NFL needs better QBs — here’s a way to get it done

The NFL needs to do a better job of developing quarterbacks.

In 1983, NFL quarterbacks averaged 7.18 yards per pass attempt.

Thirty-three years later, after the league made numerous rule changes to enhance passing, changes such as barring defensive players from hitting quarterbacks above their shoulders or below their knees, barring defensive players from hitting defenseless receivers, enforcing defensive pass interference and defensive holding more strictly and reducing the number of steps defensive players are allowed to take before hitting quarterbacks who already have released the ball, well, after all that, quarterbacks now are averaging 7.26 yards per pass attempt in 2016.

That’s an increase of just eight one-hundredths of a yard per pass attempt since 1983.

 You’d think those rule changes would have improved quarterback play more dramatically. But all the rule changes in the world can’t improve the actual quarterbacks.

The NFL still doesn’t have enough quality QBs to go around. Only 16 currently average more than 7.1 yards per attempt, and only 19 have passer ratings higher than 90. That leaves almost half the league with sub-par players under center.

The only way to improve quarterbacks is to develop them. Playing quarterback is a game of repetition – Bill Walsh used to say that all the time. You can’t learn the position sitting on the bench or sitting in the classroom. You have to stand under center and make decisions before and after the snap.

Here’s how the NFL can better develop its quarterbacks:

Click here to read the rest of my Thursday column.

This article has 92 Comments

  1. A guy took his girlfriend to her first football game.
    Afterward he asked her how she like the game.
    “I liked it, but I couldn’t understand why they were killing
    each other for 25 cents,” she said.
    “What do you mean?” he asked.
    “Well, everyone kept yelling, ‘Get the quarter back!'”

  2. With the recent decriminalization of recreational wacky weed 11/8, methinks Grant has been sampling, …….or else his blog has been hacked by Seb.

  3. I think you’re either born with it or you’re not. How many extra repetitions did Dak and Carson get this off season that turned them into super rookies? None, they’re just what I call “natural quarterbacks.” They’re the exception to the rule but that’s how it’s always been. The league has never had at any point in it’s existence 32 teams with great QB’s. The league is replete with average to good QB’s and the few elites. It’s not that way because of repetitions it’s that way because that’s how human beings work. Some are unique and special and the rest are just average, respectively.

    1. With that said, it doesn’t mean that a developmental league wouldn’t make the entire league better as a whole.

    2. Sorry, but you are so incorrect. Remember, Kurt Warner was bagging groceries and playing for the Iowa Barnstormers after his brief training camp experience with the GB Packers. It is a matter of opportunity meeting preparation. Think of how many times Edison attempted to come up with the light bulb and electricity. Or how many times Alexander Graham Bell experimented until he came up with the telephone.

      Do you know why WD-40 is called WD-40? It was the 40th time they tried to get the formula correct.

      FAIL is first attempt in learning…….you have to give it a chance. You negative nellies just don’t get it.

      When the late coach Ray Malavasi was coaching the Rams Fearsome Foursome, he was asked how many times he had to repeat drills before Fred Dryer could begin to exhibit some quality repetition at a particular pass rush technique, for example. Coach Malavasi said it took at least 6 reps and opportunities before he could begin to get Fred to a point where the coaching really began.

      Too many unrealistic expectations by far too many people.

      1. Great examples except none of them relate to why some players turn into Joe Montana and why some turn into Ryan Leaf. The one thing I do know is that while practice and reps do hone ones skills they don’t turn Kaepernick’s into Prescotts.

      2. Formula #40 was discovered, it existed it already in the universe it only had to be found. The reason QB’s like Kaepernick aren’t great isn’t because his greatness hasn’t been discovered through repetitions, it’s because it doesn’t exist.

        There’s a difference between fine tuning a skill that already exists in a player and trying to create the ability to do it at all.

  4. I see the point for the clock, but getting the feel for the pocket is the core skill, feeling the collapsing pocket, when to step up, bail out,etc. Would the skills developed effectively transfer to the game with pass rush? But hey if it can sell beer and ED pills, the NFL will do it.

  5. For good QBs to excel, the planets need to align.

    First of all, they need good defenses. Look at Marino. All the talent in the world, a TD scoring machine, and zero rings.

    Then they need the right coach. I do not think Joe would have done as well with another coach. Brady has Bellichick.

    Then they need the right system. Plunkett failed until he came to the Raiders.

    It is really hard to beat 31 other teams, so luck needs to be factored in ,too. Good balance on both sides of the ball, lack of injuries, flawed opponents, being surrounded by elite team mates, good organizations and competent coaching.

