What We Look For In A Quarterback Part 2 (The Qualities)

I have always liked this picture of Y.A. Tittle. It embodies the game of football. To me it also embraces the position of quarterback. That is a picture of a leader by example. The blood, sweat, and tears from effort. The look of exhaustion from the mental strain of a game. The position of quarterback has nothing to do with perception, but completely based on reality. The position of quarterback cannot be fooled in the game of football on every offensive snap.

So what are the qualities of a quarterback? What makes it work to get the performance we all want? It is a lot less physical than we give credit for. I absolutely believe that someone who cannot throw or has bad feet and mechanics cannot play quarterback, but I do believe that too much is given to athletic ability, in today’s game. The mental makeup of the quarterback position is so deep, that it has to be looked at with a premium. So what am I looking for? This picture above personified, “A man’s, man.”

I am looking for a quarterback that wants responsibility, to be A man, not THE man. I know some of you might not understand what I am talking, but let me explain. So one who is THE man, is often placed in selfish and selfless situations. They are people who are not coached to their fullest potential, and this is often display a glimpse of greatness and more frequently an outburst of frustration. The quarterback is THE most important position on the field, but HE is only a piece of the puzzle. To be A man you must possess honesty, compassion/respect, accountability, and courage must be the consistent attributes of this player. A man always wins, over THE man.

Do you know the difference between a player that tells you what you want to hear, and one that tells you the truth? The right answer can be found in both these situations, but truth can only be found in one. To be honest means that you have taken into consideration yourself and the evidence of the situation. Honesty has no blame, but evidence. Honesty also involves trust and truth.

For a quarterback to reach his full potential, he must have consideration for things about him that we need to get better at. If you have a player that constantly says my bad, I know, I got it, but you said etc… you better hope the back-up is ready, or your resume is up to date. If he forces the football the majority of the time, and you cannot teach/convince his failures so that he can be successful, then in reality he is convinced he has all the answers. He has all the answers, but fails to be honest. It is the same as cheating on a test you failed to study for.

Honesty is always the best policy. That is making decisions based on evidence rather than emotions. When you are in the developmental stages of a quarterback, look closer at the decisions he makes. Does he trust the read and throw the ball, or does he go with what he “feels” (emotional choice). He must understand that emotions will lie to you.

Recently, I had a first year underclassmen starter at quarterback. In a tight game before half we had the ball on the +30, and I wanted to take a shot before half, and at worst kick a field goal. I called the play in, and told him to take a shot. The defense bailed, out and he hit a crosser over the middle. tackled inside the 10. We could not get the field goal team on the field because we had no time-out left. Now, I went in at halftime and we had a good talking. I was upset he would not take a shot, but in hindsight he did not turn the ball over either. I came down from the box late in 4th quarter, and went to him because he had a stellar second half, and told him I was proud. I got the cold shoulder. It was not disrespectful, but I could tell he had taken pride in his decision and did the right thing. I turned and asked him, Are you still made at me? He said you want me to be Honest?, and I replied yes…He said yes I am. I gained more respect for that young man thank any other player I have ever coached. He was not afraid to have a civil man to man talk with me. He was not afraid to take responsibility for his decision, and he was going to stand by it, because in reality that is what I had pushed into him. Monday morning he was in my classroom wanting to see the game plan. Because we were comfortable with being honest with each other, we could clearly communicate what we saw how we felt. He was honest enough to tell me the truth, and not say what I wanted to hear, and them mumble to our friends.  I want a player that wants responsibility, not one that wants to be a robot.

Remembering how we defined the word Honest…..

  • Can he honestly tell you why he made the right or wrong decision?
  • Can he honestly ask you questions on points he is unsure of?
  • Can he honestly humble himself to have a co-dependent relationship with your QB coach?


Compassion: sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others

Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

If we take these 2 definitions and splice them together you would arrive at: a feeling of deep admiration/concern for someone or something. This means the quarterback must possess an understanding. His decisions will create the outcome for anyone on the field. This compassion/respect is the trigger that leads to being A man.

They should have compassion/respect for everyone’s position on the field. To assist them to be in the right alignment, routes, assignments. Many times we perceive this to be a know-it-all, but when done with honesty, compassion, and respect we are receptive and more engaged to listen. There is

Does he give a pick me up to his teammates? Or does he pout and find blame? Get him into a high pressure situation, does he crumble or does he rise? Where does the blame go?

