *not* act out of synch with habits corresponding to activities that maximize progress. The same with brees (who also was rightly drafted in the 2nd round).

    My point is the riddles of comfort and the riddles habit ritualization will do more for prediction than 10 billion dollars and 1,000 Mayocks and Kipers (or nytimes football blog 🙁 ). I’ll leave with this

    ” the tiniest seed in the right situation.. can turn into the most beautiful forrest.. while the most promising seed, in the wrong situation, turns into nothing.”  Carson Palmer / (Brady had bledsoe) / feast on the ideas

  • Gladwell’s ‘blink’ is sort of spot on with talent evaluation – I got that feeling when watching Hakeen Nicks. This is going to sound Horrid but the ability to make ‘blink’ decisions is what Grigson used to sell himself on with Jim Irsay (lol) and he got the job! And Polian admitted that the * gut feeling * is the same (he also said he couldn’t draft offensive lineman because he couldn’t get *that sense* with them).

    Personally, I only get it with Richardson, Justin Blackmon, and Wilson. I haven’t watched enough tape of anyone else.
    I don’t get it with Luck. Nor Griffin.

    I’ll make this statement – who will be the best quarterback (or if either of them turn out to be better than average) can be done easily by a thought experiment. Their wive’s divorce them. The city turns on them. The owner calls them out, and everyone (we’ll let the fiance’ support them still) is against them. The world is set aflame.
    What do they do?
    No one keeps up that standard of performance unless they are addicted to doing it, and its their scape goat (see Bryant during his court trial). Maybe 1 % of humans respond to the world being set aflame in their life and at work but going to work and working with passion – it just doesn’t happen.
    I think RG3’s Dad might be the assist here, and the same with Luck. I get a feeling how they’re dad’s support them and moms and wife tell more about it than anything else. I think RG3’s dad’s role (very uncommon relationship) will save him. Luck maybe a little, but he isn’t perverted to the passion, so I don’t expect him to be great. He’ll be pretty good, but you cant force it

    I had a sense of it in Maurice Jones Drew, Demeco Ryans (not addai) and I was also once sold on AJ Hawk (blame Brent Mustberger’s glorication of his own game’s athletes on that one).

  • (Steve Jobs & Manning) – sorry, I wrote about all this last night, so your getting a torrent of ideas for free, but Manning, when the team was wretchid, cried after his first game because they lost. (no big deal, they lost, people cry, sometimes they’re naive, not that big of a deal – but no, it didn’t matter, he was so ridiculous he cried because his soul was on the line to win, on a bad team, with no chance).
    It reminds me of Steve Jobs profile on 60 minutes where, when he was discussing why he went with the ‘think different’ marketing campaign, he talked about to Walter Isaacson (The biographer) the idea of changing the world, and he turned around to Isaacson and tears were in his eyes.
    From changing the world?
    Is this for real?
    Well it happened.
    Manning cried.
    In his first game.
    On a team that was bad.
    I mean this is just so uncommon and odd and crazy.

    Watch this interview:

    There’s just too much going on in his character profile to be successful – he’s a well rounded individual, but that’s not a hall of fame or pro bowl quarterback. (maybe a pro bowl I don’t know, but outliers is what matters, not carson palmer 1-2 season guys). There’s just too many ‘brain rewards’ other than his devoted *sole reward* for that work ethic to overcome obstacles and other brain ‘entrancers’ – compare Luck’s responses (he keeps mentioning soccer and xbox – all flags) with Manning. (Myron Rolle – I can promise you, is a different person from when he was studying at oxford, where he devotes an entirely huge portion of his day, more than ever before, to football – and he’s a backup thats hoping to make the steelers. There’s something to be siad about football players not being prepared for life, and being like ‘gladiatorial anmals’ – the hall of famers need ‘bail outs’ in the form of support systems to allow their one sidedness to not ruin them as humans (manning waited for children until 34 – both him and Eli married by the time they were 2 years in NFL).
    There’s probably more psychology and ideas in quarterback play than in Nature Reviews.

  • You’re forgetting to mention one important piece of information: RG3’s poor Wonderlic score.

    No current elite NFL quarterback scored under 25.

  • Eric Hoffpauir

    Yeah. Generally, a statement beginning with “I’m not _____, but” means that they are about to confirm that they are _____. (racist, sexist, an asshole, etc.)

  • Hi Chris,

    I am a big fan of your blog, been reading it for a year now. May I ask what truly separate a conventional college Quarterback from a Pro Quarterback? Here are some I can think of:

    1) Pocket presence, being about to step up into the pocket when needed
    2) Being about to keep eyes down field when facing pressure
    3) Reading defense (pre snap)
    4) Doing multiple read and adjustment (post snap)
    5) Throwing the deep out route

    Are there anything else?

    Sorry for my bad English. I am all the way from Hong Kong and still trying to learn this game of football. Thanks!