  6. You need the line and pressure to truly develop a QB. The 7 on 7 stuff is going on at lower levels and QB play at the college level is still mediocre.

          1. Right, so either the NFL and College have to try and find some common ground on the way they play or the NFL needs to have a developmental league playing real NFL style football.

          2. Getting away from the primary point which is that the pressure from a rush standpoint needs to be included in this whole process.

            I’m just basing this from my own experience.

            I could tear up 7 on 7, but it was always much tougher once there was chaos in front of me.

            Even now in my early 40’s I could function ok in a 7 on 7 environment. That’s not real football and doesn’t simulate what these poor guys face on gameday.

            1. however, the coverages and the disguises and the decision making as to where to go with the ball do. all of you whine about Kap and his inability to read coverages and to go through his progressions. You have to compartmentalize learning……..it is part, part, whole; not whole and then regressing to part, part………..foundation is the key.

            2. pressure comes later…..there are stages to learning. did you as a child come out of the womb running…..NO! there are stages to walking and running just like there are stages to playing QB……..it is an incremental process!!!!!!!!

  7. Pick’em League update after week 10.

    JPN001 87
    rocket 87
    CFC 85
    dlptown 85
    D Rogue 83
    Rick 82
    Pot…Kettle 81
    #80 80 :)
    Steelmatic 76
    Shoup 75
    ninermd 74

  8. I think Grant’s premise has merit, but feasibility could be problematic. There are quarterbacks coming out that don’t even know the difference between a Base Defense and a Nickel Defense, believe it or not. Never taken a snap under center. Besides being the most difficult position to play in all of sports, it’s also the most difficult to evaluate. RG3, EJ Manuel, Weeden, Locker, Gabbert, Ponder, Tebow, Bortles, Bradford all taken in the 1st Round. The so called experts can’t even get it right close to half the time. Will Goff be a bust? I think he will and it won’t be entirely his fault. Quarterback development within the coaching staff is paramount when over drafting these types of players. The Rams coaching staff has no one qualified in that area. Until they invent a test that is able to determine how a quarterback processes information in 30 seconds or less, assessing their knowledge will continue to be an illusive endeavor. I think CFC has a point. Some are born to play the position, but most must grow into the position with a supporting cast of quality players and coaches….

      1. Grant, unless the “we want it and we want it now” of your generation is showing, your entire premise is a flawed one. NFL passing game has incrementally improved over the last near 2 decades

        NFL avg passing yards/game

        2002 – 212
        2004 – 210
        2006 – 204
        2008 – 211
        2010 – 221
        2012 – 231
        2014 – 236
        2016 – 249

        If the QBing is getting worse, how come the yardage is going up?

        1. More pass attempts. Yards per pass attempt has increased only eight one-hundredths of a yard per pass attempt since 1983. That’s ridiculous.

      2. >>I hope you enjoy paying $250 a ticket to watch the punt fests.

        Actually, punts per game has been on a downward trajectory too

        Avg punt per game per team

        2002 – 4.74
        2004 – 4.90
        2006 – 4.84
        2008 – 4.48
        2010 – 4.79
        2012 – 4.78
        2014 – 4.60
        2012 – 4.50

        Now are you going to tell me that’s because more coaches are going for it on 4th down? :)

        1. I would like for the league to drop one preseason game and use that extra week to schedule Thursday night football games with 10 days rest between games.

          They should stop risking injury to the starters by designating 22 starting players each game to be ineligible to play.

          Maybe it would help to have more joint practices so a team’s offense can play against the opponent’s defense.

  9. Creative article Grant, but I think you’ve oversimplified the QB problems. Even back in the Walsh days there were big gaps between the upper echelon QB’s and the mid to lower tier guys. That will never change. As CFC said above, some players are just natural talents and others have to work at it.

    Most of the QB’s in the NFL could thrive if they had a good Oline and running game. Those two components are the keys to success at this level for QB’s. All you have to do is look at some of the names in the bottom 3rd of the ratings this year to see that some good QB’s are struggling due to not having adequate support in these areas.

    I don’t disagree that young QB’s are coming in less prepared due to the systems they play in, but as we’ve seen with Prescott and Wentz, they can adapt quickly if the support is there from the Oline and running game. An area that is just as big of a problem in these College offenses if not more than the QB position, is Oline play. So many Olinemen come into the league not knowing how to block in a pro style offense because they’ve only been subjected to very basic run blocking schemes and pass pro.

    I think the NFL needs a developmental league, but not 7-7. They need to develop players to play the pro game. Yes you are going to have injuries just as you do in the NFL, but it’s the only way to prepare players to play at this level who otherwise wouldn’t get the chance.

