Making a great quarterback is as easy as pressing a button. I would like to tell you it is just that easy, but as most who have tried and succeeded to some degree know, that is impossible! It takes an incredible amount of hard work, good if not excellent coaching, and a student with God-given talent, desire, determination, intensity and most of all perseverance, plus a coach with a tremendous passion to see that young man succeed. Is it easy? No, but it is doable!
Let me give you just enough background on what I do, where I derived my experience and who influenced my coaching, so that you will understand how I have arrived at these proven theories I am about to share with you. I spent a lot of time hanging with the late Joe Daniels (Pitt and Ohio State) quarterback coach and followed for a lifetime the incredible Tom Martinez (Tom Brady’s private quarterback coach from the age of 12 until he passed away about 3 years ago). Current coaches who have been a great influence on my quarterback coaching are Shawn Watson, offensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh and famous for the development of Teddy Bridgewater of the Vikings (plus others), and more recently, Scot Loeffler, offensive coordinator at Boston College. I have coached elite quarterback camps for several major universities and for Pro camps, directed camps for NFL players, and for the past 11 years have exclusively coached quarterbacks and receivers at all levels privately all over the U.S.
Let’s get started with a few basic ideas. One or two might even help with your quarterback development.
The quarterback position is like no other in sport for several reasons. First, let’s take just the physical development of the body. I have a few ideas that may help. One has to do with upper body strength and conditioning. From painful experience I believe you cannot build traps and continue with accuracy and depth of ball if you do; it really detours the ability to reach for a proper throwing motion. I want my quarterbacks to build strength with lots of reps and lighter weights. I prefer they use bands in their development. I insist they do 25 to 30 reps per day of a straight rod (a broomstick or a baseball bat will do). They start by placing it on their chest with their hands over the bar so that their elbows are bent at a 90 degree angle. Then, they raise the bar straight up, over their head, continuing until the bar rests on the nap of their neck (count to 7 slowly) and repeat (Video 1). Within a few weeks you will notice they will have the ability to go stronger and deeper with their throws.
While attending a basketball clinic several years ago I watched as the highly successful, late Rick Majerus, former coach of Ball State, Utah, and St. Louis, showed how his players developed unusual hand strength by doing what he called fingertip push-ups. I remember going to him afterwards and saying, “Man, what a great idea for quarterbacks and wide receivers in football.” He smiled and said, “You have no idea what it can do for hand strength.” He then related that he always lead the conference in rebounding and he believed it was the fingertip push-ups. I can tell you I have seen a huge difference in both quarterbacks maintaining control of the ball and wide receivers making more difficult catches after implementing fingertip push-ups in their training. This will also help in throwing the ball and their ball control. To do these, put your guys in a push-up position, ask them to get on their fingertips with their chest and body one inch off the ground. They stay in position and you start counting (Video 2). All of my players have to do these every day. They are eventually able to stay in place for 150 to 200 counts.
Footwork Is Everything
Now, let’s get to the real meat of how to throw the ball with great accuracy, velocity, and depth, and with a tight spiral that you can throw in a gale wind and it will not affect your ball. Footwork is everything because the foundation is where it all starts. Not to oversimplify, but until your quarterback learns to take a proper 1-step, 2-step, 3-step, 5-step and 7-step drop, with his feet staying parallel to each other and in a straight line, is he really a quarterback? Well, I don’t think so. I know this is elementary to a lot of you, but if you could see the high school kids I watch, and even some college guys, who cannot come close to dropping in a straight line, I am not sure you would believe it.
