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Are there 'must have' qualities for a modern NFL QB?

One of many experimental iterations ...

Boone

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I've been in the middle of a debate of sorts on Twitter regarding a specific QB. I won't rehash that discussion here, but the crux of the debate centers around a certain assertion. The assertion being made is that all of the successful starting QBs in recent memory (for arguments sake, let's call that in the past 10 years) share certain characteristics. Those characteristics are described as:

Elite athleticism
Equally dangerous whether passing or rushing
Powerful arm capable of threatening deep

In short, this describes the guys like Patrick Mahommes, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Lamar Jackson.

Only a fool would argue that athleticism, speed, mobility, and the ability to make any throw on the field are not huge positives in a QB. But are they the only things that matter? And can QBs who lack some, or even all of these traits at an elite level still be highly successful QBs and franchise QBs? Proponents of these RPO/Dual-threat QBs argue that the NFL has changed. Traditionally cherished QB qualities such as passing accuracy, pocket awareness, ability to read a defense, sound decision-making, and efficiency seem to be pass'e.

What's the truth in 2021? Does the modern NFL QB position require those qualites, or is there room for and potential success in opting for a more traditional style of QB?

First of all, many who participate in this debate make a common mistake. They approach the discussion as a 'sucker's choice' argument - meaning in this case that they make it an 'either/or' proposition. Either a QB has these skills coveted in the modern QB, or they don't. That is hardly ever the case. Although the example QBs above may share some traits, they are hardly mirror images of each other. There is not a draft-eligible QB in the 2021 NFL draft who does not possess some athleticism, mobility, and ability to complete passes crisply. It is a matter of degree, relative ability, not a 'Yes' or 'No' trait checklist. You do not make it to an NFL draft list without having some of the best skills at your position anywhere.

If I am capable of completing 10 and 20 yd passes all day long, and I matriculate the ball down the field with precision, it that any less effective than the ability to hit a streaking WR 70 yards downfield? And if I'm able to deliver the ball to that streaking WR 70 yards downfield, does that mean I'm equally efficient hitting my intermediate WRs? Is that a given? If I am able to sense pocket pressure and make slight adjustments to buy time to hit an open receiver, is that any less effective than tucking away the ball and scampering for 7 or 8 yards?

Does the modern NFL require an explosive rushing threat, elite athleticism, and cannon for an arm in order to find success at QB today. And if so, how does one explain that a largely immobile, limited 43 year old QB is the one who took his marginally talented team to the Super Bowl and won it in 2020?
Some will say it is silly to bring a future HOFer, likely the greatest QB of all time, into the discussion, since, well, he's the greatest of all time. But the reason I bring it up is because he is still a dominant QB - and he possesses almost none of the supposedly 'must have' qualities many assert a QB has to have to be successful in the modern era. How do we explain his success?
 

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SilentThreat

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I'm gonna zag here and say that the priority is not necessarily the player as much as it's the situation. If there is a plan in place and you build your team to maximize the skillset of the QB, then the 'prototype' of the player is far less important. I think people get stuck on the type of player you're talking about because GENERALLY those players translate to any type of offense...

If there is a hard plan in place you can tailor the offense to the players best attribute. You mention Brady... Look at the offensive scheme Brady played in. New England was a methodical offense that was predicated on matchups. Gronk / Hernandez at TE. WRs like Amendola and Edelman who did not have blazing speed but could juke you out in a phone booth. Only when they added Randy Moss did they push more of the ball down field... something Brady did this past year in Tampa Bay because the offense was built to run that type of scheme and Brady had the ability to execute it. They did not run an RPO or boot heavy type offense with a lot of long developing plays.

Looking at our offensive unit, I personally believe the offense is the most effective with an athletic QB that tends to push the ball down field. Having the speed weapons we have not only on the outside but out of the backfield would allow for a more vertical style... with our CURRENT offensive line, i like the play action boot style so that's another factor toward having a plus style guy. That said, and I'm pretty sure I know where you're going, a guy like Trask could come here and thrive if we make a big push along the O-line over the next season. If we can get enough protection, Trask's accuracy and ability to stand tall in the pocket, distributing to playmakers could be a really good fit.


All of that said, I think the number 1 MOST IMPORTANT thing regarding a QB is decision making. The smartest QBs that can break down a defense, manipulating it, and know what they want to do the vast majority of the time... ahem...Tom Brady... generally are the ones that can be the most effective. Mahomes' ability is not just his physical ability... I can't find the highlight but there was a play that Mahomes came up to the LOS and looked at Tyreek Hill and said something along the lines of "54 is yours." Implying Hill is supposed to chip 54 on the blitz. Meanwhile the playcall is a jet sweep to Hill. The Defense hears that Hill is blocking so NOBODY watches him post snap. Hill breaks it for a long gain (may have even been a TD). There is a nuance to the game that is not physical.. The physical tools are needed to an extent, but I don't care if you can throw it out of the stadium.. ahem.. the mental side is a major MAJOR need for successful QB play.
 

