NFL: No Shortage of Opinions on QBs

Updated: December 5, 2014
Photo by Keith Allison

As they say, opinions are like…well, they say they’re like a lot of things like armpits, orgasms, buttholes (mostly bodily functions involved)…and certainly everyone’s got one. But no where in football are opinions more prevalent than with quarterbacks.

We all know by now QB is the key position to having a winning NFL team today, if you’ve got a good one you have a chance; if you don’t, forget the Super Bowl. In an American landscape of free markets and great athletes it’s a little mind-boggling that there are only about 12-15 good QBs in the world today. It tells you something about how difficult it is to perform in that job.

Jay Cutler Photo by Mike Shadle

Ted Williams said the hardest thing to do in sports is to hit a pitched baseball, and I always subscribed to that notion. But I’d have to say, in today’s NFL game that’s been eclipsed by playing QB. We’re not talking about throwing the football or scrambling or being a field general. Beyond that we’re talking about reading defenses, making good decisions, not making mistakes and making plays.

Right now there’s a lot of talk about those QBs who fall near that 12-15 ranking or below, guys like Jay Cutler, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton, Geno Smith, Johnny Manziel, Brian Hoyer…if your team is struggling or underperforming they’re talking about the QB. By this time of year they’re talking about whether this is the guy for the future or whether to move on.

The point is, most of this talk is just gas, based on nothing. That is, most of the opinions we hear on the airwaves are from people completely unqualified to opine on the subject. As complex and challenging a task as it to play QB, it’s almost as challenging to understand what goes into that task and evaluate it.

Unless you’re a guru of the NFL passing game…i.e., played it in the NFL, coached it, or studied it, AND break down film regularly with a specific eye on evaluation…then you have no educated basis to opine on whether a QB is doing the right things to possibly succeed.

Whenever I hear a qualified analyst like a Ron Jaworski, Phil Simms, Brian Billick, Greg Cosell, or Trent Dilfer…anyone who knows the game at that level and is actively studying…then I pay attention because I’m likely to learn something. And when I hear a Stephen A Smith, a Skip Bayless, or Mike Greenberg, I treat it like I would a fanboy on a barstool in a sports bar.

Geno Smith from

Perfect case in point, a month ago when Geno Smith still had defenders, people said it’s hard to evaluate him since he has no targets, he’s a victim of John Idzik’s poor talent skills and being $20M under the cap. He was particularly struggling in the red zone. Jaworski came on saying he’d broken down all of Geno’s red zone plays, looking at things like pre-snap reads, check downs, open receivers. He found not only were there receivers running open but he was missing pre-snap reads on things like blitzes that would dictate going to a hot receiver. Poor preparation, poor decision-making, poor execution were more relevant than lack of brand-name receivers or play calling.

I’ve heard the same things with RGIII, Cam Newton and Johnny Manziel. The people who are calling for Johnny Football to take over now in Cleveland have no clue what it takes to succeed in the NFL, they only know about him running circles around non-NFL players. No idea about the cat-and-mouse games that go on with defenders and what you do when a defense takes away your favorite weapons.

While most of us resent the hall pass given to offenses (and QB stats in particular) through today’s rules changes, there’s no denying the glamor position is REALLY, REALLY hard to play well.

Johnny Manziel

Not only is it really hard to play well but it appears to be really hard to coach it well. In baseball you’ve had a few pitching coaches who could take decent arms and maximize their performance…guys like Johnny Sain, Dave Duncan and Leo Mazzone come to mind. The leverage you can get in a salary cap world with this kind of coach is priceless. But you rarely hear of a QB whisperer in the NFL. Jim Harbaugh is one of the few names that comes to mind who has developed QBs at every stop. Chip Kelly too.

Jaworski says when he breaks down QBs he realizes that for the most valuable role, QB is the worst-coached position. He sees such poor footwork, bad mechanics and pre-snap decision-making…all very coachable subjects.

The coaching aspect of QB play is probably a whole other subject, i.e., why can’t teams find better QB gurus for such a high-leverage situation? As always logic would say if clubs could figure that out, they’d do something about it. There are enough smart people in the NFL thinking on these issues, you have to trust the experts.

And by the same token when you hear opinionated rants about who should be the starting QB, or the QB of the future, consider the source. If it’s a true expert, pay attention. If it’s a self-proclaimed expert, it’s worth what you’re paying for it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Get Big Dog Sports' latest news, features, and more info delivered to your inbox!
  • Fresh perspective on the latest sports news
  • Big picture sports discussion
  • Informed analysis on controversial topics

Enter your email and stay on top of things,