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| Oct 2004
A Championship Quarterback
By John Bond
Offensive Coordinator/QB’s Coach,
Northern Illinois University
I have been a collegiate football coach since 1986 and have been
coaching quarterbacks since 1991. During that entire period of
time, I have never been at a place where we had our pick of the “blue
chip” or top quarterbacks. Whether you are in the NFL, college,
or high school, I feel that there are certain processes you must
put your quarterback through daily in order to bring him to a point
where he can help you compete for your conference championship.
We all know that from Pop Warner to the pros, you must have a quarterback
in order to have a chance to win championships.
Developing a quarterback starts during the evaluation process. There are two
musts that we look for when trying to find our difference maker. There is one
thing that some people overlook when recruiting a quarterback, but I feel is
the most important factor when evaluating one. That factor is toughness. I want
our quarterback to be the toughest guy on the field, both physically and mentally.
When you start talking about the greatest quarterbacks ever, you think of Unitas,
Marino, Montana, Staubach, etc. Every single one of those guys are tough. They
are men who can “rally the troops.” They are guys who can will their
teammates to victory just by their sheer presence. The second factor that is
of paramount importance is that we want a guy who is competitive. I want a guy
who wants to win at cards, pick-up basketball, or tiddly-winks. Get a guy who
has to win and can't accept anything else.
When you start talking about the physical skills we look for, I think we must
all understand and appreciate that there are many ways to “skin a cat.” I
feel that as fast and as athletic as today's brand of football has become, athleticism
is the first and most crucial factor when recruiting a quarterback. Michael Vick
has and will continue to revolutionize the game. In my mind, this trend to a
more athletic quarterback has been going on now for the last several years. We
want a guy who can create. Defensive linemen are so fast and athletic that when
the pocket collapses, we need a guy who can pull it down and go. I know that
defensive coordinators lay awake at night when they face a guy who can beat them
with both his arm and his legs.
Another factor in a championship quarterback is vision. The ability to see the
field is so under appreciated and yet so critical. A guy with great vision can
see a vertical route out of the corner of his eye and turn an incompletion or
short gain into a touchdown. The ability to see is innate, in my opinion. I don't
think you can coach a guy to be able to see. It is the same thing with great
runners. The superstars can see the next cut before it happens. In the same sense,
a great quarterback can see and visualize the play and defensive structure and
be able to turn the routine play into the spectacular.
The last thing I look for is a quick release. I like a player who can get it
out of there. There are drills one can do to enhance a quick delivery and I use
them all. If you have a guy who can flat get rid of the football, you have just
reduced the number of sacks and negative yardage plays, gaining hidden field
The things that I have just mentioned are things that in my mind are easily detected
during the evaluation and recruiting process. If you watch enough tape of a guy,
you will be able to tell if he is tough and competitive. You will also be able
to see if he is spreading the ball around and finding people in seams making
you say “Holy Cow, how did he see that?” Lastly, you can tell if
a guy has one of those long, slow releases or one that just explodes out of his
Now, for you guys who are not in the NFL or a top 10 program in college, you
might have noticed that I did not mention a 40 time. I did not mention a strong
arm. I did not say anything about being 6'4.” High school stats are not
important, either, and you certainly do not need a recruiting guru to tell you
he is the next Joe Namath. The best quarterback I have ever coached or seen in
person was 5'9” on a good day. He ran a 4.8 forty, but boy he sure could
create. If anybody was open, he would find them and he could get that ball out
of there in a hurry. He made play after play after play.
After we get our quarterback to campus, there are certain things we teach that
are of critical importance to the development of your championship quarterback.
I will list them point-by-point:
1. We tell them to never take a sack.
2. Never say: “Don’t throw an interception.”
3. Scramble to throw.
4. Throw against the blitz every day.
5. Protect your quarterback inside out.
6. Know who to throw to on the blitz.
7. Teach the quarterback to deceive with his eyes and actions.
8. Demand that your quarterback coach the wide receivers.
9. Put him in adverse situations in practice.
10. Force him to make throws in practice.
One thing that we do that I feel is somewhat unique, is script one scramble situation
a day in our pass skel or 7-on-7 drills. We force our players to understand the
importance of this situation daily, as you can gain huge chunks of yards. When
this occurs, I think it is the best play in college football.
Another thing that has helped me tremendously over the years is the fact that
my head coach does not make me coach special teams. When it is time to work that
group, I get an extra 10 or 20 minutes a day with the quarterbacks to work on
things like off-balance throws or looking defenders off. It allows me the time
to make him completely aware of his progress. I feel this extra time really helps
me prepare our quarterbacks to the maximum of their abilities.
Lastly, I do not think I can overstate the importance of a great relationship
with your quarterback. If he knows that you really care about him off the field
as well as on, that will go a long way toward building the trust that is necessary
for you both to succeed. You must be able to be 100% honest with each other.
When I ask him: “What did you see?” I need an honest answer. He also
has to know that you will always have his best interests at heart, no matter
what the situation or circumstances. To sum up a great quarterback-coach relationship,
he has to know that 1) you really care about him, 2) you must have a mutual trust
with each other, 3) you both have to know that you are always going to be honest
with each other, and 4) he has to believe that you always have his best interest
Developing a championship quarterback is an on-going process. You must “believe
what you see” when recruiting. Then you have to not only work the physical
skills that are necessary, but you have to make sure that your relationship with
your quarterback is rock solid. Make no mistake about it: if there is not a mutual
affection at that critical position, it is tough to make your player as good
as he can be over the long haul.
Best of luck in your quest to develop your championship quarterback.
The Bond Files:
SW Missouri State
This fall John Bond begins his first year as Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks
coach at Northern Illinois. Having played and coached under Lou Holtz, Bond brings
21 years of sideline experience to the Huskies and head coach Joe Novak. In 1999,
while coaching at Illinois State, Bond was a finalist for American Football Coaches
Association Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Last fall he was the recipient
of the Mike Campbell Top Assistant Coach Award by the All-America Football Foundation.