What Is A Quarterback in Football? A Positional Guide

Quarterback dropping back to throw a pass during warmups.

For teams to be successful in football, they need to have players who are dedicated to their craft and always looking to improve. While each position plays an integral role in football, they pale in comparison to that of the quarterback (QB).

So, what is a quarterback in football?

A quarterback in football is a player who takes the snap each play and leads the offense. They make decisions regarding passing the football, handing it off, or running it themselves. Good quarterbacks possess leadership skills, accuracy, and strong decision-making abilities.

While that is an oversimplification of the quarterback position, there’s much more that goes into playing the position than simply passing or handing off the football.

Throughout this article, we’ll dive into the traits that successful quarterbacks have, the history of the position, the best quarterbacks in NFL history, and much more.

Make sure to stick around and keep reading!

What Is a Quarterback in Football?

A quarterback is a key player in football who plays an essential role in the team’s offense. This position mainly involves coordinating the team’s strategy, calling plays in the huddle, and executing the plays during the game.

As the leader of the offense, the quarterback is responsible for reading the opposing team’s defense and adjusting their offense accordingly.

In most instances, the quarterback lines up directly behind the offensive line, giving them a clear view of the field. In this position, they are responsible for either passing the ball to a receiver, handing the ball off to a running back, or, at times, running with the ball themselves.

Their skill set is crucial in determining the team’s success during the game, as they have to make quick decisions under immense pressure.

Aside from physical aptitude, quarterbacks rely on their mental acumen to understand the complexities of different offensive schemes. They must be quick thinkers who can anticipate the opposing team’s defense, and understand the various strategies that can be employed, such as blitzes.

This requires the quarterback to have immense football knowledge, allowing them to become effective game managers by being able to call audibles and make adjustments pre-snap.

What Does a Quarterback Do?

The quarterback calls the plays in the huddle and relays them to the rest of the offense. This responsibility means that quarterbacks must have a deep understanding of the game and the playbook, and have strong communication skills.

During a game, the quarterback handles the ball more than any other player on the field. This entails receiving snaps from the center and facilitating the play, which can either be a handoff to a running back, a pass to a receiver, or a quarterback run.

The ability to think under pressure and read the defense is crucial, as the quarterback must make split-second decisions to ensure the success of each play.

In addition to planned plays, quarterbacks may sometimes need to improvise during an unscripted play. This can occur when the defense forces a change in strategy or when a play breaks down unexpectedly. 

In these situations, quarterbacks rely on their ability to quickly assess the field and make adjustments on the fly. One such adjustment is calling an audible, which is a last-minute change in the play to exploit a perceived weakness in the defense.

Ultimately, the quarterback’s role on the field is multifaceted and demanding. From leading the huddle to executing plays and adapting under pressure, the success of an offensive drive often rests on the shoulders of the quarterback.

This position requires a combination of physical and mental skills, as well as the confidence and knowledge to make the right decisions in challenging situations.

Successful Traits of Quarterbacks

Quarterback holding the ball near his back shoulder.

A quarterback in football is a crucial player responsible for leading the team’s offense. To excel in this position, a quarterback must possess a combination of physical, mental, and intangible traits.

These traits include arm strength, accuracy, intelligence, leadership, field vision, and mobility.

Arm strength is a vital component for a quarterback, as it enables them to make powerful throws across the field. Superior arm strength ensures that the quarterback can distribute the ball to their teammates and enable them to advance down the field effectively.

Accuracy is another crucial trait for a quarterback. The ability to deliver well-aimed throws is essential for executing successful plays. An accurate quarterback can complete passes more efficiently, leading to more opportunities for their team to score.

Intelligence plays a significant role in a quarterback’s success. An intelligent quarterback can quickly adapt to various situations, read defenses, and make correct decisions during high-pressure moments. 

This mental agility helps them execute plays effectively and anticipate the opposing team’s strategies.

In addition to intelligence, quarterbacks must possess strong leadership skills. They are often considered the “field generals,” responsible for calling plays and motivating their teammates. A quarterback with excellent leadership skills can rally their team and keep morale high during challenging moments in a game.

