The quarterback position is labeled as the most important position in football. One could argue they are one of the most dependent positions in the sport as well. Without a competent offensive line, run game, and receiving weapons, quarterbacks tend to struggle—especially rookie or young signal-callers early in their careers.
As a result of unrealistic expectations, stat sheet/box score scouting, and organizational desperation, young quarterbacks are not judged properly. In the older generation and eras of football, the game was more physically demanding. That being said, today’s quarterbacks have a tougher challenge to find success. Between rabid “passionate” fan bases, poor front offices, and coaching staffs, locating and maintaining success is far more difficult.
I am a firm believer that the degree of difficulty should be considered when discussing players' success or lack thereof. Playing Madden on pro and dropping 60 points on the CPU is different from doing so on All-Madden. Some quarterbacks have things easier than others—better supporting cast, coaching staff, etc. This is a discussion I have considered in-depth for a while.
I decided to create a road map for young quarterbacks. Let’s begin!
1. Aggressive approach to free agency
The New England Patriots knew Mac Jones was the quarterback they wanted as Tom Brady’s long-term successor. Bill Belichick sat and watched Brady hoist the Lombardi Trophy this past February and that left a bad taste in his mouth. The Patriots spent a guaranteed $163 million in unrestricted free agency, setting a new NFL record, adding new receivers, OL help, two athletic tight ends, and defensive playmakers.
Their philosophy is to run the ball, manage the game, and play great defense. So far, so good, right? This is a blueprint for alleviating pressure on a young signal-caller. Jones does not have to do the heavy lifting. Instead, he can play within the offense and focus on not making back-breaking turnovers. On the other side of the coin, we are watching Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson struggle to play savior on two historically bad franchises. The expectations are already out of this world for these young men.
If the salary cap permits, franchises should add talented veteran players to help lead the locker room and also make high-impact plays on the field. If you can change the settings from All-Madden to Pro for your rookie quarterback before he puts on your team’s cap, do it!
2. Schematic Matching
We have seen our fair share of young quarterbacks that enter years three and four with their third head coach and offensive coordinator. This level of inconsistency within the first few years of a player’s career can derail and delay their overall development.
If your eyes are set on moving up for Justin Fields (Chicago Bears), make sure he matches your philosophies and offensive concepts. If he does not, then be like water, fluid and build your offense around said player’s abilities. NFL coaches are sticklers for their schemes and systems. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole is not effective or successful. Repeating the same actions but expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.
Drafting a quarterback that does not fit your offense and being unwilling to mold your offense hurts everyone involved. Preparation is not solely a game-day approach. It should be the approach to the off-season also. Understand the quarterback’s strengths and weaknesses to ensure your coaching staff can work with and develop the player.
3. Devise and execute the plan
One of the most important parts of the process is having a plan and executing it. Every rookie quarterback develops at a different pace. Some guys are prepared to start opening week, others need time to sit and watch.
Understanding what type of quarterback you selected is important. Create a plan and timetable for him to be prepared to step in and start. Give the young player time to mentally absorb the playbook, audibles, hot reads, etc. Typically, players make mistakes when they are thinking and not reacting. Ensuring they are comfortable with the playbook lessens the mental mistakes. Patrick Mahomes sat for until the final game of his rookie season. Aaron Rodgers sat for a few seasons and Lamar Jackson sat until Joe Flacco got injured.
Needless to say, there are different approaches for every quarterback. Figuring out which approach fits your young signal-caller is the best path to success.
Talent is not difficult to find through the NFL draft. Developing and harnessing your quarterback’s talent can be. NFL teams must do a better job of building around their young quarterbacks!