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I use a lot of drills working on one of the yard lines. I have them straddle the line and work on their drops, making each foot land so the arch of their foot is on the line. I think it helps to have them continue across the field on that yard line and then return. It builds strength and speed, and done properly, avoids hip flexors that sometime bother quarterbacks. I also time their 3- and 5-step drops. You all know we play football 5 to 7 seconds at a time. If it takes them 2.5 seconds to drop, they have just used up (I say wasted) 35 percent of the play. If it takes them 1.5 to drop a 3-step drop, they have used up 21 percent of the play and we are just then ready to do something. If you work on the speed of their drop by timing them, make certain they stay under control and not get their feet too far apart. The fastest quarterbacks I have trained can make a 3-step drop in 0.41 to 0.59 seconds. Now, think how much longer we have to go over our reads and prepare to throw the ball than someone in the 1.5 to 2.5 second range. For a 5-step drop, my best quarterbacks are in the 0.89 to 1.15 range.
I have what is known to my players as the “Sink Box” (Video 3). In the beginning, working in it at times causes more frustration then they like. However, when they master it, they are amazed and so is everyone else who watches them work in it. You can literally make a quarterback do everything he needs to do to perform on the highest level. It would take me too long in this article to describe it, so Video 3 shows one of my star quarterbacks, who is now playing in California, using it.
Quarterback Preparation for Delivery
Through the years, I have always felt that a quarterback often misses the mark on his throws because of the timing to load the ball and deliver it, or because his feet are not aligned correctly. I believe the feet must work in tandem parallel, but the back foot needs to be a “T” square to the spot you want to throw. I like the feet to be about 6 inches outside the shoulders. This way they are not too far apart, but not so close together that the quarterback cannot easily close (or hitch) using his back foot first, of course. The danger in getting the feet too far apart is that it tends to make the quarterback bend in the middle and not be upright for the throwing motion. Also, if they are too far apart it will slow the quarterback down because they have to make an additional move to stand UP. The quarterback needs to keep his knees slightly bent as he works in the pocket; however, from the waist up he is ERECT, keeping his shoulders back and level, his chest out, and the ball held in the quarterback position just above the chest line. The ball should be secured with both hands, even and parallel to the upper chest. As an example, Andrew Luck does a great job of this ball placement.
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Now, let me describe a perfect load. As the quarterback loads his throw, the front hand releases away and allows the elbow to be a straight line pointing directly at the target. This allows his shoulders and front elbow to be in a perfect line. Do not over-accentuate the rise of the elbow to an uncomfortable position, rather, it should be relaxed with the elbow in direct line with the throw. The ball hand goes directly to the load position, which is right at the back shoulder with the arm bent slightly more than 90 degrees (Video 4). Do not have an added motion such as an egg pattern on the way to the load point; that only increases the time it takes to load the ball and distorts where the load point ends up. As for ball placement, there are a couple of different theories. One is pushing the ball back and turning the wrist so the ball is turned backwards. I do not teach this movement. The reason I don’t is, it takes another move to turn it around when you start forward with the arm, which usually makes the quarterback throw around the corner and deliver a wobbly ball. So, I am convinced that the second theory is better; just reach and let the ball be placed naturally. Some quarterbacks turn the ball a little more and others don’t, that is okay. I have my quarterbacks work in front of a mirror and practice the load, going back and forth between the quarterback position at the chest and the ready to throw load point. I have them repeat it 50 times a day and increase their speed as they go, WITHOUT distorting their motion. It is imperative that a quarterback have the ability to load and throw in a split second. It is the difference in being good and being great.
If you have a quarterback who is struggling with throwing a ball that wobbles, try putting him on his right knee (left knee if left handed), have him point his front shoulder (loading as described above) and throw the ball on a line about 10 yards away (Photo 1). After 20 to 25 throws he should be able to throw a tight spiral if he is delivering the ball over the top. The reason this works is, as he keeps throwing he starts loading at HIS comfortable position and corrects most flaws in his delivery.
When to load the ball is so important, NEVER TO EARLY, NEVER TO LATE, ALWAYS ON TIME is our motto. It varies with what we are asking the feet to do. For instance, if we are going to catch and release the ball on a 1-step throw, we need to catch the snap and, as we catch with our hands, go directly to our load point with our entire body in position to throw to that spot. I used to teach getting the laces as we go. Now I teach, “Who needs the laces?” I have all quarterbacks practice throwing with or without the laces because, with some offenses that are now popular, we have to deliver the ball before we catch it(at least sometimes it feels like it) . With the RPO systems, we have to be quick to get rid of the ball and if we are comfortable throwing with or without the laces, then we are faster than those who can’t (Photo 2).