The other side of compassion/respect is for you to be able to listen to his gripes and complaints in private. With the responsibility of playing quarterback, there will be a need for times of release. During these times you need to LISTEN, and not just patronize the situation. BE HONEST, because he is being HONEST. That is what we have failed to do as coaches, we train kids to tell us what we want to hear to side step the frustration, and sooner or later the “dirt” cannot cover the problem anymore and the volcano erupts. He may have some truth to his frustration, that you will have to digest.

He must also have the same concern/compassion to avoid mistakes that get his team beat. This includes on and off the field. His decisions on the field must be made honestly as we discussed earlier. The game is in his hands, not to take away from, but to accent the other 10 around him. Off the field is the same. Does he have compassion/respect from himself first by making the right decisions? Does he put the health of the program before a selfless decision? If you answer no, you have a catastrophic problem that will explode some time soon.


The third quality is Accountability. That literally means he is responsible.

He is detailed, cares about the smallest parts of the game. He also has the motivation to make himself better for the sake of the team. He looks for better ways to refine his position, always co-dependent on his coach, to have honest dialogue. He should be the first one to point out the mistake he made to show his understanding.

As a quarterback he should thrive on the game,  and look to gain any advantage. From film time to in-game adjustments he may see. He is accountable for his feedback, thinking, alongside his performance.

How does he practice? Is his first priority being caption cool, or johnny student. Can he be accountable to warm-up correctly, and set an example in practice? Is his approach one of Honesty, Compassion/Respect? If not he cannot be held accountable for his actions, because he cannot define a direct pattern of leadership in his daily walk.

Does he put the entire team first? When things go bad he is the shield of blame, when things go good, he praises his teammates. He takes the responsibility for the bad, and praises other for the good. This part of accountability is a direct reflection of mastering the compassion/respect quality. When people hear you praise them for their outstanding effort (honest effort), their value of accountability goes up. This is one of the highest value tools a teammate/coach can use. If he plays the blame game and has outburst when the game goes bad, then you have immediate separation on a football team.

When A man takes on this responsibility, he has to want the ball when the game is tight. I am looking for a player who is not afraid to be the G.O.A.T., or the goat. He is honest in his decisions, possess compassion/respect to his teammates, then it is easy to take accountability. Taking a chance, is no longer a gamble, it becomes a decision, when this occurs. If he wants to hide and give the situation to someone else, you are playing the wrong person, and essentially do not possess a leader. You have 11 guys out there wandering to find success.


Courage: the ability to do something that frightens one, or strength in the face of pain or grief.

The last quality is courage. Sometimes we as coaches call it being mentally tough. At what point are you broken. When does it all fall apart? How do you respond to adversity? Can you bee the foundation of strength for your teammates in a bad situation.

A successful quarterback must be even keel. Steadily progressing with very little change in emotion. He has to know when to push and when to carry. He has to know when to use his “poker” face even when his is blaring inside. It takes a tremendous amount of courage to do this in the face of pain or grief, but it is the motivator of success in trying times.

He has to be a gambler in the fact that he “knows when to hold them and when to fold them.” Sometimes to take a sack or even throw it away. Yes sometimes a sack is a positive, and he has to know that, just as throwing it in the stands to save field position is. This takes courage to be honest and make the correct decision.

He must always displays positive body language. If your quarterback rides the wave of emotion, your offense and players will reflect. The body language he shows can easily drive the approach of he situation positively or negatively. The longer he can stay cool in a bad situation the better off he can be. Courage is last in the qualities, because it shows total mastery of the other 3 mentioned prior. Courage exemplifies, the honesty to trust the read and throw it, the compassion/respect of the program and teammates, and the accountability he has for his actions.

These 4 qualities of a quarterback are all mentally driven. That is why I spent so much time researching the cognitive training of a quarterback. We just discussed the most successful point of quarterback play and never spoke about how to throw a ball. The mental mindset of your quarterback will take you to more successful situations consistently than the physical ever will. I challenge you to take what is in this article and make a check list. Make a positive and negative category to see where your player needs work, or maybe you need to start over. A

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