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Football: Quarterback

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Quarterback preparing to pass the ball
Source: US Navy
The quarterback is arguably the most important position on a football team. The quarterback leads the offense and sets the tone for the team.

Skills Needed Calling the Play

The first thing the quarterback does is call the play in the huddle. The play may be chosen by the coach or the quarterback, but the quarterback tells the rest of the team what play they are going to run.


Once the offense is lined up and the quarterback can see the defense, he may decide that the current play is not a good choice against the line up of the defense. In this case he can call an audible. He yells out the new play using code words that only his teammates understand.

Hiking the Ball

At the start of every play the center hikes the ball to the quarterback. This is where the center passes the ball from the ground, between his legs, and to the quarterback. When the quarterback is "under center" he stands directly behind the center and the ball exchange is more like a hand off. When the quarterback is in the "shotgun" he stands several feet behind the center and the ball is hiked in the air like a pass.

Handing the Ball Off

For running plays the quarterback will hand the ball off to a running back. This might be done in a direct hand off or with a short underhand pass called a lateral or pitch.

Passing the Ball

The main job of the quarterback is passing the ball. There are generally several receivers going out for a pass. One receiver will be the primary option for the play, however, if that receiver is covered, the quarterback needs to be able to quickly see other receivers and throw to the open player. A good quarterback will know where all his options are for every play and be able to "check down" or "progress" through the receivers until he sees one that is open.

Quarterbacks must work closely with their receivers on routes and timing. A good quarterback will be able to throw the ball in anticipation of where the receiver is going and hit the receiver in full stride.

Pocket Passer Quarterback

Some quarterbacks are called pocket passers. These are usually tall players with strong arms whose main skill is to stand in the pocket and deliver an accurate pass.

Dual Threat Quarterback

A dual threat quarterback is one who can run and pass. They sometimes aren't as good at standing in the pocket and passing the ball as the pocket passers. However, they give the added dimension of being able to run with the ball. If the pocket breaks down or if receivers aren't open, they can pull the ball down and try to run for a first down.


A good quarterback is also a good leader. The team looks to the quarterback to stay positive and set a good example.

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