|Basic Quarterback Training
The most important techniques a high school quarterback needs to
master can be practiced during the off-season. Repetition is the
key to becoming a good quarterback. Throwing the football five
hundred times a day will certainly enable a youngster to become
better. There is no substitute for the "want to" attitude and
the quarterback must have this type of determination in order to
The first thing we do in teaching technique is to work on
stance. A quarterback must "look good" and we teach this
technique from the toes all the way to the head. The feet must
be comfortably spread, as wide as the shoulders. We stress that
the feet be toe to toe and not staggered. The knees should be
bent comfortably and not strained. Hips should be dropped to a
comfortable position (in relation to the center) and remain as
tall as your center permits. The arms and shoulders are bent
slightly at the head and eyes looking ahead or from side to
In other words, we want our quarterbacks to be able to read
defenses right now. Tell your quarterback to be relaxed and to
reflect a confident attitude. Don't hurry the play. Ask him to
think about this position and to actually see himself in it. We
tell our quarterbacks that they become what they think about.
The mental attitude of your quarterback is very important.
Throughout the training period, we talk about this mental
characteristic as much as the physical aspect.
2. Hand Position
The hand position is the next thing we work on. The upper hand
should have the palm parallel to the ground. The arm of the
upper hand must be slightly bent; index finger fully extended;
spread fingers so they are strong and not tense. Press up firmly
on the center's crotch. You receive the ball with this hand. The
index finger's second knuckle should be placed on the "brown
spot". Doing this will enable the quarterback to receive the
football properly. This position of the index finger will not
strain the quarterback's shoulders.
You want your quarterback to be comfortable. The arms are
slightly bent at the elbows. This is important so that when the
ball is snapped, the arms extend and follow the center as he
charges forward. We work hard on this because the execution of
the center-quarterback exchange is vital. We never take this
exchange for granted.
In fact, a good coach will demand that this be done every day
and insist that it be done right all the time. The lower hand's
thumb position (tip of the thumb) should be next to the knuckle
of the upper hand. The wrists should be together. The lower
hand's fingers are spread in order to trap the ball. As it is
snapped, the ball should be stacked up against the palm of the
upper hand. Both hands and the arm must follow the center. In
other words, give with the center as you receive the ball.
3. Carrying the Football
The next thing that is important for a good quarterback to
master is carrying the football. He must bring the ball to his
belt buckle (stomach area) after the snap. He must keep his
elbows close to his sides and mentally start to get ready to
hand off, toss the ball, or bring it to a throwing position.
Good quarterbacks always operate from this position.
4. Handing the Ball Off
Handing the ball off is the next fundamental we teach. It
requires discipline and concentration regardless of the type of
hand off you are executing at the time (i-formation; the veer;
dive; sweep; toss). We tell our quarterbacks to "let your eyes
control your feet." In other words, your eyes will control the
length of your steps.
It is the quarterback's responsibility to give the ball to the
ball carrier. He is a "dealer" and must have both hands on the
ball in order to hand off correctly. On veer plays or dives the
exchange comes with the same foot as the give hand (going to the
right, it will be left foot, left hand; to the left, it will be
right foot, right hand). This allows for greater reach and
balance. You want this technique to be a natural movement.
Simply look and concentrate on your target and place the ball
into the running back's pocket. Avoid slamming.
5. The Passing Technique
The passing techniques are next. Grasping and holding the ball
is very important before the actual throwing takes place. We
want our quarterback to cradle the ball at arm level - over the
right breast area. After the snap, you bring the ball to your
belt buckle and work it to this right breast area as you
position yourself to throw (drop back or sprint action). As you
bring the football to this position, adjust the laces to your
throwing hand. You must hold the ball with your fingertips and
allow an air pocket between the ball and the palm your hind. The
fingertip control of the football is essential for good passers.
The elbows should be in at the sides allowing the ball to be
away from your chest (several inches, at least). Relax! You are
now in the proper position to release the football.
Tell your quarterback to separate the ball from his left hand.
The lower end of the football points backwards as you separate.
This allows him to bring his elbow up over the top of his
shoulder pad. Just tell him to get rid of his left hand
naturally and to work above his shoulders. Make sure that he
doesn't lower the football too much below his breast area. As he
comes back to the throwing motion, he rotates his shoulders at
the same time. The palm of the hand, the front toe of the lead
foot, shoulders and hips will all face the target as he releases
the football. Work for a smooth rhythm and snap your wrist as
you throw and release the ball over the shoulders.
Note: demand that your quarterback throws with a purpose. Make
sure that he uses a target above the receiver's shoulders. Make
it a challenge to see how many times the receiver catches the
ball above his shoulders. Playing catch properly is important in
developing accuracy when throwing a football.
Releasing the football quickly requires intensity. We tell our
quarterback to "short stroke" the football and roll your
shoulders quickly. Remember that the tip of the index finger is
the last thing that touches the football. Turn your hand and
thumb down and out a little as you release the ball. Follow
through by driving your chin past the front foot. There should
be air below the back heel of your back leg as you follow
One thing that helps our quarterback with this follow through is
to use the "imaginary line" principal, particularly to help
develop accuracy. An "imaginary line" is one that extends from
you to the target. The left foot should land on the left side of
this line and the right foot on the right. The body will be
squared up properly if this is done. Drop your throwing hand
naturally as you release the ball - usually this hand will end
up somewhere around the inside of the lead leg as you complete
the throwing action.
