January 29, 2010 • Football

Quarterbacking: “The Ritual”

The Quarterbacking “Ritual” can easily become a 20-30 minute practice routine, as well as being reduced/condensed to a pre-game routine.

This is something we work on at every practice. As the season goes on, I reduce the repetitions and speed things up to shorten the routine.

It is excellent for warming up the QB before he works with running backs and receivers and is very conducive to either a camp or high school practice situation.

The drills are best run with two or more QBs. One of the neat things about setting up in these drills is that the only equipment needed is a football and flat cones/markers:

Warm Up

The warm-up has the QBs just throwing lightly with the coach on good, sound throwing mechanics (right-handed QBs), and the ball held at least at shoulder height.

Personally, I like my QBs holding the ball a little higher than shoulder height by the side of their head/ear. QBs should stand sideways with their left hip facing their target, looking down their left shoulder (right-handed QBs) at their target.

They point their left foot at their target and get plenty of whip in their hips and shoulders by turning both of them toward the target as they release the ball.

Before releasing the ball, the right elbow is pointed at the target. As they throw, they transfer their weight from their back/right foot to their front/left foot.

Depending on the length of the pass, this might involve a short step with that left foot as the weight transfers from the back foot to the front foot. QBs often need to be coached not to over-stride.

On their follow through, the thumb of the right throwing hand pronates to the outside with the throwing index finger pointing at the target…The full extension of the follow through has the right arm “picking” the right front pocket of the quarterback.

If you have access to a weighted ball (2-3 pounds) have the QBs slowly complete forward and backward windmills with their throwing arms holding the weighted balls. Then lightly play catch (8-10 yards apart) with the weighted balls can help before completing their warm-up with regulation- size footballs. Warm-up for 4-5 minutes.


Excellent drill for ball security. QBs work the football in a circular motion around their head, under their arms, around their waist, around their knees, around each knee, weaving through their legs, and finally “playing catch” between their legs.

The coach shouts out a command of which body part to revolve the ball around, usually starting with the head and working downwards. The coach also shouts the command “Reverse!” which changes the direction in which the ball is rotating. This should be shouted numerous times.

The drill concludes with five “drops”…the QB dropping the ball and then grabbing it: Five “drops” with the power hand and five drops with the off hand.

Quarterback Carioca

The QB executes a five-yard “drop” while doing a carioca. He swivels his hips back and forth 180 degrees while completing the drill…doing his best to keep his trunk facing to the right (right-handed QB) or to the left (left- handed QB). Do this five times.

Knee Drill

Two QBs start with their right knee on the ground, facing each other 10 yards apart. One QB has a ball on the ground next to his right leg. He picks up the ball with his power hand, places the ball to his ear with his off-hand also on the ball and throws it to his partner QB across from him. The latter catches the ball, places it on the ground, and does exactly the same thing throwing the ball back.

The QBs continue playing catch in this manner while the coach helps them with the finer points of their throwing techniques: leading with his throwing elbow, ball at his ear, and pointing first with his wrist and then his index finger upon release of the ball.

When a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed, the QBs then switch knees, putting their left knees down and continuing the drill.

Again, after a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed, the QBs put both knees on the ground and continue the drill, but now also concentrating on a big trunk turn/twist while throwing the ball to increase both the velocity and the quickness of release.

Toss Sweep & Option Drill

This begins with a line of QBs holding footballs and the coach in the “Running/Pitch Back” position. The coach sets up behind and off to the side of the QB, where a running back would be receiving a toss sweep or an option pitch.

The QB faces away from the coach/running back, in the position where he’d be taking a snap from center. The QB reverses out and executes a toss sweep to the coach. This simulates either a toss sweep or a quick pitch play.

The QBs then move to the other side until all of them have executed the pitch. Then the beginning QB again executes the pitch to the coach and all the other quarterbacks follow until they all have executed a pitch both to the right and to the left.

This continues until the coach determines a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed. The QB then executes an option pitch in the same manner.