Boone

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That's a great post. I had a smart player evaluator type on Twitter tell me he hated Trask 'because he has no intangibles'. The guy is a GREAT decision-maker, is always looking downfield, can read a defense as well as any QB in this draft, is a leader and has gotten better every year. I don't get how those aren't great things, whether you'll never be more than a pocket passer with a decent, not great arm, or not.
 

SilentThreat

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I tend to chuckle when thinking about the big arm QB everyone is in love with and ask myself how frequently that big arm actually gets used? Of course a guy with all of the tools AND a big arm brings you a dynamic factor because the defense knows they can't draw an imaginary line 40 yards beyond the LOS and know that if he wants to take a shot that deep they will have time to recover because the ball might go that far but it's going to be a rainbow. IMHO the arm strength that's the priority is the tight window throws... the ability to snap the ball to the flat or sideline before a DB can recover.

I absolutely love a guy with a big arm, but it's a factor, not a prerequisite.
 

Canadian Hog

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I read an article a while back where Richard Sherman wrote about the five smartest QBs he has ever played against. The names he listed were Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck. All those guys, with the exception of Luck, have not only won Super Bowls, but also helped make their teams legitimate contenders and successful franchises year in and year out. Had Luck not retired early and unexpectedly, we would likely be saying the same things about him.

What's my point? Much like ST eluded to, you need guys that are cerebral, understand the ins and outs of the game, but at the same time will outclass you in terms of their preparation and drive. The talent and skill level is one thing. All of the "top" QBs have it in one form or another. One might be mobile, one might do amazing things off script, one might stand in the pocket and have a cannon of an arm. At the end of the day, the truly elite ones make up for whatever their supposed "deficiency" is with amazing football acumen.

Jeff George could throw the ball out of the stadium. Robert Griffin could blow by you with his speed for a season. I don't recall either guy having it between the ears though.
 

SirClintonPortis

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Mahomes' athleticism is overrated, He's a scrambler but he is not a Jake Locker. He's just such a freak marksman and had a strong supporting cast that forced teams to back off and let his damage the D sometimes.

Christian Ponder was helluva athletic but didn't have it either.

Luck was good but playing hero ball shortened his career.

The reason there is a new QB age is because the prospects managed to not bust or retire early and thus are providing tangible value to their team.
 

SilentThreat

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This is an interesting analytical chart here for the 'first round' QBs in the upcoming draft.


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Bulldog

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Yes. The qb needs to stay at the stadium after the game and face the media.

He can’t run home to Momma.
 

MikefromOH

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it looks to me like that chart is stating Trevor Lawrence is towards the bottom of the pack. like #4 out of 5
 

SilentThreat

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it looks to me like that chart is stating Trevor Lawrence is towards the bottom of the pack. like #4 out of 5

yeah it appears as far as accuracy goes that's the case. This chart takes is strictly catchable passes, so it takes into account drops.

It's also very telling just how many attempts Lawrence and Jones took behind the line of scrimmage...
 

DieselPwr44

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Accuracy.

Ability to move in the pocket. He doesn't have to be a world class sprinter but as long as he can slide around in the pocket and buy time, that will work.

The unmeasurable: Poise. When everything is going all to hell,can he remain calm,thus calming the team around him down?
Think Montana,Brady. Cool under pressure.

That's my list. If he doesn't possess those attributes, it doesn't matter if he can throw it 60 yds on a rope.
 

Win4us

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With our o-line the qb needs a damn quick release. My must haves though would be good arm, and be accurate with it. But the #1 would be a smart qb that diagnoses defenses quickly. Knowing where he’s going with the football without 2nd guessing is key to a successful unit
 

Rymanofthenorth

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UTEP

they have to have an arm that is strong enough to make all the throws, and thats actually rare. doesnt need to be a cannon but gotta have some zip. but this is useless if they cant make the RIGHT throw. same with accuracy they gotta have the accuracy but thats useless without the zip.

they have to be able to read AND PROCESS defences, very very quickly but this is useless if they dont have the arm to get the ball where it needs to go.



They have to remain calm under pressure, the best players seem to be almost going slow, because slow is smooth, but smooth is fast. its why some players look effortless.

They must be able to learn quickly and pay attention to detail, it helps if they are ultra competitive because those types will give themselves every advantage and they self motivate because they hate losing.

you don't need superlative athleticism but you need decent athleticism, you need superlative mental attributes what they call intangibles.

the best qbs have these things in spades, they do not always have crazy athleticism, but they always have at the very least a very solid arm with some zip they always have great accuracy, they always have that ability to read and process and they are always cool under pressure.
 

timmysmith

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Must be WILLING to throw the ball 25-30 yards down the middle of the field. I always point to Joe Flacco and Eli Manning as 2 guys who were always looking for the 30 yard pass. Who would take a sack looking for it. Who would throw the ball away after looking for it. Who would throw it into triple coverage and take a pick. Both have rings in an era of mobile QBs. I point to them, because you don't need Rogers, Brady, Ben (3 guys who throw that same ball) to win a SB. Mark Rypien would have fit in just fine in this era.
 
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