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The Future of The NFL: Mobile Quarterbacks

Robert Griffin III, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow, Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cunningham, Donvan McNabb, Steve Young... The list goes on and on when talking about mobile quarterbacks.

The NFL has long been the home of the pocket passer. Mobile quarterbacks have always been around, but it's a man's world. And by man's world I mean a pocket passer's world. Teams like the New England Patriots and Indianapolis Colts have been the league-standard in years past for pocket passers. That isn't saying that Tom Brady and (then) Peyton Manning can't move if they have to. Even the Denver Broncos under the watchful eye of former pocket-great John Elway released Tim Tebow to make room for Peyton Manning.

Looking back into the archives of NFL stats, one thing is prevalent. The quarterbacks are moving. They're running for their lives.

The game is moving at a different speed than that of the 1960's,70's, 80's, and even 1990's. It's a whole different animal. As defenses get faster, offenses have to find ways to subvert that speed. The solution? More speed. Ever hear of the old saying "Fighting fire with fire"? I'm pretty sure Steve Young and his 49ers used that term when talking about how to get around defensive speed.

Saying that mobile quarterbacks are a new fad would be 100% wrong. Even the names listed above include one of the all-time great NFL scramblers, Steve Young. Steve Young made it a point to prove to defenses that he could make a play whether inside, or outside the pocket. He threw just as accurately on the run as he did with his feet set.

But the mobile guys today are quite different than that of the past. Just like I mentioned earlier, the game is changing, therefore the game's 'general on the field' needs to change.

Science has advanced in the physical fitness world vastly over the past 50 years. We know exponentially more about how our body works, and how to optimize it's performance.

This gives us two things. Bigger players, and faster players (In a lot of cases both). The Quarterback, unlike the other positions, has been slow to evolve to these 'new standards'. Positions like defensive end, and big bulky nose tackles are now running sub-5 40's. That's MOVING when talking about a 350 pound animal. Imagine what it looks like on the field to see one of these guys barreling up the middle on a stunt or bull rush, ready to take your head off?

There are differences in mobile quarterbacks, too. On one hand you have your pocket passer scramblers. These are guys that know how to stand tall and step up in the pocket, but also make a move and get outside if they have to. In the other hand you have your runners, guys that, when game-planning against them, defenses look to stop the run first.

Mobile quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton are re-vamping the way the NFL thinks about football. It directly effects both sides of the ball. On offense, it opens up a WIDE range of different plays, scenarios, and schemes to the Coach. On defense, it makes teams game-plan for that extra threat, the QB run. If a defense only has to worry about the rushing attack coming from the tailback, it's a little bit easier to game-plan against them. With a mobile quarterback, teams not only have to worry about containing the QB to the pocket, but STILL have to watch that tailback. That takes at least one man out of the defensive coverage/pass rush to be used as some sort of 'QB Spy'... and that opens up the pass even more.

One of the staples of mobile quarterbacks is the triple option. This is a nightmare for defenses to gameplan against. In the triple option the quarterback has, you guessed it, three options. A lot of times the first option is a hand-off inside to a back. If the quarterback sees something he doesn't like, he keeps it. The second option is usually his own feet. Many would argue that a parallel running back, or tailback would be the second option. I disagree, because the quarterback has the ball already at this point. The third option is a pitch to a back running parallel to the QB. These are the types of plays that having a mobile quarterback will give you. And it's these types of plays that are seen more and more in the NFL.

The mobile quarterback has been around for many years, but is becoming all the more prevalent in today's NFL. It has to. As the game gets bigger and faster each year, so will the quarterbacks.

Originally posted on 10/5/2012 at The Burgundy Warpath

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