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Drafting Quarterbacks: An Historical Perspective Part II

In Part II, Doc Bear breaks down the tangibles and intangibles teams look for when drafting a quarterback.

Clarifying the Objective

There are some things that we do know about drafting successfully. Many coaches have shared their wisdom on what makes a quarterback more likely to succeed.

Certain teams have written manuals for each position, covering everything from the physical body type that should fit best into their specific scheme to the type of psychological intellect they believe will succeed best. Teams hope to reduce the chances of failure.

Knowing exactly what you want from your quarterback is essential. Even when a young quarterback fails, he might have been very successful in a different system. Conversely, some quarterbacks who don't seem to be the 'type' for one team fit perfectly into other systems.

The game grows increasingly complex with each passing year. Few fans could really know the extent of how specific the needs of these systems are.

Computerized video systems now are used by many teams that can fit the exact proper motion onto the video screen and then layer images of the actual throws, one on top of the other, to help the quarterbacks. Technology is offering an opportunity to improve in more effective ways.

Through trial and error, we know more about what does work, as well as what doesn’t. There will always be exceptions - no plan is more important than the player. These have held up.


1. Team structure matters. The first aspect of that structure is whether these are specific descriptions of the optimum player at each position. You need a recognition of the faults as well as the strengths of each candidate and an understanding of exactly how to get them ready to play in the NFL. Proper development, pre-and-post-draft, is essential. The system and coaching are nearly as important as the player who goes into it.

2. Coming from a 'gadget' style of offense tends to lead to failure. A quarterback can lose as much as 8 years off of his development with high school and/or college training that doesn’t include work under center. No matter how good the QB is as a raw prospect, this has to be taken into account when considering a candidate in the draft. At the least, developing such a player is a longer process. The team has to have a detailed plan in place before taking such a project. Sometimes it fits. Sometimes it doesn't. 

3. Having an effective offensive line, including a left tackle who can be left on an island. I cringe when I see a team with no O-line taking a young QB early in the first round who they expect to start. The same is true with a shaky running game, or lacking quality receivers. Particularly with a bad O-line, you're essentially placing a young duck in a shooting gallery.

4. It's not that a college QB cannot come in and start during his first season. Players like Matt Ryan from Atlanta made that clear. But most players, need to have a period of transition. I recognize that some players are ready to get their rookie mistakes out of the way in their first year. Still, it’s becoming more and more acceptable for offensive and defensive linemen to take 3-4 years to truly learn their craft.

5. The quality of the coaching. I’ve lost track of the exciting young players who came out of college with great reputations and high hope, only to fail miserably. Quite often, that failure is a matter of the team’s coaching and scheme. Look for players to fit your system. Some QBs can run multiple systems — Brock Osweiler looks to be one such player. Coaches move on and new coaches will have new systems. A QB with schematic flexibility can be a life-saver.
6. Every candidate for a position as an NFL QB has to have a lot of characteristics in common. All have to be self-starters, the first on in and the last one out of the facility each day. They have to be able to tolerate being hit, and hit hard, without losing focus. They have to be leaders.

Key Quarterback Qualities

There is one thing that has been consistent since before they wore helmets: The quarterback, once there was one, has always had to have an extremely strong ego. Not an arrogance — just a powerful inner strength.

Every QB will be yelled at, corrected, put in his place and cajoled. He'll be vilified by fans and praised beyond belief or reason. Sports heroes provide an opportunity to take out the fans frustrations and to become the object of their adoration. There are often only moments between the two. Self control is essential to leadership.

These statements are basic sports psychology. My sources were the words of several NFL coaches, past and present, whose opinions I respect on the subject of quarterbacks. Others come from textbooks on psychology and sports psychology, which were part of my professional training. Every QB has both strengths and weaknesses. You must talk honestly about both.

Michael Holley wrote this in Patriot Reign:

“If you want to know who the good quarterbacks are, watch the passes they complete under a heavy rush. Watch the first downs they get on third and long, passing into heavy coverage. Listen to what their teammates say about them."

I'll add this quote:

"Don’t be a celebrity quarterback. We don’t need any of those. We need battlefield commanders that are willing to fight it out everyday, every week, and every season, and lead their team to win after win after win."  Bill Belichick

Over time, the Denver Broncos fan base will have an opportunity to watch and to see exactly what somatic types and skill-sets the team prefers. Trevor Siemian is smaller than Mark Sanchez, but he’s still 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. He’s reputed to be very accurate. Will they draft another QB this year?

Almost certainly. Check back for Part III and we'll focus on John Elway and the Broncos approach to drafting quarterbacks. 

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Doc Bear is a Featured Columnist for MileHighHuddle. You can find him on Twitter @DocBearOMD.

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