Characteristics of a Great Quarterback

This list was originally presented in 2009 in Episode 8 of the Gridiron Chat Podcast. 

We are not all fortunate enough to have Peyton Manning or Tom Brady on the roster. Well, almost all of us are not that fortunate. We have to work with what we have at the Quarterback position. Sometimes the “right” guy for the position is not crystal clear, so we need to have a few guidelines to go by to choose him.

I wrote a similar article on Characteristics of a Great Running Back and you can see that while some of the characteristics are the same (and truthfully, they are just characteristics of a great football player), others are different. In particular, leadership ranks much higher for the Quarterback.

Leader of the Team

The Quarterback must earn the respect of his teammates in order to be a great leader. He must
leade the team by example, and be a source of strength to the team in tough times.

Outwork Everyone Else

He shows commitment throughout the season and the off-season. He must display the attitude
that nothing is more important than this team and their success. If he will do this, it will
justify his being treated differently from the rest.


A Quarterback’s confidence will allow him to make a great play, at any time. He can forget
the mistakes, and believe that he will fix them and it will be perfect the next time. He can take
criticism, but does not let it crush him.


If the Quarterback is going to be the leader, he must also be accountable. He can take responsibility
for the failures of his team, taking pressure off the rest. If he will do this, and rally his team
to push forward with his leadership, he can then be held accountable for the team’s success. And that
should be the dream of every great quarterback.


Quarterbacks need to have a basic understanding of defense in order to be successful. They do
not have to know it all, just that which is necessary for their team’s offense.

Decision Making

Quick decisions are a major part of a Quarterback’s life. He can decide to call an audible at
the line, choose his receiver in a split second, throw it away if it’s not there. He can decide
to give, keep or pitch on the option run. He can step back and call a timeout when things don’t
look right.


A great quarterback is made from the head up and the waist down. The power and accuracy in his
throws comes from great footwork. Great footwork comes from thousands of repetitions. Again, he must
outwork everyone else on the field.

Throwing Ability

The Quarterback must have the ability to do what is asked of his arm in the context of his offense.
Not every quarterback needs to have a cannon. But he must have the power, accuracy, and speed of
release necessary for his team’s offense. Throwing ability can, and should, be developed, in a player
who displays other characteristics.

Physical Size

A very overrated quality for a Quarterback. He does not have to be 6’4″ to make plays. The coach
should design his offense to create throwing lanes for a smaller Quarterback. It is more important
to have all of the other tools first, and then work with his physical limitations thereafter.

Speed, Quickness, and Allusiveness

A Quarterback who can make something happen when it all breaks down is an invaluable weapon. The
defense may be able to account for all of the receivers, but if they have to account for the QB as a
weapon, even when the ball does not leave his hands, it adds an extra dimension to the offense.

What would you add to this list? What could you take away from this list? Leave a comment!