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In the Huddle: The importance of having “The Guy” at QB

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Coach Terry Dennis takes us in the huddle to explain how QB controversies make the game harder for everyone on the team.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Football forces us to choose favorites. Whether it’s a favorite team or player —even a favorite jersey combination — there are reasons that fans and spectators tune in to watch their favorites.

Take all of this emotional energy we wrap into the things we like, and channel it toward the most important position on the football field, and you’ve got the perfect storm of a, “Quarterback controversy.” In a game that operates in three phases, the QB will always have a target on his back and will always be pointed to as the leader. So when controversy exists, one shouldn’t be surprised as to the effect it has on the whole team.

When a team is either missing their QB or seemingly cannot decide which guy is THE guy, critics begin to question that entire team’s ability to win. Case in point: the term, “Do Your Job,” — used by coaching greats including Nick Saban and Bill Belichick — applies not only to QBs, but to each of the players around them. With the understanding that each player has a job within the greater unit, the goal shifts from, “How do we win without THE guy?”, to, “How do I step MY game up?” Receivers are taught to block, run routes, and go get the ball when it’s in the air. Linemen are taught to protect, whether that means “Big on Big”, pulling guards or tackles, “Seal-Hinge” from a backside tackle, a center kickslide to A-gap... whatever the position, each man has a job. Notice, as well, that their job includes doing only their job. No one else’s.

That being said, chemistry is key. The timing and trajectory of the ball leaving a quarterback’s hands is important to a receiver. They know, from all those hours of practice, that there’s an internal clock that informs them where to be and when the ball will be there. For linemen, they know that the man barking out protections and audibles has confidence in his voice, and that when the ball is snapped, they can expect him to scramble or survey the pocket. They can surmise just how much time they may have in order to assure he’s protected. That chemistry eventually becomes muscle memory, specific to one person. When that becomes a different person, that muscle memory is gone.

Quarterbacks have a job to do as well, a job that carries more responsibility than most other positions on the field. This is no easy task, and carries a great deal of pressure. Not only does a QB need to just do his job, he needs to do it especially when it counts. They’re expected to handle that pressure and deliver. When a situation arises where there’s trust (or lack thereof) in equal measure, a coach must nudge them in a direction to create separation. One guy needs to stand out as “the guy.” What’s the adage — if you have two QBs, you don’t have one?

Amidst the uncertainty, good teams tend not to worry. But if the man behind center is prone to mistakes, losing composure, and unpredictable snap decisions, there may be some cause for concern. In the grand scheme, players understand that even with an uncertain situation at the helm, they have a responsibility to deliver what’s expected of them. But when there’s a lack of consistency from most important position on the field, an extra burden is heaped on their shoulders, making success that much harder to achieve.