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Quarterback Mobility: A Surprising Crutch

This post is the first in a multi-week series.

Not only are athleticism and mobility some of the least important traits for an NFL quarterback, but they are often detrimental. This sounds ludicrous. How can being able to run be a liability?

First, let’s just look at the quarterbacks who have won the last 20 super bowls: Kurt Warner, Trent Dilfer, Tom Brady x6, Brad Johnson, Ben Roethlisberger x2, Peyton Manning x2, Eli Manning x2, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, and Patrick Mahomes. How many of those would you describe as mobile? I’ll say 3: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, and Patrick Mahomes. So that means that 17 of the last 20 Super Bowls were won by immobile quarterbacks.

To win consistently in the NFL, quarterbacks need to make plays within a structure, and that comes from skills like accuracy, decision making, and pocket awareness. Being able to throw to a receiver who hasn’t made a cut yet is more important than being able to juke a defensive end in the open field. This is because it is more repeatable and can be planned around. All of the Super Bowl winning quarterbacks have these skills. 

But I didn’t only state that athleticism and mobility were less important skills, I said that they can also be a liability. To illustrate this, lets look at Johnny Manziel, a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback who was a bust in the NFL.

In high school and college, Johnny could consistently rely on his athleticism because the competition was less athletic, so when he faced adversity on a play, he would lean on his athleticism to save the play. In the NFL, everyone is hyper-athletic, so he was no longer able to consistently make plays using his athleticism. He needed accuracy, good decision making, and pocket awareness to succeed in the NFL, but he had never developed these skills because he never needed to. In high school and college, he could win by relying on his athleticism. His athleticism was a crutch that prevented him from developing what was most important.

In isolation, Johnny’s athleticism seemed like an asset – his most valuable asset at that. But nothing happens in isolation. Everything is part of a bigger picture and has an impact on the rest of the picture. Only with this understanding can we see how athleticism and mobility can be a liability for a quarterback. In the same way, nothing in life happens in isolation. Over the next few weeks, we will look at what is most important for us and how what’s most important forces us to re-evaluate the circumstances of our lives.

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