Footwork is essential in completing the proper passing
technique. Upon reaching the set position in throwing, the
quarterback will close his feet (gathered) so that they will be
under him. This will prevent over-striding. Tell him to keep his
feet moving and be in a coiled position (knees bent slightly)
ready to uncoil.
Note: allow the quarterback to take a hitch step if time allows.
There is more accuracy to a football that's thrown this way.
Don't lock your knees because the ball will travel nose down
when thrown. Be flexible and relax.
7. Quick Release
Developing the quick release is the most difficult technique to
teach. Everything must be put together now. Pointing the ball
backwards; rolling the shoulders; concentrating on the target
(not the flight of the ball; feet; snapping your wrist; the
follow through; etc.)
8. Drop Back TechniqueThe most popular type of pass is the drop
back technique. Timing and being able to recognize coverages are
important after you have mastered the basic fundamentals.
Whether you use a 3, 5, 7 or deeper type of drop back pass, the
most important thing is to set up as quickly as you can and keep
your feet under you. Taking five short quick steps with your
feet under you can be more effective than taking three long
Good balance is a necessity to perform well when throwing. There
is better mobility and control with the quick short steps as
compared to the long. Allow your quarterback to do what he is
best it. Basically, you want to keep your head down field as you
drop back. You want your quarterback to be able to see the width
of the field (53 1/3 yards). This is a must to be able to throw
good drop back patterns.
Setting up to throw quickly must be worked on every day. You
cannot simply go through the motions in practice. Drop your tail
a little as you begin movement and gain momentum from the snap
of the ball. Push off your anchor foot and reach back 130
degrees and keep your eyes down field. Sprint back to your
desired depth as fast as you can. In the last two steps of the
drop back, start to shift your weight forward. There are other
types of techniques used - some quarterbacks use the "back
peddle", combination steps, roll out, sprint out, or play
9. Play Action Pass
The play action pass is probably the most popular style used
today. In the play action pass, you must first sell the run. The
more you freeze the secondary (linebackers, especially) the
better the completion percentage. In the play action pass, the
quarterback hides the ball until the last possible instant.
10. Pitch Technique
One way in which we try to determine the best quarterback is to
teach the pitch technique. This technique requires good
athletes. The option play is one of the most difficult to defend
against. We tell our quarterbacks to drive the thumb through the
football and aim for the numbers of the back receiving the ball.
Although we don't use the option play, we still teach it for our
quarterbacks to know.
11. Intangibles of Quarterbacking
It is difficult to describe on paper the techniques a
quarterback must develop. However, I have tried to explain the
basic techniques a coach must know in order to help his
quarterback be the best he can be. Finally, I would like to list
some intangibles that I find are necessary and go along with the
teaching process. Don't ever take your quarterback for granted.
Stress doing it right - all the time. Give your quarterback an
offense he can handle. Be positive for he needs to have your
confidence. Remember that a good passing attack takes a unified
effort comprised of good line blocking, good backs and good
receivers. Keep things simple - work with the pass patterns and
running plays he'll be using in the game. Simulate game
conditions as close as possible when running drills.
Work with receivers as much as you can. The more he throws, the
better your QB will be. Here are some suggestions for basic
drills that should improve your quarterback:
1. Goal post drill Line up QBs 10 yards from goal post - throw
ball as close as you can to cross bar. Helps you get your arm up
2. Quick release drill Coach positions himself facing two or
more QBs. He has them take their drops and throw when he (coach)
drops his hand. You will see immediately who has the quickest
3. Open man drill Coach stands behind QB and designates one of
the four receivers to catch the ball. When QB is ready to throw,
receiver raises his hand and QB throws immediately. This drill
forces QBs to look downfield.
4. One-on-one drill Throw all patterns here - outs, ins, post,
flags, fly, curls, etc.
Please keep in mind as you read this article that it's one thing
to talk about technique, but another, to perform them. There is
no substitute for repetition - especially for the quarterback.
The more practice you have, the better a quarterback you are
going to be one of the basics we have been working on lately is
throwing the ball on the run. We teach sprint-out passing. Some
of the greatest pass completions result because a quarterback
knows how to throw the football on the run. Remember to keep the
ball in front of your right breast and prepare to throw at any
point. Square your shoulders to the target and throw off your
right foot. Shorten your steps as you begin to release the ball.
It will become a natural action if you work at it.
There is much to learn about this position and I want to thank
the National Football League for this opportunity to express my
views on my favorite position in football. Hopefully, you have
learned something prom it and it might help you as you continue
your career in coaching.
Coach Al Fracassa has spent his life dedicating himself to the
game of football. A graduate of Detroit Northeastern High School
and a member of the 1952 national championship Michigan State
sqaud, Fracassa has coached high school football since 1960. He
has held his current position at Brother Rice in Bloomfield
Hills, Michigan for 30 years, compiling a 236-53-2 record that
has included five state titles (1974, '77, '89, '83, and '86) as
well as nine Catholic League titles. His overall record stands
at 280-72-7. Inducted to the Michigan high school coaches hall
of fame in 1995, coach Fracassa was also honored as the NFL
Coach of the Year (link to info in NFL community area) in 1997.