Field vision is another essential trait that quarterbacks must develop. This skill involves surveying the field, recognizing open receivers, and avoiding potential hazards such as interceptions.

A quarterback with superior field vision will be able to navigate the complexities of a football game more effectively and make smarter decisions.

Lastly, mobility is a valuable asset for a quarterback. A mobile quarterback can evade defenders and extend plays, providing more opportunities for their team to advance down the field.

Although not every quarterback is known for their mobility, those who possess this skill can add a unique dynamic to the game.

History of the Quarterback Position

The quarterback position in football has a rich history, dating back to the earliest days of the sport. Originating as a slight offshoot of rugby played exclusively at Ivy League schools, the position evolved as American football transitioned into a distinctly unique game. 

Most historians credit Walter Camp, known as the “Father of American Football,” for this transition, during which the quarterback assumed a leadership role on the team.

In the modern NFL, the quarterback is often referred to as the “game manager” and is considered the most vital role on the field. Holding a multitude of responsibilities, their successes and failures can have a significant impact on winning or losing a game. 

Quarterbacks have since become the centerpiece of many teams’ offensive strategies, frequently leading to top draft picks and lucrative contracts for standout players.

Over the years, the position has further evolved as various offensive schemes have been introduced. From the early days of running-focused strategies to the adoption of sophisticated passing attacks, the quarterback’s role has continued adapting to the nuances of modern football.

This evolution has even produced distinct types of quarterbacks, like pocket passers, scramblers, and dual-threat athletes, reflecting the changing nature of the game and the importance of versatility within the position.

Who Is the Best Quarterback in the NFL?

The best quarterback in NFL history is Tom Brady. Over his 23-year career, Brady won the Super Bowl 7 times. Presently, Patrick Mahomes takes the mantle as the best quarterback in the league. He is celebrated for his creativity and holds two Super Bowl victories to his credit.

Some would argue that Brady defined the role of the modern-day quarterback in the NFL. Brady achieved unmatched success during his time with the New England Patriots before continuing his winning ways with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

His incredible leadership and ability to read defenses contributed to his numerous Super Bowl wins.

Meanwhile, Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback known for his pinpoint accuracy and extraordinary playmaking abilities. His skills on the field earned him multiple MVP awards, making him a strong competitor for the title of the best quarterback in the NFL.

Utilizing various offensive strategies, such as the west coast offense, these quarterbacks have demonstrated their prowess in leading their teams. Adapting to different coaching styles, they’ve displayed their immense talent and versatility under pressure.

Best Running Quarterbacks of All Time

Most would say that Michael Vick is the best running quarterback in NFL history, at least up to this point. Throughout his career, Vick amassed 6,109 rushing yards.

While he’s still in the early part of his career, Lamar Jackson may take over the mantle for the best-rushing quarterback of all time, sooner rather than later.

Best Passing Quarterbacks of All Time

Passing quarterbacks require accuracy, precision, and quick decision-making skills. Joe Montana, widely regarded as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, is an excellent example of these traits. 

His incredible ability to read defenses and deliver the ball with pinpoint accuracy made him an unstoppable force on the field. Brett Favre, another iconic passing quarterback, boasts impressive statistics and a tireless work ethic, which earned him numerous accolades during his career.

In the modern era, new names have emerged as prolific passers. Aaron Rodgers is often heralded for his touchdown-to-interception ratio and precise delivery. 

The evolution of the game has led to more emphasis on specialization in quarterbacks, which allows them to develop into either running or passing quarterbacks. These specialized skills have become invaluable assets for their teams, elevating the overall level of play in the NFL.

What Is a Pocket Passer?

A quarterback throws the ball from within the pocket.

A pocket passer is a type of quarterback in football who primarily focuses on passing the ball from within the pocket, an area formed by the offensive line. This area provides protection for the quarterback, allowing them adequate time to read the field and find an open receiver.

Pocket passers rely on their football IQ, arm strength, and accuracy rather than their mobility to be successful in games. While other quarterbacks might be known for their ability to scramble and outrun defenders, a pocket passer stays within the pocket to give their team the best shot of winning.

