Training quarterbacks has been an area of interest to coaches for decades, for us, we want to simplify the thought processes for our quarterbacks and maximize their ability to make plays in the passing game. As an offensive coordinator and play-caller, I need to know that my QB' s are seeing what I am seeing and that we are on the same page mentally. Quarterbacks coach Charles Steward has developed an efficient process by which we can rely on our quarterbacks to make great decisions and allow us to have a singular vocabulary for effective communication.
First, we will give a comprehensive look at what we are training our quarterbacks to do and how to process and then we will go into specifics for each portion of the passing game; Quick, Intermediate, Verticals, as well as, Play Action Passes and boots.
We start early in the off-season by issuing the quarterbacks our "QB Manual" which contains information regarding training & drills, coverages, alignments, fronts, leadership, and academic and behavioral expectations. We meet with them 1-2 times per week throughout the offseason to cover and expand upon the manual. Initially, we teach techniques, fronts, and coverages from a very basic, non-specific standpoint. Once our kids can confidently teach-back this info, we restart the teaching process, but with the more specific looks, we will likely receive from each of our future opponents. After we feel good about their defensive understanding, we start teaching our offense and execution.
We use coverages and secondary alignment to give the quarterbacks some pre-snap anticipation on how a play may unfold after the snap. We want them to "have an idea" of what lies ahead. However, we teach the quarterbacks to execute our pass concepts using progression reads.
At the end of the day, we ultimately want to make things easier for our guys. I often use the phrase, "Worry less about what THEY do. Worry more about WE do." Once the ball is snapped, we just want our guys to play fast and make plays within the confines of our system. The post-snap thought process is simple: Is the primary receiver open? If the answer is yes, then we throw him the ball now. If the answer is no, then we move on to the secondary receiver in our progression. And so on. Most of the thinking is done pre-snap. The rest is simply the process of going through a "checklist" mid-play. For our QBs this makes the entire ordeal seem like common sense and far less complicated.
Our process for each of our passing game segments is simple and consistent:
- Pass Protection
- Game Situation and Match-Ups
As soon as the QB gets the signal from the sideline and relayed the call to our personnel he begins with:
- What are my pass protection capabilities and responsibilities?
With any good QB, he needs to know the ins and outs of the offense, and he better be very sure about the pass protection schemes. Our QB is responsible for calling the pass protection based on the play, we do not use a numbering system, nor do we signal the pass protection. The QB should now base on the play called what pass pro he is relaying to the line.
He should know for each protection:
- How many blockers we have for each protection?
- Where will the potential +1 blitzer come from?
- Who am I responsible for, if they bring more than we can block?
Our QB's have historically been very good athletes and evading the rush has been a boon for us, teams have to decide if blitzing is worth the chance that we evade and gain yards in the open spots of the defense. By knowing the answers to the questions, we listed our QB often spot the blitz and blitzer, and either make the appropriate throw or find themselves in the open and gaining yards on the ground.
Based on the concept, the QB should know where his check down receiver, or "gift route", will be in the event of an anticipated unblocked defender in which he is responsible. With that said, I incorporate several pocket escape drills into the individual period of practice to teach our quarterbacks how to take advantage of pass rush angles, break containment, and keep plays alive if or when protection breaks down.
As a Hurry Up No-Huddle team, we try to snap the football as fast as we can, limiting what the defense can do in terms of movements, and hoping that we force them to make bad checks or play "vanilla" defense. However, we want our QB to identify several pre-snap factors in order to make post-snap decisions more fluid and effective based on the concept that is being called.