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The Difficulties of Being A Quarterback

Nov 28, 2007
Throughout my long passing career, there has been at least one group of opponents for whom I have held the utmost respect. They are the defensive halfbacks, the quarterback's arch-enemies. Without good defensive halfbacks, no team can succeed. In fact, if a team is deficient in the secondary, the chances are it will languish in the cellar, no matter how brilliant the rest of its array.


The bane of a passer's existence is, of course, the interception. It's like the double play in baseball. It can cut your throat and crush the most promising rally. It can also have a psychological effect on both teams.

What causes interceptions? Well, the most common cause is releasing the ball before you have to; that is, being panicked by the rush, or actually having to throw too soon because of the effectiveness of the rush.

Second, interceptions occur when a good defensive back is playing against an end or a halfback who runs his patterns poorly.

Third, the quarterback has himself to blame for larceny by the defender when he hangs the ball in the air instead of zipping it. It is a common fault of most passers and I've been guilty of hanging the ball myself on several occasions. Even when a passer throws a long ball, he should try not to hang it, but, instead, zip it at a higher trajectory.

While I am on the subject of interceptions and the running of poor pass patterns, I think I should mention one of the crying needs in professional football. What the league needs, and that goes for colleges, too, is a supply of good end coaches. Right now, I could count the number of good end coaches in the professional ranks on the fingers of my right hand.

Why are there not many good end coaches? The major reason, I think, is that there aren't many good ends. And good ends, unfortunately, do not always make good teachers. I have known any number of college ends who came into this league only to be dropped because there was no coach on the premises to teach them how to run pass patterns.

College ends are getting harder to find and harder to teach. The reason, naturally, is the prevalence of the Split T and other formations that neglect an all-around passing attack. A lot of lads are taught how to run only one or two pass patterns. When they come to the big league, they are as green as grass and there is nobody around to mow the lawn. Let's find some good end coaches!

The Running Quarterback

Ha! I'm just the boy to touch on this topic. As I have said time and again when questioned about my deficiency, "I never run, except from sheer fright."

Actually, quarterbacks don't run as much as some people think they do. The people just notice it more when the passer takes off instead of passing.

Bobby Layne, for instance, runs almost exclusively within the 20-yard line, and the Pittsburgh passer's runs are mostly predetermined. His favorite is the quarterback draw.

Inasmuch as I am a nonrunner - a spectator, you might say - I think I am eminently qualified to advise young quarterbacks who must run, on how they should run. Go straight, young man, go straight. Too many quarterbacks take to the outside, probably on the assumption (their own) that they can turn an end as speedily as the Browns' Bobby Mitchell. Maybe Georgie Shaw can, but the rest of them surely can't.

I am reminded of the instructions I received from my college coach, Jim Aiken, when he indoctrinated me in the T after long service in the single wing. "Don't get out of that pocket," Aiken warned. "The guys in front of you are hired to keep people out of there, and if they don't, we'll get others who can. And those guys behind you, they're hired to run. Your job is to throw."

Remember practice, practice, practice will make your team successful.
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