The Quarterback Position: In An-Depth Guide (with Video)

Posted by Throw Deep Publishing Staff on

The quarterback is widely seen as the most important position in all of sports, not to mention the most important of all the offensive football positions. Due to this, quarterbacks are both glorified, and scrutinized more than any other players in the game of football. The quarterback is the face of any football team, and seen as the leader of any football team.

Watch the video below, or keep reading to learn more.

The best teams in football always benefit from having an elite quarterback leading the charge, and explains the reason that quarterbacks make up a heavy dose of early draft picks in the NFL draft every year. Below will uncover some of the reasons why this is seen to be true, as the quarterback is heavily relied upon to help offenses score points and win football games.

What does a Quarterback do?

The Quarterback, along with the center, are the two players on the offense who touch the football every play. The Quarterback is the leader of the offense, and at the NFL level is responsible for calling plays, and has a big part in ensuring that each play has a chance for success. The best quarterbacks do this by making sure that everyone is on the same page by the time that the offense lines up at the line of scrimmage.

When the quarterback receives the play call from the coach, either through hand signals or directly from the coach himself, he must communicate it to his teammates on the field, make sure that everyone is lined up correctly at the line of scrimmage in the proper formation, and be ready to call an audible if the defense lines up in a way that was not anticipated.

What is a Quarterback in Football?

This is why a good quarterback must be the hardest working player on the team, whether in high school, college, or even if he reaches the position of NFL quarterback. He must have a thorough understanding of the objective of the play calling, as well as the philosophy of each offensive play. Quarterbacks must spend hours studying the playbook, the scouting report, and opponent film in order to be able to throw passes and pick up passing yards with any confidence, otherwise the football can end up in the hands of one of the opponent defensive backs. He has to study hard, because if you're a good quarterback, the opposing team spends a lot of time studying you.

What is the job of the quarterback?

The quarterback’s main job is to take the snap from the center, throw the football, finding completions downfield to open players, as well as occasionally running the football. This may sound simple, but proves to be one of the most difficult tasks in all of football. With lots of moving parts on both the offensive and defensive side of the football, the quarterback must display strong ability and elite confidence to get the job done. 

Whether in high school, college or in the final minutes of a Super Bowl, the football team must have the belief and confidence in the quarterback. It doesn't matter whether or not he is responsible for calling the key offensive play, or just carrying out the play that was called by the coach, a quarterback who inspires deep confidence in his team mates will be almost impossible to stop.

At the highest levels of football, the quarterback’s responsibilities are extremely intensive. He needs to be able to change plays against tough defensive looks, identify defensive coverages, and be an extension of his coaches on the field. 

Why is it called Quarterback?

Through a quick history dive, the term “quarterback” has unique origins. In original under-center formations as football gained popularity, the quarterback was seen as a “quarter back” from the running back, with a fullback in between the two players. This name has steadily stayed the same, even as the game has evolved mightily since its origination. 

What are some other names for the Quarterback?

The quarterback is often referred to as the Signal Caller, because of the responsibility of communicating the play call to the rest of the offense, as well as being ready to call an audible and change that play call if he sees a better opportunity to exploit the defense. Field General is another nickname for the quarterback that's used for that same reason.

Gunslinger is another name that's often used to describe quarterbacks, especially those with great arm strength, and aggressive decision-making, by throwing the football down the field or having the ability to lead their team down the field when the game is on the line and the offense MUST have a score.

Finally, the quarterback position can also be abbreviated when written down as "QB".

What is Body Type needed to play Quarterback?

The Quarterback position has evolved in terms of the typical body type that plays the position it. In the past, big, strong and tall quarterbacks were seen as the prototypical build to play the position at all levels. In the present, there has been a shift, as many smaller, more athletic quarterbacks have appeared as offenses look to utilize the athleticism of the quarterback. In conclusion, as you turn on either college or NFL football, you’ll be sure to see a mix of small, tall, athletic, and slow quarterbacks running the helm of an offense. 

What skills make a great quarterback?

There are a lot of different ways to build a great quarterback in football, not just one. In this section we'll review the most important traits a player needs to play the quarterback position.

These skills are interchangeable for the quarterback position as well. Some quarterbacks may be great decision makers, but lack great arm-strength. Some may be very athletic, but struggle with accuracy. However, as coaches look to put together their offensive system, they will look to utilize the skill-set of their best quarterback in the most efficient way possible to help the offense find success. 

Football IQ

A good quarterback must understand the game at a high level, and be ready to call the correct play at the line of scrimmage if he sees an opportunity that the defense is not ready for.

A high football IQ starts by knowing every single form of all the offensive plays that can be called in the huddle. American football is a sport that relies on a complex language to describe and communicate plays among teammates, and then another layer of verbiage to communicate those same terms when the defense is listening at the line of scrimmage, so that the opposing team doesn't figure out what you're talking about.

Quarterbacks must see the field clearly on every play, have the awareness to understand the situation, and be smart enough not to force a bad pass into a tight spot, instead being ready to throw the ball away and play the next play.

Decision Making

By the time he takes the snap from the center, the quarterback must have at least some idea of where he's going to throw the football. It doesn't mean he's made up his mind right away, but he should at least have an idea of what defensive call to expect, and the possible receivers who he could end up throwing the ball to.