If we are throwing in a 2-step situation, we load just as we finish our first step. So, as we close, we are ready to throw the ball with velocity. If we are throwing from as 3-step drop (what we call 3 firm), then we must load on step 2 and 3; so, as we plant the back foot we can drive the ball immediately from that position. If we are throwing from a 3 and a close (hitch), we load as we put the back foot in the ground on our 3-step drop; so, we can close as fast as we need to and deliver the ball accurately.I believe accuracy is affected by the timing of the load as much as any other reason. Aaron Rodgers, 64.9 career completion percentage, and Drew Brees, 67.2career completion percentage, are masters of this (stats as of 10-16-2018).
Proper Delivery of the Ball
This is the key to constantly improving your accuracy. In my workouts EVERYTHING is a competition, as I believe God made us with an innate ability to compete. The new generation, given the opportunity, wants to compete, let’s keep giving them the chance. So, even during warm-ups we keep track of how accurate we are. Video 5 (below) will give you an idea of things you can do to compete, even when working only one quarterback.
We warm up a little different from the traditional way. I start with throwing a 30-yard ball to four or five receivers, spread from hash to hash across the field, giving the quarterback a target of pinkies together at the waist. With trajectory, the quarterback jogs straight at the wide receivers and must drop the ball into their hands, delivering a perfect spiral and making the ball turn over and drop into their hands without moving. If he fails to do so, it is five push-ups. Just to keep it interesting, quite often I have the wide receivers rate each throw from 1 to 10.
We continue backing them up in 5-yard increments and repeat, ending at the 45-yard line for the less talented or younger players, and ending at the 50- to 60-yard line for the more experienced players. If the quarterback fails to turn his front shoulder on each throw, you will have a disaster of a drill; this allows us to stretch his core on every throw.
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Afterward, we repeat the exact same thing, except we make the quarterback place his feet parallel (back foot in a “T” square to each receiver), stand erect, and deliver the ball striding INTO his throw using ALL the principles I have shared with you already. He will be allowed to close (hitch) on throws over 45 yards. All of the above is done in about 7 to 10 minutes.
For the next part of the warm-up, I bring the receivers up to 12 yards away from the quarterback, who is in the middle of the field. The quarterback plants his feet solid parallel and pointing straight ahead. He must turn his front shoulder, reach and deliver the ball over the top to each receiver’s hands. The receivers keep changing the target between each of the quarterback’s throws. There are 5 targets the receivers give:
- Up high to the right with thumbs together
- Up high to the left with thumbs together
- Middle of the chest with thumbs together
- Outside the right thigh with pinkies together
- Outside the left thigh with pinkies together
The quarterback MUST put the ball in the hands of the receivers on each throw and we keep track of his percentage. Example: 1 for 1, 1 for 2, 2 for 3, etc. The top guys I have may go 29 for 30 or 30 for 30 during this warm-up period. We continue on by turning to the back side making the quarterback throw face to the left and throw by reaching all the way around, then a 1-step drop, 2-step drop, 3-step firm, 3 and a close, 5 and a close, and mix in multiple closes. Our entire warm-up is completed in about 20 minutes, then we are ready for workouts.
The discussion of delivering the ball is taught with a multitude of different thought processes, this is where many of you may disagree. I told you at the beginning of this article I have followed the Tom Martinez theory of throwing. In my mind, his No. 1 student, Tom Brady, is pretty good, so I am going to continue using the Martinez theory.
We deliver the ball from the structure I mentioned earlier in the article: Feet parallel and stepping into our throw from the back heel in the ground and transferring our weight to the front foot with the front knee bent as the ball releases. Our hand and arm motion come straight over the top and our delivering hand ends up at our inside thigh of our throwing hand.