      1. I agree and playing real football doesn’t take away from that. You just make sure there is a high passing ratio much like there is in the NFL.

        1. The developmental league should be microfocused on passing. Most of the coaches who get fired every year don’t have a quality quarterback. The NFL is a quarterback-driven league.

          1. I like the idea that rookies would be ineligible, and this would not only help develop QBs, but marginal players would get to shine, and maybe get selected to the 53.

            1. Exactly. Teams even could allocate players off the street. Like McLeod Bethel-Thompson, for example. And the season would end before the new league year starts so the players would be eligible to sign contracts with NFL teams and report to OTAs.

          2. It can’t be just about passing because that isn’t NFL football. There needs to be work on run fakes and play action that you can’t do with a strictly passing league.

              1. That’s not enough. If you are going to develop QB’s you have to develop every attribute of the game. Reps are the only way to do that and they have to be live action with a pass rush. I agree that the play calling should be slanted to the passing game, but there still needs to be an element of the type of game they will actually play at the next level.

              2. 7 on 7 is simply to develop cohesion in the passing game. It’s for working on timing and getting the QB and receivers in sync from drop to break. It does nothing to prepare the QB for an actual game situation as far as dealing with pressure and ball handling. If the intent is to truly develop QB’s, then you have to include everything.

    1. I agree rocket. No need to make it only passing. Make it NFL-light. That’s the best way to get players NFL ready, not having them play a pass only league as that will lead to the same problems as college QBs (guys will be learning something that doesn’t translate to the NFL).

      A difficulty will be making it competitive while also providing the incentive to use systems that suit developing NFL skills, not just winning.

      1. What do you think the viewership would be like? How many people actually watch minor league baseball? And perhaps most importantly, why would these guys subject themselves to injury to play “minor league” ball. BT outlined a host of other reasons why this idea won’t make “business” sense.

        1. It would be a spring football league I would imagine and the viewership probably wouldn’t be very high, but that wouldn’t be the purpose of it anyway.

          The players sent to this league would be young and competing for roster spots. The QB’s would likely be 3rd string NFL players needing development along with College QB’s that are looking for jobs. Business wise it makes sense for both the league and the NFLPA in improving the product and also giving jobs to more players.

          1. Rocket:

            If such a league as you envision existed, what do you think the Rams would have done with Goff during his rookie season?

            1. Cubus,

              Exactly the same thing they did this year. A developmental league would be for backup/end of the roster players for the most part because you wouldn’t want to risk injury to a high draft pick in a league like this.

          2. “Business wise it makes sense for both the league and the NFLPA in improving the product and also giving jobs to more players.”

            I don’t agree with this because the team owners are used to making a very large profit on their investment. In the developmental league they would be investing in salaries, equipment, field space, etc. and they would probably lose money on this investment. I’m not saying the developmental league isn’t needed, just don’t think the NFL in its current state will buy into it. Now, if there is a downturn in regular revenue that can clearly be correlated with the poor product on the field, then maybe something will happen.

            1. It wouldn’t cost that much to run in the grand scheme of things and there would be some money to be made by putting games on the NFL Network and some cable networks that might be looking for programming. I think the league is going to be open to anything if ratings keep declining.

        2. My thoughts are a developmental league should effectively replace the practice squad, and should be run concurrently with the NFL season.

          As PS players are important for preparing NFL teams, players from the developmental squad would need to be made available to practice with the parent NFL team during the week – perhaps have a maximum of 10 guys that participate with the NFL team during the week.

          To ensure those players don’t miss out on all the prep time for their own game, I would have the developmental league play on a Friday. Prep for the next game can start on Sunday, so even guys that will be practicing with the NFL squad during the week will be available for some practices with the developmental squad. Not sure if those timelines work exactly, but I would be looking to do something along those lines.

          1. Interesting concept Scooter, but running it concurrently means the players aren’t able to practice with their NFL counterparts nearly enough to play a meaningful role as quickly as you would like them too imo. If you run the developmental league in the spring, the top players could then join NFL teams for TC and get work in the system early.

            There is also the fact that if they run at the same time as the NFL, it cuts down on the TV options. The league will want to get some sort of exposure for this and it will be ignored in the fall. In the spring it will be it’s own entity.

            1. I don’t think a developmental league works if they try and make it commercial.

              In Australia, a lot of our football codes have a reserve team that plays on the same weekend. They usually adopt similar types of systems (or schemes/ playbooks if you like), as the reserve grade coaches are just part of the overall coaching staff. So players can train with the first team during most of the week and still run out for the reserve squad and know the game plan.