If the type of option your team runs has an inside or outside veer dive fake, it can be simulated in the drill by the QB. In the option phase of the drill, the coach yells “pitch” and the QB breaks down and executes it, stepping toward the “pitch” man/coach. Again, this continues until the coach determines a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed.

3/5 Step Drop & Wave Drill

Two QBs start (one with a ball) facing each other 15 yards apart. The coach stands about 7 yards from the QB with the ball. The latter faces the coach in an “under center” position. On the coach’s command, the QB executes a three-step drop with his feet “chopping/firing” on his third plant step.

Coach then gives visual directions with his hands (improves QB focus with eyes forward) and the QB executes a wave drill moving right, left, forward, and back. The QB uses only very short, choppy steps to move 2-3 feet in the drill in each direction.

The last command by the coach is “throw.” This has the QB step and throw to his partner; the coach then turns around and executes the drill with his partner (QB).

Key points of emphasis:

1. QB stands tall.

2. QB is very quick in his drop and with his foot movement.

3. QB’s head is constantly forward the entire time watching the coach.

Once completed, the drill can also be executed for a five or seven step drop. 

MAYFootball4ConeZDrill2008.jpg4 Cone Z Drill

See accompanying diagram. Make a box of four flat cone/markers, 6-7 yards apart. On the coach’s command the QB executes a five-step drop from the forward cone/marker, which should have the plant foot of his fifth step at the back cone/marker. The QB sprints diagonally off the plant to the forward cone/marker and again executes a five-step drop to the back cone/marker.

Off the plant foot of the fifth step, the QB again sprints diagonally toward the forward cone/marker. Key points of emphasis: (1) QB head is up and forward and always looking at the coach running the drill. (2) This is a ‘speed’ drill where the drops and diagonal sprints are run at full speed. This helps the QB develop speed in his five-step drop.

MAYFootball20BoxSlideDrill2008.jpgBox Slide Drill

In Drill 6, the cone/markers are aligned 3 yards apart forming a rectangle. On the coach’s command, the QB executes a five-step drop, past the first cone/marker to the deepest cone/marker 6 yards away.

On the plant/fifth step, the QB slides left 3 yards to the next cone/marker then sprints forward 3 yards to a cone/marker, then slides back right to the cone/marker.

Again he plants and sprints forward to the original cone/marker and then slides left to the last cone/marker. After every QB has executed the drill, they repeat it in the opposite direction from where they ended.

Key Points of emphasis: (1) Again QB’s head is up with eyes forward throughout every phase of this drill. (2) QBs are always on their toes; this drill helps work with the ‘scrambling’ aspect of the QB.

Throw On the Run Drill

Two QBs face each other 15 yards apart. One QB has a ball. As he begins “running” toward his partner, the partner backpedals. The QB with the ball throws the ball to his partner. As his partner catches the ball, he begins to run forward with the other QB now back-pedaling. The QBs run and back pedal back and forth playing catch with the football until the coach determines a sufficient amount of repetitions has been completed.

Boot/Sprint Out and Throw

Two QBs start (one with a ball) facing each other 10 yards apart but staggered so that one QB is 15 yards to the right of the QB with the ball. The coach stands roughly equidistant between both QBs. The QB with the ball faces forward in an “under center” position.

On the coach’s command, the QB executes a bootleg faking a handoff to his left and then bootlegging to his right and throwing the ball to his partner QB.

The QB who just completed the throw returns to his original position. The coach turns around and has the partner QB execute the drill. This continues until the coach determines a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed.

Once the boot phase is completed the QBs complete the drill using their sprint-out techniques. Then both QBs move 10 yards up field and turn around so they can execute the drill to the left side. Again, this continues until the coach determines a sufficient amount of repetitions have been completed.

In all of these drills, the coach is working with the QBs on perfecting their techniques in throwing, executing a toss sweep, or option pitch – and, of course, their footwork.

Special attention to the focus of the QBs eyes and footwork in these drills will do a great deal to improve the efficiency and quickness of the quarterbacks.

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