FanPost

Some Clarification is in Order

Greg Cosell said "The running quarterback are really the function of a highlight obsessed society." With the arrival of Tim Tebow into the National Football League, the decade old debate of the value of the mobile quarterback comes to the table. From the day Frank Tarketon and Jim Zorn started running forward after the snap rather then taking a few steps back, people have had opinions about quarterbacks who like to run. But to understand this concept and these players, we need to get a foundation. This will be broken up into three parts, the first talking about definitions, the second will take a look at players who have made an impact in this field, and the third will look at Tim Tebow.

But before we get started a quick note, to better understand these terms and to characterize them, I did some research, and came upon this chart, which basically took the number of attempted passes and divided it by the number times they ran and got the ratio. Players who had a ratio of about 8 or few passes to one run, were considered mobile quarterbacks, 9 to 14 were balanced passer, while 15+ players, were traditional pocket passers or "statues." Those players called scramblers can fit anywhere in that range.

Part 1: Definitions

There are four terms I wanted to look at and discuss in this section: scramble, mobile, pocket passer and pocket presence.

Scramble:

Dictionary.com says:

1.To compete or struggle with others for possession or gain 2.To move hastily and with urgency 3. to cause to move hastily, as if in panic.

Often the word "Scramble" is used in football to mean similar things, but it has become often confused with other words and meaning. Our own Stephen Nichols says:

A Scrambler is a player that is known to use his feet when he gets into trouble (whether or not the play is scripted that way).  Most often, these players have a strong arm and can throw on the move (or they wouldn't be getting playing time).  He may or may not be fast.

When the term first became applied to football it referred to players, as Stephen said, who are primarily pocket passers, but can use their feet to escape pressure. This term is applied to quarterbacks who may not be fast, but are capable of eluding pressure, by either moving around in the pocket or by moving horizontally across the field. This type of player is not one who you plan your offense around him running the ball, this is a player who can escape pressure and throw. These are the type of player linebackers do containment drills to stop.  Two examples of this type of player:

-Brett Favre (16.8 ratio): Considered the toughest quarterback to ever play the game, Favre is also one of the strongest armed and most confident players out there too. But one thing everyone knows about Brett Favre is how dangerous he can be on the move, just take look at the Minnesota-San Fransisco game last season here. Now Favre isn't the fast guy out there, but his great trust in himself, his no fear mentality and one hell of an arm, allow him to run around behind the line until he can find a man open. He's not the quickest player, but he has shown that he can be sideline to sideline runner, Able to be just as deadly throwing on the run as he is when he's sitting in the pocket.

-Ben Roethlisberger (10.6 ratio): Ben is a pretty large guy at 6'5" and 241 pounds, he is also pretty intimidating. Plus with a strong arm, fearless attitude and lack of respect for his own safety, he can be dangerous anywhere on the field. Like Favre, Roethlisberger is a player defensive coaches run drills for, on how to contain and sack him. This is a hard thing to do, first off because of his size and strength, but also because he is so likely to leave the pocket and throw down the field. Watch any highlight film of this guy, you almost want him to stay in the pocket, cause once he is moving out of the pocket, he is amazingly accurate on the run, and has the size for run sometimes.

-Some other players who are skilled scramblers: John Elway (9.4), Donovan McNabb (8.3), Daunte Culpepper (9.6), Roger Staubach (7.2), Seneca Wallace (10.3) and Frank Tarkenton( 9.6).

Mobile:

The wise Nichols continues his lecture:

A Mobile QB can mean that the QB is a threat when he runs...  He doesn't need to be restricted to a pocket passing role.

In many ways a "mobile" quarterback is in some ways similar to a "scrambling" quarterback, but they are, at least in part, also used in the running game. These are usually either quick and agile or just big guys players, who can move quickly either outside the pocket to run, or can make cuts in between the tackles. These players are often called running quarterbacks as well. While most start their careers as runners guys, almost every single one of them become capable passers as they progress into their career. Some examples would include:

-Michael Vick (3.2 ratio): Considered to be the poster boy for the running or mobile quarterback, Vick has a pass/rush ratio of 3.2, which is pretty amazing, that means for about every three times he passed, he ran for one play too. He was the first quarterback to rush for over 1000 yards, and has rushed for over 500 yards four times, and he has only played seven seasons and started in five. He is such an exciting player to watch, mostly because of his speed and agility. He is such a fast player that he is able to out run linebackers, corners and safeties. Dan Reeves says that for most of his career, Michael Vick was the fastest guy on the team, which says something about the talent around him in Atlanta, but also about Vick. But like other great mobile mobile quarterbacks, the further along in his career, the better mechanics he has used, seeking to become more well rounded and capable passer.