              It’s a great system, and it is now generating some tv revenue, but the league and teams need to go into it knowing it will lose money.

        3. it is a loss leader……it’s all about the return on the investment!!!!!!! the quality of the game down the road……..what kind of crowds are you getting in the NBA D league?……attendance and money are not the issues that’s why it is called a developmental league!!!!!!!

          1. Mike:

            When there is little reason to innovate, then there generally is no innovation. Right now, the NFL has little reason, imo. A developmental league won’t significantly increase profits at this point in time. Might change in the future, but because the NFL is essentially a monopoly and a very, very profitable one at that, why take investment risk. Where’s NFL Europe at? That could have easily functioned as the developmental league Grant is talking about, except that it would be 11 on 11 instead of 7 on 7.

            1. NFL Europe cost the league $33 Million a season so despite a couple of QBs who emerged, flying 1,000’s of miles to see their players was ridiculous. NFL saw Europe as a new revenue stream.

    2. Is lack of a quality offensive line why an unpressured Gabbert bounces passes to wide open receivers. I THINK NOT, and he was an early first round pick!!!!!!!!!!

  10. I don’t know if we need a new league to develop quarterbacks. I think there might be others ways to do it. For instance the Niners have 3 mediocre QB’s on the roster. Makes no sense. One should be a developmental prospect. Bad teams throw rookies on the field. Again it makes no sense.

    Maybe teams should invest more in coaching QB’s. Maybe teams should require QB’s to have an off season program.

    Clearly here is not enough effort to developing QB’s. Mostly because teams vision seems to be focused on the short term and ignore the long term.

    1. The MLB develops its pitchers. The MLB has winter instructional leagues. Why doesn’t the NFL do the same for quarterbacks? Makes no sense.

      1. Only makes sense from the perspective that the NFL style of play is nonsustainable.
        Parents are not going to send their kids to school to have their brains scrambeled.
        As a parent , when your son or daughter wants to plat a game, in what direction will you point them?

    2. NFL restrictions as negotiated through the latest CBA restrict the number of hours players can be in the facility; how many hours a day they can be on the field, etc., so how can you develop the back-ups when you barely have enough time to work with the starters?????

    3. 23 areas that quarterbacks need to strive to master in order to reach their full potential and then let’s take that a step further by dividing those skills up into three categories.

      Physical:
      1 – Accuracy
      2 – Arm strength
      3 – Athleticism
      4 – Footwork
      5 – Mechanics
      6 – Mobility
      7 – Physical toughness
      8 – Pocket presence
      9 – Size
      10 – Touch

      “These physical traits can and need to be development in the off-season. QBs practice time is limited with their position coach during the season so fine tuning their physical skill set has to be done in the off-season and during early camp.”

      Mental:
      11 – Anticipation
      12 – Approach
      13 – Commitment
      14 – Confidence
      15 – Decision making
      16 – Intuition
      17 – Mental Toughness

      “The mental game is developed during the off-season and during the season. You are always challenging and evaluating your QB’s in the weight room, during film sessions, through camps and OTA’s, and especially during the season. Not only are you as a coach evaluating the mental approach of your QB but also so is every player, every coach. Everyone is always watching your QB and the way he carries himself.“

      Leadership:
      18 – Ability to inspire
      19 – Character
      20 – Coachable
      21 – Communication skills
      22 – Dedication
      23 – Positive attitude

      “The leadership qualities it takes to play QB are not only unique to being a successful QB but also are the same skills set it takes to be a successful head coach, a CFO, or a point guard. It is difficult to teach any player these qualities, but you can look for these skill traits in your QB and do everything you can to help develop them and grow to be the leader of your football team.”

  11. The idea that the skill players could get better with more practice is pretty hard to argue with. That said, there are so many questions raised by Grant’s proposal.
    – Um,……CBA…..?
    – More work for players?
    – More contact work for players? The NFLPA gave up a lot last time to get the concessions on reduced practice time and reduced practice contact; it was a high priority, has something changed?
    – More money from owners to players?
    – Who would pay to watch 7×7 contests?
    -What advertisers would pay tv to broadcast 7×7? Paltry little Arena League at least is a form of football, and really, who cares about it?
    -Increased risk of injury to receivers and back 7 guys?
    -Skill guys get extra pay, Big Uglies get squat?
    -Skill guys get less physical-mental recovery time between seasons and less time with family?
    -WRT the owners, if the scheme isn’t a stand alone money maker, they’d take a pass. They don’t really care about product quality, (except competitively amongst themselves), they don’t need to invest more money, they’re making money now.
    More work makes you better, not necessarily good. I just can’t see this as realistic I n the world as we know it.
    Finally: It’s true there aren’t enough good QBs to go around the NFL. It’s also true that there aren’t enough bona fide Starting Pitchers in MLB. Been that way for some time.

