The Running Quarterback

The Running QB

What comes to mind when someone says the words “Running Quarterback”? Most of the time this term is synonymous with the melanin laced African in America, aka the Black ones. From the time of the legalization of the forward pass in 1906 there have been certain stereotypes placed on the quarterback position. Even after the integration of professional American football, where all men were supposedly equal, black quarterbacks were branded athletes playing the position and not intelligent enough to truly master the position from the pocket.

From before the time of Jefferson Street Joe Gilliam to the present day Cam Newtons those myths are continuously being dispelled. Also with the emergence of more athletic white quarterbacks, like Crouch, Matt Jones, Tebow, and Manziel to name a few, makes the “running quarterback” more acceptable in the mainstream American sports landscape. So being an athletic, or running quarterback, is no longer just a “black thing”.

The problem that most coaches or analysts have with running quarterbacks is that they feel these young men are not NFL polished products. Even though many of them can make all the throws the analysts say that “they can’t do it under center”. They complain that the these types of quarterbacks can’t read coverages or the blitz. They act as though the football Gods either gave some quarterbacks the ability to run or throw from the pocket. Only few have been blessed with both and they are in the Hall of Fame.

My question is how do these players make it all the way to the highest level without knowing the fundamentals of the position? Why are they not known to be accurate passers? Why do they have poor pocket awareness? Why are they always counseled to play wide receiver, or tight end in Crouch’s case? Is their situation a product of their ability(or lack there of) or a lack of proper coaching? I say the latter.

It can be based on pure laziness on the coaches behalf or the constant revolving door that is employment verses unemployment. You can look at it from whatever window you choose. Bottom line is that from the time of little league the coaches want the best athlete taking snaps. Most little league teams don’t throw the ball down field so the running game is the primary focus. Running backs and quarterbacks are usually the teams best athletes. Although middle school, and especially high school, have better offensive line play and receivers that can catch the down field pass many coaches choose to still have the best athlete under center. Or they will have a traditional pocket style QB at the helm with a “running quarterback” in their back pocket if they feel that they need a change of pace.

With the “running quarterback” the coaching staff uses their natural ability to run faster than most people on the field to their advantage. Therefore the spread option, read option, sprint out package, veer, or bootleg offenses are employed into the offensive scheme. These packages require zero pocket presence, because from the time that the ball leaves the center’s hand and enters the quarterback’s hands the QB is on the run. There is no need to read safeties for the most part because the running quarterback is taught to look for the first option or run like a bat out of burning hell if that option is not open.

Some of these athletes make it all the way to the upper echelon of college football if they are dynamic enough at what they do. One would think that college coaches at these major and storied programs would take the time to teach their quarterbacks how to play the position. If for nothing else, to at least get them ready for the next level. Unfortunately, it seems that these coaches have an attitude of, “once they leave my program and go to the NFL, then they aren’t my problem or concern anymore.” These coaches are concerned with keeping a proud and wealthy alumni circle happy so that they can keep writing those fat checks to the university. If the fat checks stop coming in, then the fat coaching office will be occupied by the incumbent’s replacement.

This treatment of the “running quarterback” is probably most prevalent on the high school level. As mentioned in my blog “Can You Play Football”, I entered my sophomore season as the starting quarterback. Eventually they moved me to slot receiver to take better advantage of my speed. It got so bad that I wasn’t even invited to QB meetings anymore. They would send me to receiver drills and bring me in to play QB when the starter was hurt or having a bad game. The coaches figured that they should let an athlete be an athlete and put me in to run the bootleg, sprint out, option package. Partly because I was too short to see over the line and letting me use my athletic ability seemed more time effective than teaching me how to read coverages. It wasn’t that I had trouble learning because I was a top student in my class intellectually. They just didn’t take the time to teach me the fundamentals of the position.

I remember one game against El Campo I was put in at quarterback and the coaches called a 71. The Z receiver ran a six yard hitch route and the slot ran a corner. The Z came wide open so I threw the hitch and hit him square on the numbers. The ball was wet and muddy from heavy rain so he dropped it. When I went to the side line the head coach asked me why didn’t I run the ball. I said “he was open coach”. He said “ I put you in to run the ball son.” That should say it all.

How long has this been going on? So were black quarterbacks that made it to the league unable to process information on the field properly or were they just not taught how and what to process? Are athletic QBs of any pigment naturally inaccurate passers or did their coaches fail to teach them the proper footwork mechanics that would allow them to be in position to make accurate throws? Are they impatient in the pocket or have they been pushed to run the ball by coaches even though they have an open man at the 1st down marker?

Another possible reason that many young black men were not as fundamentally sound as some of our white contemporaries is because we couldn’t play organized football until seventh grade because our parents couldn’t afford to pay for all of the fees that accompanied playing in the Pop Warner sports associations. Neither could we afford to attend the many football camps that were offered.

These things need to be investigated and corrected at the early levels of organized football. Then maybe the Terrelle Pryors wouldn’t have to be taught how to play the position that they have been playing their entire lives when they get to the pros.

Peace Sha…


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