Quarterbacks are the backbone of the team. Whether you are the defined starter, or the ones who are in their rookie phase, a young talent not starting, or the guy considered the back-up, you need to remember to stay in position.
Stay in Position
In 2016, I coached an extraordinary talent and had a tough young guy as his back-up that had some physical limitations as a back-up but we focused on the things he did well. The starter had a spectacular season and is currently nearing the end of his career at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
While the starting Quarterback dazzled through the season, there was the back-up quarterback, who deserves all the credibility I can give for actually being a keen listener. He was outstanding in terms of absorbing the kind of knowledge and Quarterback Tips I wanted to share with him. He prepared his role through the template I had developed for him.
It doesn’t matter if your quarterback is a starter, or the 3rd stringer. He should always be ready to go on the field and seize the day.
He should never mistake himself for thinking he is not valuable.
Building a long-term Quarterback
There are a few things I’ve always believed to be critical when it comes to developing a stable of Quarterbacks and I believe they exist for each Quarterback no matter if he’s starting or not.
So, let’s move right into it.
1. Keep Them Engaged
Some quarterbacks who don’t start lack the mental engagement. This must to change.
Think of it like this,
There was an old song called, ‘Your Body Is Here With Me’ by R&B group “The O’Jays”. In the main part of the song, the lead singer talks about a relationship in which the girl is physically present at the same place as her boyfriend, but she is not really there in her spirit or mindset. She is disconnected and probably thinking about another guy.
The chorus of the song is, “Your body’s here with me but your mind is on the other side of town, you’re messing me around.” This is exactly what happens when a Quarterback is on the sidelines with a mentality that he is not going play. He is not interested and most likely doesn’t care.
How to Counter that as a Coach:
In order to bring him to the game with the right mindset, test the player on a weekly basis as if he is going to start the next game. Talk to him like, “Hey QB, what do you see? What’s the coverage on that last play?”
This way, he is going to stay in-action.
2. Take the Reps
“Repetition deepens the impression.”
The quarterback behind the starting quarterback should get constant reps, which can be divided into three categories:
Tell them to pay attention to the game as if they are going to get in the game at any moment. Tell them to stand behind the offensive coordinator and judge the tempo of the game from a quarterback’s point of view and to mimic the play.
Quarterbacks should get mental reps by standing next to the offensive coaches in order to dictate the play, which constantly gives them something to learn.
When a quarterback stands 15 yards behind the offense, they can view everything from pre-snap to post-snap which keeps them engaged. Sometimes, the quarterbacks might feel as if they look stupid, but in the end, this Quarterback Training Drills technique pays-off, as it makes them comfortable about the defense’s perspective. They are to carry out their steps exactly as if they are running the play.
This is the main part where the backup quarterbacks are engaged in their reps during practice. When the coach videos the practice and he can make sure the Quarterback is following all the Quarterback Tips or key points based on the play. This allows the back-up to get the repetition needed when his number is called in the game.
How to counter that as a coach:
As a coach, make sure you are communicating throughout these phases. Keep the interaction between the quarterbacks energetic and hold the Quarterbacks accountable. Let them learn from all the offensive reps.
3. Your Number is Almost Up
A non-starting quarterback is asked to do all the previously discussed reps. Why is it so? Because you never know when he gets called upon. The back-up is simply the second starter. At some point he must play.
I’ve emphasized the following phrase in interviews over the years while applying for Quarterback Coaching jobs, “If you want to judge my ability to coach Quarterbacks, look at my #2 quarterback.” My coaching skills and Quarterback Tips have to be as good as my second starters aka back-up Quarterbacks development and readiness.
There might be some shortcomings in his play, but it is the duty of the coach to keep his backups ready at all times. The back-up Quarterback should acknowledge the fact that, whenever he is not behind the starter during the starters reps and he misses a mental rep, he will be making a mistake.
In sports, you will have injuries, and the moment your starter hits the ground, you might need the backup to keep up the tempo of the game. So, your backup quarterback needs to be ready at all times.
Remember to script what your back-up Quarterback does best in practice: Put your backup quarterback through challenges and learn what he does best. This way, you will learn the best part of his game-play, and then you can use Quarterback Training Drills to your advantage.
Commit to 3 Levels of Reps: Continuously communicate with your quarterback through mental, ghost, and physical reps.
Create Situational Readiness: During practice sessions, always scream at the top of your lungs to get your backup onto the field. This way, he will always be one shout away from putting on his A-game.
4. Leave Your Mark… Be a Pro
Make sure your Quarterback isn’t bothered by his placement in the depth chart and to ‘be a pro’ always.
It is a tactic of being relentlessly prepared every day through rehearsing cues. An NFL quarterback prepares through a technique that is done through film, notes, testing and field situational training.
Speaking from 21 years of experience of coaching and teaching as a quarterback coach, I have had the privilege to study the quarterback’s behaviors, Quarterback Training Drills and have been lucky enough to be mentored by quarterback coaches.
5. Be Humble
One of our backup quarterbacks started 3 games in 2016, and the stats below show you the amazing season he had.
2016 54 of 82, 916 yards, 65% 9 TD’s, 4 INT’s
His journey as ‘The Reliever’ made him manage success that he had not previously experienced. This journey was new to him, from articles in the newspapers to the post-game news coverages. I tried my best to give him the same constant reminder that I used to give my starter quarterback, because they came out of the same model of instruction.
Throughout the entire time, I preached him to be humble so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed when his time to play came. Taking the reps in practice helps make the game a little less chaotic if you treat it like it’s the game.
“Be humble and remain humble and stay steady.”
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