      1. The system worked better before the MLB owners outsourced the minor league development function to colleges. We used to develop our own talent and truly teach them to be major league professionals but now the minors just babysits players under contract until they get their trip to the big time. It shows up in the number of excellent MLP players that are from foreign countries that have better systems for developing future stars. I think Rocket’s idea of a developmental league is the way to go but as most agree it’s the money issue and greed that has put us where we are and will probably keep us there. At the end of the day, professional sports teams are run as monopoly businesses and what we are getting is the reason they we passed laws to prohibit them. Unfortunately our leaders feel that we should decide at any given point which of our laws we are going to enforce.

  12. Execution suffers (in part) because of the NFL’s dominance of the NFLPA.

    The NFL can do what it wants, but its in the interest of both the NFL and NFLPA leadership to cultivate the appearance of balance. But its a phoney balance. Here’s how it works.

    The NFL stomps on monetary issues, but concedes on non-monetary issues.

    NFL Stomps – Thursday night games, percentage of revenue, limits in post career health coverage, rookie salary slotting, salary caps, open books etc. Issues that directly affect revenue.

    NFL Concedes – Limits in practice hours, number of practice days, contact practices, offseason training at team facility etc. Issues that have no direct affect on revenue.

    (If anyone sees parallels in our political system, I’m in agreement)

    There isn’t as much preparation time. Drove Hayne crazy that he couldn’t practice right away after signing with the team. He suggested a minor league would help too.

  13. I agree with some of what you say, in particular that the college game doesn’t prepare QBs for the NFL. Some sort of developmental league would be good.

    But your article loses steam early when you try and use YPA as an indicator of how QBs aren’t improving. So many teams use the pass as an alternative to the run these days, with quick hitters designed to pick up just a handful of yards and keep the team on track for down and distance. That is the main reason the YPA is similar to what it was 30 years ago.

    1. David – Just a little history for you.

      I am sure you know that the former GM of the Super Bowl Carolina Panthers at one time was a sports writer, so what you thought was a sarcastic comment actually has been a reality. Ron Wolf, whose bronze bust now is in the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton, OH, and former GM and tremendous player personnel guru for the Raiders, TB, the Jets and the Packers also got his start writing for a football magazine. Lot of SB rings for Wolf, too.

      1. Just so you know, Marty Hurney, a journalist by trade, who became the GM of the Carolina Panthers, drafted Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, all of whom appeared in the Panthers last SB appearance.

        Not too bad for a journalist, David.

        1. Hurney didn’t go from Journalist to GM. He spent a lot of years learning under Bobby Beathard before getting that opportunity. Everybody has to start somewhere, but you don’t get GM jobs without putting in a lot of years as a scout or in some personnel position.

  14. The Truth is that if Dak Prescott was on this team it wouldn’t be that much of a difference, why? Because the 49ers don’t have the same talent the Cowboys have period.

  15. As a Bull fan I remember a standard set by MJ. He had a full court gym at his home. All of the players would show up without being obligated to do so.

    Phil Jackson did not attend. The games were intense. MJ punched Kerr in the face because he felt Kerr was dogging it on D.

    MJ and Rice did everything they could to make themselves better. They led by example and both had an insane work ethic.

    There’s not going to be any kind of developmental league. The leaders of each team needs to hold their own practices. Take a few weeks off ater the season and then get back to work. Get chemistry with each other.

    Keep it clean to avoid injuries. Stay in football shape year round. The teams that would do this wouldn’t have the typical sloppy Week 1 game.

  16. The NFL should develop and developmental league. It would create jobs and boost the American economy.
    It would also put a better product on the field. It’s working in hockey,baseball, and most recently the NBA. The more these players play and are coached, the better they become!
    The NCAA is doing nothing for the NFL. I think this is a great idea.

  17. Why would these owners front another dollar. They would not fund NFL Europe, a developement league. A decade from now ,if the NFL is still around , the game will be unreconizable. It is the push and shove league now, it is pretty boring to watch as it is, can’t wait to see what it will look like after the league gets finished fixing the product.

    1. I would think because the game is declining in viewership.
      The product is not that great anymore. It’s not as appealing to the younger generation and to be honest, the games and some teams are pathetic to watch. Case in point the once most storied franchise in NFL history licks cow dunga!

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