Playing quarterback can be fun and exhilarating. Playing quarterback can be sad and lonely. Whether experiencing an upward emotional trajectory that follows a touchdown pass or on the dreaded and unavoidable trot of shame back to the sidelines after throwing a pick-6; what goes on between a QB’s ears is as important as arm strength. I once had a wise man tell me that one’s inner voice is actually personality vocalized. Deep, I know, but I promise it relates to football.
Quarterbacks can be fickle so that inner-voice must be loud. Normally diva by nature, QBs are confusing yet vital humans that at times can be misunderstood. This doesn’t come by nature, but by pressure from playing team athletics' most challenging position. Just how quarterbacks handle the pressure cooker of being the face of the program has a prevailing result on seasonal outcome.
This is the first of three posts that will examine the quarterback position. The first focuses on the three, non-negotiable personality traits, or the inner-voices of a successful QB:
While making a play call, QBs must convince teammates that the play is going for a score regardless of private doubt. Uncertainty and fear result in pre-snap doom. At times, I can look at a QB’s eyes and body language to gauge this trait. In relation to quarterback's confidence level, it is not related to the all too common false bravado witnessed during team’s tunnel exits, but more so an aura of expected excellence. Confidence is tested following both success and failure. Great quarterbacks have the ability to learn from prior mistakes, register it in a mental file, and move on to the next play. This is described as having a short memory.
On the other hand, a quarterback can continue to mentally deliberate prior errors which can and often does lead to alarm. A hesitant QB is inefficient and a team liability. Regardless of positive or negatively, early play confidence level greatly impacts the final score.
Throwing the football is the easiest part of the position. Ok, I’m sure you must have thought you read that wrong, so here it is again: Throwing the football is the easiest part of the position.
Having the guts to take calculated risk and make what I describe as “courage throws" separates the pack. Leading or throwing a receiver open within small windows is not a simple task and can be a scary proposition. Normally these passes are over the middle or between sideline defenders, and the result of the QB anticipating defensive voids. This is an area that Patrick Towles must and I feel will improve. Courage throws are Drew Barker’s strength.
QB competitions will also be discussed later, but that dynamic often dampens these type passes as quarterbacks tend to play it safe to increase their likelihood of winning the job. When I hear Mark Stoops describe the lack of separation, this is a factor I envision. I suspect on-field play may look different than practice. I relate this to teaching a kid to ride a bike. In practice, training wheels are still on as Daddy Dawson motivates and corrects. Standing alone in front of 60,000 of the BBN’s best and brightest can be as intimidating as taking that first solo ride on your Huffy. Game time or when the training wheels come off, it’s time to either pop a wheelie or crash into the ditch.
In UK Football history, the list of first year starting quarterbacks with winning records is miniscule. Mental exercise: try to name five. Patrick Towles was close. His 12 game indoctrination is invaluable. A different type of courage is required in the pocket. Standing tall against an impending pass rush with an imminent collision as a result is well, uncomfortable. I have confidence that both Patrick and Drew have this trait nailed.
Good ones want to win. Great ones would cut out their own (or your) spleen to win a rock skipping contest on Golden Pond. Enough said.
Remember, this is the first of three QB posts before pre-season camp begins. Once that starts, it's wheelie or ditch time for either Patrick Towles or Drew Barker.