Think a good quarterback is hard to find?
That’s nothing. Try finding a good quarterbacks coach.
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli made an interesting point this morning at the NFL Combine: The NFL’s most important position doesn’t have enough coaches in a position to coach it well.
In fact, Pioli said some teams decide going without a quarterbacks coach is better than having a substandard teacher instructing their multi-million-dollar investments.
“I’ve heard people — coaches or head coaches, or general managers who are running franchises, that don’t have quarterbacks coaches say there are times where they won’t hire someone just to hire them,” Pioli said. “Because they don’t want to screw the quarterback up.”
The well-respected Pioli, a key architect of the Patriots’ dynasty, should know. Heck, he’s one of those general managers.
The Chiefs didn’t have an official quarterbacks coach in his first two seasons in Kansas City, but when the Ravens recently fired quarterback coach Jim Zorn, Pioli and the Chiefs snapped him up.
Zorn is a rare breed – an accomplished NFL quarterback who is currently coaching in the league.
Examine the list of the top 76 quarterbacks in pass attempts in NFL history. Zorn is one of two who is an NFL assistant or head coach. The other, of course, is Jim Harbaugh.
The rest, seemingly, are in a broadcast booth.
Pioli said such experience at the position is vital to being a good quarterbacks coach.
“I think in that position particularly … because it’s a very unique position with some very unique pressures and circumstances,” Pioli said, “having someone who’s genuinely had experience playing, not only in college, but beyond college, can do a much better job of coaching that position.”
With that in mind, it’s fair to wonder how much Harbaugh’s hiring could influence Alex Smith’s decision to return to San Francisco. As we know based on Harbaugh’s offseason comments, the choice is up to Smith.
How much does a quarterback value a coach who knows the position and understands it intimately at the NFL level? Consider the emotional reaction of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to Zorn’s recent firing. Flacco had the best season of his three-year career in 2010, his only season with Zorn.
“I’m disappointed and (the Ravens) know I’m disappointed,” Flacco said. “I don’t think it was a good decision, and they know that. I expressed that throughout the whole time it was going on, I expressed how much I didn’t think it would be good for us. My opinion isn’t going to change. I think Jim was a great coach, I think he was great for our team. I think he was great for me.”