Accuracy with the Football

Making sure the football ends up in the hands of the receivers and not the defensive back is one of the biggest responsibilities of the quarterback position. Obviously, you want to keep the football out of the hands of the opponent, but that's not the only thing that accuracy means.

When coaches talk about accuracy from the quarterback, they're also referring to completions that are thrown to the correct area so that the wide receiver can catch the ball in stride and keep running with full momentum, instead of having to reach for a ball thrown directly behind and slow down. An accurate pass that allows the receivers to continue running forward at full speed can be the difference between a six yard gain and a sixty yard gain.

Finally, accurate passes also allow the receivers, tight ends, and running backs to protect themselves from big hits that can potentially cause injury and knock them out of the game or the season. For example, if the quarterback throws the pass, and the receiver has to stretch out his body to grab it, it leaves him exposed to a big hit from a defender trying to break up the pass and force an incompletion.

If the quarterback sees that the wide receiver route will bring him dangerously close to a defender, being accurate means that he'll be able to throw the football in such a way that the receiver can tighten up and protect himself, or even throw it away from the defender so that the receiver can turn away and avoid the hit altogether.


A great quarterback sets an example at all times. He can do this by verbally demanding the best out of his teammates and holding them accountable, as well as making sure to display all the qualities of a champion, even in offseason practice, long before a single game is ever played. He shows up to meetings and practice early and is the last to leave.

This is true whether he's a starter or the backup, because a backup quarterback must prepare like he will be called on to perform at any time.

A great quarterback is like a coach on the field, seeing the formation and how it affects the way the defense lines up, and understanding when the time is right to call an audible and switch to a running play, even when he might prefer to throw the football.


In the early days of football, many coaches believed that playing quarterback didn't require great feet in order to pass the ball. Teams just didn't rely on timing or footwork to throw the ball, and were more concerned with the deep pass. Soon this began to change, and by the mid-1980's it was becoming clear to everyone that great footwork, even for quarterbacks who never left the pocket, was crucial to being able to pass the ball against great defenses.


These days, everyone wants an athletic quarterback, even if their play calling doesn't include a lot of plays designed for him to run. An athletic quarterback creates all kinds of extra problems for a defense, even on pass plays, because if you aren't careful, that guy can escape the pursuit of the defensive players and take off down the field for extra yards.

This doesn't mean that coaches want their star quarterbacks to start playing like running backs, but no matter what system of offense a team runs, there are very few times when having a fast and athletic quarterback isn't an extra benefit.

Arm Strength

It goes without saying that the ability to throw the football and throw it far, is extremely important for a quarterback in football. Arm strength is not the most important thing for a quarterback, but not having great arm strength means a quarterback must have other qualities like the ones listed above that are exceptional.

To paraphrase Kanye West, when it comes to the quarterback position, having arm strength isn't everything, but NOT having it is. If a quarterback wants to make the jump from college to the NFL, this is a quality that is a prerequisite.

Who are some of the best Quarterbacks ever?

Below are some of the consensus top quarterbacks of all time. Here’s a list of a few of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game below, with a quick career overview.  

Otto Graham (1946-1955) - Graham was the quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, before the Browns were a real NFL team. Cleveland played in the "All American Football Conference" - an expansion league, and won all four titles in the league's existence. When the four best teams from the AAFC were absorbed into the NFL for the 1950 season, many experts believed the Browns would struggle against "real" professional teams. Graham responded by leading the Browns to the NFL title, beating the defending champion Eagles twice that season. By the time his career was over, Graham had taken the Browns to 10 consecutive championship games, a record that still stands to this day.

Peyton Manning (1998-2015) - Pieced together a prolific career with the Indianapolis Colts, before finishing his career with the Denver Broncos. In an era where most quarterbacks simply waited for the play call from the sideline, Manning largely called his own plays, and the results speak for themselves. Known for his consistent production and work ethic, Manning finished with 2 Super Bowl titles in 4 appearances, winning one with the Colts and one with the Broncos. 

Peyton Manning Colts Quarterback

Dan Marino (1983-200) - Although having never won a Super Bowl title, Marino was dominant in his 17 year career with the Miami Dolphins. He was also the first quarterback to throw for both 50,000 career yards, as well as 400 touchdowns. However in his lone Super Bowl appearance in 1984, he lost to the next man on this list.

Joe Montana (1979-1994) -  Montana led the San Francisco 49er’s to 4 Super Bowl titles in his career, before finishing the tail-end of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs in the early 90's.  For many years after his retirement, most people considered him to be the greatest quarterback of all time. At least until the next man on our list got to the NFL. 

Tom Brady (2000-Present) - A former 6th round draft pick now considered the best quarterback of all time, Brady has won more Super Bowl championships than any other quarterback in football history.

Why is the Quarterback so important?

Simply put, the Quarterback is important because he touches the football each and every play. Whether it’s handing the ball off, or dropping back to pass, the Quarterback plays a central role in everything the offense does.

If the quarterback is struggling, the offense is very likely to be struggling as a whole, as the quarterback kickstarts everything the offense does. The quarterback’s role in taking care of the football, finding open receivers, and being the focal leader of the offense are the essential reasons why it is viewed as the most important position in sports. 

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