Every highlight involves a quarterback in mid-play, but such an important part of the most important position on the field takes place in that time between when the referee spots the football to the instant the center snaps the ball for the next play.
Kansas University quarterbacks coach Ron Powlus agreed to detail the trigger man’s between-plays responsibilities.
“Your eyes go to the sideline and there is some non-verbal communication with the sideline, whether it’s in our case with coach (Charlie) Weis or with me,” Powlus said. “And then he’ll see personnel and usually reiterate what the personnel is to the guys on the field. Then he’ll receive the play in whichever fashion. Call the play in the huddle. Break the huddle.”
It’s not always that simple. Sometimes, the quarterback needs to do some coaching in the huddle.
“There are times to talk and times to encourage and times to jump on somebody,” Powlus said. “When you’re the true leader, you start to feel when and who needs what. Some guys, you holler at them and they respond. Other guys, you holler at them and they go in the tank. Same way in the huddle with players. You try to inspire guys in the huddle by whatever means necessary and by whatever works for them. That’s what a true leader does.”
San Francisco 49ers and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Joe Montana ranks as one of the greatest quarterbacks and leaders in NFL history.
“We’ve all heard the story of Joe Montana in the Super Bowl,” Powlus said. “They’re backed up and they’ve got to go 95 yards or whatever to score a touchdown to win the game. Everybody’s freaking out and getting nervous and wound tight and he says, ‘Oh, look over there. There’s (comedian/actor) John Candy. Look. Look.’ And they’re all waving to John Candy. (Montana) identified that his team needed to calm down and relax. I don’t even know how true that story is, but that’s the story you tell.”
He cited another all-time great from Western Pennsylvania, a freakishly fertile breeding ground for quarterbacks.
“And then you can imagine Dan Marino in the huddle, grabbing someone’s face mask and telling him, ‘If you don’t block for me I’m going to rip your face off because I need another second to get a touchdown.’ And you give him another second and he gets a touchdown,” Powlus said. “So there are all different forms of leadership that take place in the huddle, and it’s up to the quarterback to identify that.”
College is all about learning and even leadership traits can be learned.
“That’s what coach Weis and I help them do,” Powlus said. “That’s part of our job, too. It’s not just making them know what to do on this pass play. It’s how to be a leader: ‘Hey, now’s a good time to say this.’ Whispering in their ear so it helps them to be in a leadership position.”
After the huddle breaks, what then?
“On the way to the play clock, check the play clock,” Powlus said. “Make sure everybody’s lined up properly, see the defensive front of their line, see the secondary, what they’re doing. Start your cadence, moving anybody that needs to be moved, whether it’s motion or shift.”
How is the player moved?
“We might just say shift,” he said. “It might be part of the cadence. We might move him with our heel or wave him with our hand. If we’ve called a play where somebody’s moving, they’re going to be looking at the quarterback waiting for him to tell them to move. Check the play clock again. Identify the defense verbally, making a Mike ID (locating the middle linebacker), go through the snap count and take the snap. See the way the coverage has adjusted on a pass play, what’s it done, then make a decision on a play.”
And then rinse and repeat.