-Steve McNair (6.8 ratio): The late McNair was an interesting player, had a strong arm, yet he was a big, quick guy too, and because of that he said he preferred to hit someone then be hit. He was successful at both, being a great player for the Oilers, Titans and the Ravens, leading the Titans to the Super Bowl. Such a red zone threat that he scored eight, yea eight touchdowns in two of his seasons. That's more then Ricky Williams, Moreno, Ray Rice, Cedric Benson, or Matt Forte got this last season. He had five seasons where he rushed for over 400 yards, and had ten seasons with at least one rushing touchdown. Incredibly tough, more often then not he played through injury, and often played better when injured. While not the speed machine Vick is, McNair was a running threat when ever he got onto the field.

-Other examples of mobile quarterbacks: Randell Cunningham (5.5), Bobby Douglass (2.8), Roger Staubach (7.2), Kordell Steward (4.2), Vince Young (4.3), and Steve Young (5.8).

Pocket Passer:

The pocket passer is considered the tradition style of play by quarterbacks. These are the type of player who stays in the "pocket" created by the offensive line to give him time to pass. These players rely on a good offensive line to buy them time to make their reads and then throw. These type of players usually need to set their feet before throwing to maximize accuracy and distance. They also greatly benefit from a good running game, which can allow receivers to get open easier, thus making the quarterback's job easier. These quarterbacks usually fall into two groups, balanced, which will take a chance and run on occasion, a ratio from 9-14, and the "statue" who will do everything in his power to not run, 15+ ratio. Two examples of a traditional pocket passer:

-Troy Aikman (14.4 ratio): Aikman is one of the most accomplished players to ever play quarterback. A six time Pro Bowler, three time Super Bowl champ, and Super Bowl MVP, and now a member of the Hall of Fame. He was a consistent leader and an accurate quarterback who said it was unsafe for any living thing to leave the pocket. Now if a guy who is 6'2" says that, it starts to sound convincing. Despite this, he still managed to leave the pocket every once in a while, rushing for nine touchdowns in his career.

-Kyle Orton (18.8 ratio): Orton falls very far into the pocket passer category, and it shows in how he plays. Orton is an accurate, smart player who, while large at 6'4", isn't very athletic. In almost every way he tries to stay in the pocket, which isn't a knock against him. He has rushed for three touchdowns, all in one season. But as seen in the last Kansas City game where Orton rushed for 13 yards, diving head first to make sure he gained the first down, he has shown he isn't afraid to run, and is a tough player.

-Other players: Peyton Manning (19.9), Kurt Warner (23.5), Tom Brady (13.8), Joe Montana (11.8), and Dan Marino (27.7).

Pocket Presence:

I continue to quote Coach Nichols:

Pocket presence is also called "situational awareness", and means that the QB is simultaneously aware of his threats (blitz or pass rush) and targets.

Pocket presence is one of the hardest things for quarterbacks to learn. Often referred to as awareness, to survive quarterbacks need to be aware of their surroundings while keeping their eyes down field. Pocket Presence is what helps quarterbacks maintain their composure, their confidence, and their throwing profile, while moving about within the pocket. Rarely does a game go by that quarterbacks do not have to improvise, move about to keep the play alive, and make a good throw. Urban Dictionary, while not the best source, gives a good definition:

A quarterback is said to have good pocket presence if he:

--Is able to sense when the pocket is closing in around him while simultaneously looking for open receivers

--Knows when and where to move within the pocket

--Maintains composure in the pocket while under pressure Good pocket presence separates decent quarterbacks from great quarterbacks.

While hard to look at specifically, it is something you know when you see. This skill is what truly sets great passers apart from good ones, the ability to survive in the pocket. Coach Jeremy Hathcock said this:

It's like driving on a highway without the convenience of mirrors. You're focused on what is in front of you, but at the same time you have a feel where the other cars are, you know what lanes are open and which ones you need to either accelerate or hesitate in order to get there without incident.

