The Key to Quarterback Performance
There are a lot of "keys" to performance - accuracy, velocity, decision making, athleticism, leadership, footwork, just to name a few. However, what single trait stands above all of them? I would argue consistency. You need to be consistently accurate for it to matter; you need to always have a strong arm; you need to make intelligent decisions all the time. So, the question is, how do we become consistent quarterbacks?
The answer is again, consistency. If you want to throw accurately with velocity consistently, if you want to make good decisions consistently, if you want to win consistently, then you need to work hard and smart consistently. A lot of quarterbacks call me a few weeks before the season starts and asked to get tuned up for the season; others come in for a few weeks and start throwing the ball better and then think they are ready. Inevitably, these quarterbacks will face ups and downs beyond those of the more consistent worker. So, the philosophical answer to how we achieve consistently good performance is to have a consistently good work ethic and direction.
Less philosophically and more tangible, we need to work hard on the right drills at the right times. Early in the off-season it is important to improve mechanics. In the middle of the off-season we need to apply those adjusted mechanics to our other fundamentals like footwork, drops, and reads. As the off-season ends, we should be winding down adjustments and increasing full speed, quality repetitions. At no point is this process a sprint; it needs to be a long term project, with a bit being done each week, consistently, to gradually improve. This can't be done in a week-long sprint, or a weekend clinic. Spending 2-3 hours every week working on the right things over the course of an entire off-season can turn a quarterback from a bench warmer into a star.
Work hard consistently, work smart consistently. Consistency is a virtue.
While football players work out year round to get bigger and stronger, the quarterback needs to be careful about how he approaches work in the weight room. Being that the shoulder complex is used so often from an unusual position in ways that other positions don't have to worry about, quarterbacks with any amount of inflammation or tissue damage risk much longer, more serious injuries if they don't program their workouts properly. With that in mind, here are a few exercises to avoid.
1) The Barbell Bench Press
While it's true than any athlete with restricted shoulder mobility or stability can get an injury while benching, quarterbacks are particularly at risk since they throw so often. Bench often creates an impingement in the shoulder because the way the ball and joint socket operates becomes controlled by the barbell, instead of being allowed to move more freely like in a push up or dumbbell press. There is also no direct correlation between bench production and throwing velocity. Ever notice how few quarterbacks do the bench test at the NFL combine? It's for a reason - no bench for the QB. Instead, do a dumbbell press or push ups.
2) Biceps Curls
The biceps connect in such a way that if they are tightened, the inwardly rotate the shoulder, which can be a problem for quarterbacks. We've all seen gym rats with bulging arms, but their shoulder turn forwards and they lose their posture. For someone who throws often, this will tend to lead to tendinitis , bursitis, or other injuries. Instead, work on some chin ups and other pulling/rowing exercises - your biceps will get hit, but so will all the scapula stabilizers and postural muscles, allowing you to maintain stability and health and still put on some bulk.
3) Wide Grip Pull Ups
Wide grip pull ups put the shoulders in a lot of external rotation relative to the load they are trying to handle. This can be a problem for quarterbacks who likely have some level of inflammation from throwing. While this one doesn't necessarily have as high of a percentage of related injuries as the previous two points, it's still one that few quarterbacks need, and even fewer can do right. Simply doing a neutral grip chin up will get the job done with tasking the shoulder joint nearly as much.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at adrayson@SportPerformanceU.com.
As football has grown and the passing game has expanded, so has the importance of the Quarterback. Even Vince Lombardi said that football's major flaw was that the Quarterback is too important. This makes it even more important for those looking to pursue excellence at the position to put in off-season work. This doesn't mean quit all other activities and dedicate 100% of our time to football, but it does mean find some time to work on improving fundamentals and mechanics.
There are two major issues with playing Quarterback only in-season with no off-season work:
1) There is limited practice time during the season to work on mechanics and fundamentals, and most coaches won't sacrifice team and skeleton period to allot more time to Quarterback fundamentals.
2) Most high school and youth coaching staffs don't have a true "Quarterback Coach," and have to use a very limited working knowledge on the mechanics of the position.
These two factors compound each other very quickly. You have a coach with a limited working knowledge giving little tweaks to a Quarterback's throwing motion. If even one of those tweaks is wrong, the player will now be asked to repeat that incorrect motion over and over with the necessary volume of repetitions to work on a good passing game and will most likely develop a long term overuse injury. The shoulder is already a fairly unstable joint and a throwing motion puts a lot of stress on the body; done incorrectly often, a throwing motion could become a very painful action, a serious injury, and a long recovery.
The remedy to this issue is to put in work in the off-season. Taking that down time to fix mechanics and improve fundamentals means that during the season there is less need to take time from practice to do so, and if the mechanics are good it will help prevent injury that could have come with the high volume of reps.
We did mention before that most high schools and youth programs don't have true Quarterback Coaches so seeing a real private Quarterback Coach has become the most popular choice. To be honest, even many of those "professional QB Guru's" lack real knowledge on the function of the shoulder, preventing injury, and recent research on throwing mechanics. But, if you can find a good private coach who understands how the body is supposed to work, it will greatly help in the long run.
One issue with private quarterback coaching is that many head coaches don't like their quarterbacks going to see someone else for coaching. While I don't have a great answer to this issue, I can say most head coaches won't complain when their quarterbacks come in throwing better and staying healthier. Ideally, we'll find a situation where the head coach and private coach can have an open line of communication and be on the same page.
So, to answer the original question, what is the role of the private Quarterback Coach? The private quarterback coach should be an off-season coach who helps improve throwing mechanics, footwork, and other fundamentals. Any quarterback truly striving to reach the highest levels of the sport should consider taking part in an off-season program like that - stars from Peyton Manning to Tom Brady spend their off-seasons seeing quarterback specialists, as do rising college players and most of the best high school players. The quarterback position is no longer a 3-month job.
Find a truly good coach and it should pay dividends. If you have any questions or thoughts, please feel free to contact me at adrayson@SportPerformanceU.com.
Quarterback Coach Alex Drayson will put up articles, thoughts, and reviews to help you stimulate your journey towards being the best QB you can be