In order to excel as a pocket passer, the quarterback must have a deep understanding of defensive schemes, as well as the ability to quickly process information and make sound decisions under pressure. 

Experience and constant practice are essential for developing the necessary skillset. Quarterbacks who can master these skills often become invaluable assets to their teams.

It is important to note that regardless of a quarterback’s preference or skill level as a pocket passer, they must still maintain a competent level of mobility to avoid sacks and extend plays when necessary. 

The key to success for a pocket passer lies in balancing the ability to effectively pass the ball from within the pocket while also having the awareness and athleticism to escape pressure when needed.

How Much Do NFL Quarterbacks Make?

The top 10 quarterbacks in the NFL make north of $40 million a year and have contracts that are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These contracts typically include a combination of base salary, signing bonuses, and performance incentives.

For example, the top 10 highest-paid quarterbacks in the NFL for 2022 have combined contracts totaling more than $2 billion, according to Sporting News.

The salaries of backup quarterbacks can also be quite substantial, especially if they have significant experience. Even practice squad quarterbacks, who do not play during regular games and mainly help the team during practices, can still earn a competitive salary.

It’s important to note that salary often varies based on factors such as experience, performance on the field, and the negotiating power of the player’s agent. Highly sought-after quarterbacks coming out of college can potentially secure lucrative deals before even stepping onto the field.

Meanwhile, experienced players who have proven themselves as exceptional leaders and performers are more likely to command higher salaries.

What Is a Dual Threat Quarterback?

A dual-threat quarterback, often known as a running quarterback, refers to a specific type of quarterback who excels in both passing and running the ball. Their versatility makes them difficult for opposing defenses to predict and stop.

In recent years, the importance of having a mobile, dual-threat quarterback has increased due to the rise of blitz-heavy defensive schemes and faster defensive players.

These quarterbacks are valuable for their ability to escape pressure, make plays on their feet, and extend plays with their legs while still maintaining a strong passing game.

The unique skill set of a dual-threat quarterback poses a challenge for defenses, as they must account for both the quarterback’s ability to run and throw the ball during a game. This often requires adjustments in defensive strategy and can create opportunities for the quarterback to capitalize on mismatches.

Ultimately, a dual-threat quarterback has the potential to be a game-changer on the field, adding an additional layer of complexity to the offensive game plan.

What Is a Two Quarterback System?

A two quarterback system is when a team utilizes two different quarterbacks during the game. This unconventional approach has been employed by several NFL teams to take advantage of the unique skill sets of each quarterback in specific offensive situations.

The primary purpose of implementing a two quarterback system is to keep the opposing defense guessing and off balance. When opponents are unable to predict which quarterback will be on the field, it can create confusion and miscommunications within the defense, allowing the offense to exploit those vulnerabilities.

A team may opt for a two quarterback system when they have quarterbacks with complementary skills. For example, one quarterback may excel at pocket passing while the other has exceptional mobility and can create plays with their legs. By alternating between these quarterbacks, the offense presents the defense with multiple challenges to tackle.

Another reason for using a two quarterback system is to manage injuries or other limitations of their starting quarterback. If the starting quarterback struggles to play the entire game, having a reliable backup quarterback can help preserve the health and performance of the team’s signal-caller.

While the two quarterback system can yield positive results, it may also come with its drawbacks. Some argue that switching quarterbacks frequently can hinder the offensive rhythm, making it harder for both quarterbacks to establish their timing and chemistry with teammates.

Additionally, the constant rotation can lead to an increased likelihood of sacks as quarterbacks may struggle to read the defense under pressure.

Left-Handed NFL Quarterbacks

Left-handed quarterbacks are a rarity in the NFL, making up a small percentage of the league’s signal-callers. Historically, only 33 left-handed quarterbacks have appeared in professional American football. Typically, quarterbacks tend to be right-handed, which makes left-handed passers a unique asset for teams.