Yuma Catholic coach Rhett Stallworth said:

It's a sixth sense, You can try and simulate it in practice, and tell them to expect something from the back side, but the good ones have a sixth sense. They can feel it, know it is there without seeing it, and the great ones don't skip a beat.

The sports blog Harley in the Huddle did an excellent video about pocket presence with can be found here. It makes the point of telling us how important it is not to panic if there is pressure, and to tell the difference between pressure and a real problem. If a player falsely suspects a problem they can make a poor throw down field, or try and shift out of the pocket where other problems can lie. Concentration is so key, as is not losing focus. Whether this trait is learned or natural, almost any quarterback in the running for "Best Ever" has this ability. Here are a few players who have shown this skill:

-Peyton Manning: Manning is in the running for best quarterback ever, if not the smartest one. Part of the reason for that was his ability to read defenses, adjust, and throw, all without being sacked. Manning has never been sacked more then 30 times, even behind a mediocre line some seasons. This past season Peyton was only sacked 10 times, that's behind Derek Anderson, Keith Null, Daunte Culpepper, Shaun Hill, and Josh Johnson, all players who started in 10 or less games. He just has such good senses that he is almost impossible to sack.

-Dan Marino: While Dan Marino could only outrun three people on his team, and he rarely ran forward, his ability to outmaneuver defensive players in the pocket was near unrivaled. Steve Sabal called him one of the hardest quarterbacks to sack. Dan Marino record four seasons with single digit sacks, something Joe Montana and Warner were only able to do one season, and something Manning and Brady have never done. Because of his ability to just move one step this way or to just shift a little, he was incredible good at moving around in the tiny space of the pocket.  Dan Marino was one of the smartest quarterbacks, a player who could escape trouble, reset and throw down field. To many he was the perfect example of a player who showed pocket presence.

-Other quarterbacks who have shown pocket presence: Tom Brady, Joe Montana, Troy Aikman, Drew Bress, and Kurt Warner.

Part 2: Analysis

Now that we have taken a look at these four key definitions we can take a look at how they apply to each other and to players. Coach Nichols speaks on:

Note that a player can be one or both of the first two terms (pocket presence is a seperate issue altogether from QB style).  "Mobile" tends to imply that the QB's movements are used in scripting the plays, while "scrambling" tends to indicate that the QB can "make something happen" outside of the scripted play.   In very simple terms, I would categorize QBs as either "pocket" or "mobile".  Whether my QB is "pocket" or "mobile", he may be a good scrambler if a play breaks down.

Coach does a good job of putting these definitions into categories: there are two styles, pocket and mobile, a player from either style can be a scrambler. And the same applies to having pocket presence, any quarterback can have it, despite the fact that largely pocket passers display it more often. Some of the greatest quarterbacks to play have found a sweet spot. Players like Donovan McNabb and Steve Young entered the league trying to be passers when their teams wanted them to be runners. Young was luckily sent behind Montana for a few years to be coached up. McNabb made an effort from his first day in the league to make the point that he could throw and run, and he has succeed at both. Young is a Hall of Famer, McNabb will be on the ballot, but is less likely to make it, but both have shown that to succeed one needs to not only rely on their feet but also their arm and by relying on their team.

Two players who went, or were forced, down different paths were Randell Cunningham and Michael Vick:

-When Cunningham entered the league, he was in a similar situation to McNabb, but his head coach Buddy Ryan was defensive minded and didn't pay much attention to the offensive side of the ball. On one occasion him and the quarterback coach were watching film, Ryan comes in and says that he doesn't need to watch that, just get faster. Considered one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks ever, his talents weren't allowed to grow. His main training was trying to improve his speed and agility, and very few quarterbacks could match him now. Because of this, his throwing skill suffered and while he had success, it wasn't until he was traded to the Vikings and he was coached up that he reached his prime form and was named All-Pro and led the Vikings to15-1.

-Vick is a similar story, if you take a look at the Falcons during the mid 2000's, he really had no weapons around him, I bet it would be tough to name one real receiver he had. Due to this he continued his running trend from college and became a highlight reel player. Because of the glory he got from running he began to ignore his throwing basics. While still maintaining his ability to throw, he never really master it, and so if none of his receiver are open early he tends to run rather then let the routes open up. We have yet to see how much his style has changed since he reentered the league.

If these two players had been drafted, or developed in different environments, they may have had very different futures.