I do not teach a motion coming across the body and ending up in the left pocket. My reasons for that are:
- If you throw 250 balls in an hour and a half (which we do), you may have a bunch of kids with sore arms and we will have none.
- If we step out of our throw during our transfer, we will end up with a spiral that isn’t tight or inaccuracy depending on how far we step.
- We will definitely shorten our deep ball and take velocity away by making the arm the most important power in the throw.
By staying what I call “Closed Up” (or stepping directly at our throw), we keep the opening of our hips in co-ordination with our upper body, which gives us more velocity and distance, and allows the arm and hand to be the director of the ball instead of the power. I like to allow the quarterback his option for placement of the front foot – some want to place the pinky at the throw and others the toe at the throw. The only problem with pointing the toe at the throw is, if the quarterback starts doing that early he will lose velocity and depth of ball. I cannot tell you how important keeping the shoulder on the throw is to the power in the throw both in velocity and depth of ball.
I have, at different times with college quarterbacks who want to throw the ball deeper, used one or two of these thought processes and added 10 yards to their ball within 15 or 20 minutes of a workout. It is eye opening to them to see how easy it is to add distance. One of my college quarterbacks called me and said, “I am coming home next week and I need four sessions.” I knew when he said he wanted four sessions he had a problem! He had a new quarterback coach who had changed a lot about his delivery and he told me he could only throw the ball 40 yards and he needed help on getting his long ball back. We went to work using the principles I have given you. By the end of the week, we had a two-quarterback shoot out with another big time quarterback. This young man was back in business, with his final three fades at 63 yards, 59 yards and 64 yards.
Quarterback Eyes and Deception
If we train our quarterbacks early to know that they are in a cat and mouse game with the members of the defense, it becomes second nature to use the two quarterback keys that defensive players focus onto try and read where the quarterback is throwing. What are they? They are the front shoulder and the eyes. So, let’s take that theory and use it. During our workouts, we constantly keep the quarterback’s eyes and front shoulder off the throw. Then, at the last split second, we let the eyes go to the throwing spot, which will take the feet and shoulder with them. By constantly working on this, you will develop the quarterback’s peripheral vision and, just like every other muscle in our body, make the eyes stronger.
We use a couple of techniques to develop that strength. One is to make them watch a coach who is placed at a strategic spot on the field as if he were a safety or linebacker, and make him move by following the quarterback’s eyes and shoulder, then let the quarterback’s eyes go to the throwing spot, and complete the throw with speed and accuracy. Another is to have a second coach stand on the side of the field away from the purposed throw and hold up fingers on his hand. The quarterback has to yell out the number, then take his eyes to the throwing spot, align his body, and make the throw. If you do this regularly in practice, you will develop a quarterback who has great deception with the ability to react quicker and deliver the ball faster with more completions.
I want to close with why I love what I do. First, it is not about me, it is about the kids. My passion is in trying to make them as good as they can be. I do that by nurturing a whole man – building the body, developing the mind, and encouraging the spiritual. We close every workout with a statement of positive influence such as: “Know the truth, for the truth will set you free,” or “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not act, but a habit.” All the kids memorize these. My hope is that all my kids will become great citizens of our country by playing our fabulous game of football and use their talents to make a difference in the lives of the next generation.
Thanks for the opportunity to share. I would enjoy hearing from you guys. You can contact me through my website at www.coachsink.com.
Coach Ron Roesink (Coach Sink) has 20+ years of football coaching on his resume. During his 18 years as a head coach, he had an excellent winning percentage and has developed 80+ Division I College football players thus far. Coach Sink is a motivator with positive, powerful reinforcement of excellence and instills an incredible work ethic; Coach Sink is adamant about his players being taught to be leaders for all the right reasons. He is currently working almost 200 quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends from Freshman to Seniors in High School to Junior College and College students to develop them as productive College and Pro players. His students are playing or are committed to play are Penn State, Northern Illinois, Indiana, Marshall, Miami of Ohio, Illinois, Ohio State, and Michigan State, to name a few.
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