American football is one of the most popular sports in the United States. It is a massive organization with a wide variety of cash flows, revenues, and media attention. Part of the reason the sport has grown as massive as it has in this country is the spectacle involved. The drama between two power-house franchises facing off in a physical contest of strength, power, and strategy. All of this, though, almost everything that makes American football what it is today, is the presence of the quarterback.
The quarterback has always been seen as the team leader, and one of the most important positions in the sport. Today, though, the emphasis on quarterback talent is greater than it’s ever been in the history of the sport. That’s partially because of other changes we’ve witnessed to the game, like a preference to passing-yards and the air-game, but it’s also because of what the quarterback represents.
Having the right quarterback can be the literal game-changer for any team. But what exactly are the traits that make a quarterback elite and stand out amongst the rest?
Mobility and Maneuverability
First and foremost, while today’s popular football strategies are very much built around the passing-game and an air-attack, the mobility and maneuverability of the quarterback has also developed into an essential aspect of elite quarterback play.
First popularized by an older generation of quarterbacks and players, like Michael Vick for example, the quarterback’s ability to maneuver the pocket and escape pressure, extend plays and turn potential losses into realized gains is what top-notch organizations and franchises want to see in their modern athletes, especially at the quarterback position.
The epitome of a mobile, maneuverable quarterback is what we see in Lamar Jackson. While his critics say he may opt to run the ball himself a little too often, his stats and results speak for themselves. Other quarterbacks who also showcase some of this modern mobility include Justin Fields, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Russel Wilson, and Dak Prescott.
This is also why current highly ranked high school students like Nico Lamaleava stand out to recruiters, with a demonstrated ability to both run and throw the ball.
Strong Field Vision
Maneuvering and potentially needing to escape the pocket aren’t the only traits a modern quarterback needs to hone in order to be considered elite, though. One of the most important parts of playing the quarterback position is the ability to see the field. This goes far beyond a simple visit to the optometrist to get your prescription glasses renewed. Field vision for a quarterback needs to be almost like opening their mind’s eye. They need to see not only what’s in front of them, but they need to be able to read and predict what’s going to happen with just a fraction of a second to process information and make decisions.
Being able to predict movements on the gridiron, and having a sense of who is going to be where, when, is something that a modern quarterback absolutely has to learn.
Arm Talent and Ball Placement
A lot of what’s been discussed so far has very little to do with throwing the ball. Don’t worry though, that’s what this next trait is all about. Arm power, and ball placement are the two biggest variables that come into play when evaluating sort of raw quarterback potential.
In other words, how far can you push the ball, and how well can you put it exactly where you want it to be. While some quarterbacks are naturally gifted with cannons, Josh Allen for instance, others make a name for themselves through precision ball placement, like the Joe Burrow’s of today’s game.
Peyton Manning is another excellent example of a legendary quarterback who made his name through pinpoint accuracy, less than he did through 50 yard bombs. In fact, Peyton Manning was actually known to have a relatively weak arm, comparatively.
Football Knowledge and Defensive Understanding
Finally, and undoubtedly, what historic quarterback legends like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have truly built their legacy on is football knowledge and defensive preparation. These two football geniuses are renowned for their ability to make pre-snap reads and adjustments in order to pick apart a defense by constantly targeting the weak point.
Understanding the game and developing a deep football IQ is something that takes years and years of being immersed in the game.
The Mental Game
Last, but certainly not least, the American football game, specifically for the modern quarterback, is less a physical challenge than a mental one.
That’s not to say that it’s physically easy, by any means, but rather that the mental preparation for a quarterback is significantly more important than almost any other part of the game.