When you have a player who has the ability to move, there are a number of pros and cons, here are just a few:

Pro

Con

Ability to escape from pressure

Injury is more likely

Ability to run if no receivers are open

Chance to lose yards when running

Quarterback run plays become more effective

Possiblity to weaken throwing skills

Part 3: Tim Tebow

The main purpose of this article is to show the difference between these key terms, but on a side note I wanted to look at Tim Tebow. A key point of most arguments about Tebow stem from what type of quarterback he is, and what type of quarterback he can become. Tim Tebow is 6'3", 240 pounds, a big quarterback, but by no means the biggest. On a college level, Tebow's pass/run ratio was 1.4, 1.4 I can't emphasize how low that is. His ability to run in college isn't questioned, but as the combine and draft approached, he started changing who he is. He worked on his mechanics, trying to become a more polished passer. He has improved in that area, but to many here, we are looking for a quarterback who can be a scrambler, be mobile and have pocket presence. Tebow is the first two no question, but he struggles recognizing pressure and would often run rather then look to his routes. With good coaching I believe he can improve that. But that will take time, and if forced under pressure early, he will revert to his run first mentality, and you can't refute the run first mentality, he is almost 1 to 1 ratio for pass to run. That is why I am a huge, huge fan of letting him take some snaps this next season, but let him sit. Steve Young is considered the greatest mobile quarterback, but he didn't even start being successful till he was 31, and while I think Tebow should start sooner then that, sitting a year or two would do wonders. Rushing him to play could force him to be like Vick, Douglass, or Cunningham, who were good, but could have had so much more success if they mastered throwing. A year behind Orton will only make him better, and if he really is the future of the franchise, don't we want him to be at his best when he starts?

My second point is about the dangers of running to often. Tebow is a big guy, but so was Steve Young and Donovan McNabb, the best case turn out for Tebow. Just during the eight seasons Young started for the 49ers, he was knocked unconcious 10 times, had 6 "reported" concussions, and only played a full season three times. If he had played that way his whole career, he wouldn't have made it a year or two past 30. McNabb is similar, he prefers to pass but still has a track record for running. McNabb is not injury prone, but because of his play style he has only played all 16 games twice. The scariest thing I saw last season was the hit Pat White took, you need to see this. White is smaller, at only 6'0", but getting hit in the head, it doesn't matter how big you are. This is what worries me, is that Tebow won't have as long career as he could if he just stayed in the pocket more. As seen from the hit Tebow took in 2009 against Kentucky, and that was a sack, not even an open field hit. I love the fact that he can keep the defense fresh, can make plays by running, but if he tries to make it by running the ball as often as throwing like he did in college, he won't last long, no matter how big or fast he is. I look forward to seeing Tebow play, but I hope he doesn't run as much as he did, and I hope he sits a year, if he can do these two things, I see his chance of success rising. I want Tebow to succeed, and any concerns I have about him are generally one that are fixable.

Just for reference, here is a chart of the success of some of the more well know mobile or scrambling quarterbacks and their pass to run ratio.

Name

Pro Bowls

MVP

All-Pro

SB Appearances

SB Wins

SB MVP

Hall of Fame

P/R Ratio

Culpepper

3

0

0

0

0

0

N*

9.6

Cunningham

4

0

1

0

0

0

N

5.5

Douglass

0

0

0

0

0

0

N

2.8

Elway

9

1

0

5

2

1

Y

9.4

McNabb

5

0

0

1

0

0

N*

8.3

McNair

3

1

0

1

0

0

N

6.8

Roethlisburger

1

0

0

2

2

0

N*

10.6

Staubach

6

0

0

4

2

1

Y

7.2

Stewart

1

0

0

0

0

0

N

4.2

Tarkenton

9

1

1

3

0

0

Y

9.6

Vick

3

0

0

0

0

0

N*

3.2

Young, S

7

2

3

1

1

1

Y

5.8

Young, V

1

0

0

0

0

0

N*

4.3

Tebow

-

-

-

-

-

-

N*

1.4

* Still playing

Resources:

Making the Case for Tim Tebow

Scramblers and Statues

Out of Your Element

NFL Network's Top 10 Mobile Quarterbacks

Coaching Pocket Presence

The Running Quarterback Movement has Halted

"Pocket Presence" Makes the Differnce for QB's

This is a Fan-Created Comment on MileHighReport.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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