The first notable left-handed quarterback in the NFL was Frank Albert, who was drafted 10th overall by the Chicago Bears in 1942. However, he did not make his league debut until 1946 due to World War II.

Albert’s modest success helped pave the way for future left-handed quarterbacks in the sport. One of the most successful left-handed quarterbacks in NFL history is Steve Young, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Young led the NFL in passing six times and remains among the top passers of all time.

Other notable left-handed quarterbacks include Michael Vick, Mark Brunell, and Tua Tagovailoa, each contributing to the evolution of the position.

Left-handed passers must adapt to a different style of play due to the opposite rotation of their throws compared to right-handed quarterbacks. This can result in unique challenges for both the offensive and defensive players on the field.

How Does a Quarterback Call Plays?

The quarterback throws the ball as a defender leaps over a lineman.

The quarterback calls plays in the huddle prior to the ball being snapped. Thorough knowledge of the playbook is necessary for the quarterback to make quick and accurate decisions, and for the teammates to understand their roles within each play.

Once the play is communicated, the team lines up at the line of scrimmage, ready to execute the called play. At times, the quarterback may identify a need to change the play based on the opponent’s defensive positioning or other factors. 

In such cases, the quarterback uses an audible, which is a verbal signal to adjust the play at the line of scrimmage. The audible may involve changing the entire play or just specific player assignments within the current play.

During the actual play execution, the quarterback’s voice command initiates the action, typically involving a signal such as “Hut-Hut” to prompt the center to snap the ball.

Tips to Become a Better Quarterback

One of the most important elements for a quarterback is developing their arm strength. A strong throwing arm will allow them to make long passes with ease and velocity.

Accuracy is another critical aspect for quarterbacks. Throwing the ball precisely to the intended target is vital for successful plays. Incorporate drills such as knee drills, which can help maintain an accurate and powerful throw. Additionally, practice various passing routes to improve targeting and efficiency.

Field vision is essential for quarterbacks to analyze the movements of other players, both teammates and opponents. Enhance field vision by studying game footage, learning various defensive setups, and recognizing gaps during plays. This ability will help the quarterback make better decisions during the game.

Mobility is crucial since quarterbacks need to evade defensive players and extend plays. Include agility drills and exercises like sprints, ladder drills, and plyometrics in the training, which can help quarterbacks stay mobile and ready to move on the field.

For a quarterback, in-game intelligence is vital to modifying strategies based on the opponent’s defense during the game. This ability to read and analyze the game can be developed through studying game footage, understanding tactics, and memorizing the team’s playbook.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Peyton Manning a Pocket Passer?

Yes, Peyton Manning is widely regarded as one of the best pocket passers in the history of the NFL. Throughout his career, he consistently demonstrated his ability to efficiently and accurately throw the ball from within the pocket.

Is Drew Brees a Pocket Passer?

Drew Brees is another quarterback who is known for his ability as a pocket passer. Despite being shorter than the average NFL quarterback, Brees built a Hall of Fame career by consistently delivering accurate, powerful throws from the pocket.

What Is the Pocket Rule in the NFL?

The NFL has specific rules regarding the pocket to protect quarterbacks. If the quarterback is in the pocket and throws the ball away to avoid a sack, he must do so in the direction of an eligible receiver or face a potential intentional grounding penalty.

Is Joe Burrow a Pocket Passer?

Joe Burrow has shown tremendous potential as a pocket passer. His ability to read defenses and make accurate throws under pressure has been applauded by coaches and analysts alike. With continued development, he has the potential to become an elite pocket passer and potentially make the hall of fame one day.

Do Running QBs Get Hurt More Than Pocket Passers?

There is a belief that running quarterbacks may be more prone to injuries than pocket passers due to the increased risk of contact and tackles. However, this varies based on the individual quarterback’s play style, the quality of their offensive line, and their ability to protect themselves on the field.

Was Joe Montana a Pocket Passer?

Joe Montana, a Hall of Fame quarterback and four-time Super Bowl champion, was indeed a pocket passer. Montana was known for his remarkable ability to read defenses, make accurate throws, and remain calm under pressure in high-stakes situations.

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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