There’s the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. When it comes to quarterbacking, I want prospects who understand both.
I want quarterbacks that make good decisions when things don’t go as planned. Apply pressure to that off-script moment and you’ll see who thinks clearly and creatively and who doesn’t.
For quarterbacking, this is a part of Football Intelligence (FBI). The position requires players to process a metric ton of information through a thimbleful of time.
Add the dozens of techniques that constitute the physical acts of taking a snap, dropping back, manipulating a defense, avoiding pressure, and throwing the football—and need to be practice consistently to stay sharp once you’ve gained proficiency—and it’s no surprise that pressure can cause breakdowns that result in erratic decision-making.
Carson Wentz is a promising quarterback. One of the things I valued in his game was an aspect of his FBI.
When he made a mistake during a pivotal point of a game, he often learned from it and didn’t make the same mistake twice. I watched Wentz lead the North Dakota State Bison to a championship during the game’s final drive and avoid a mistake that he made the drive before—an error that gave his opponent the ball and ultimately the lead.
As a rookie, even one with experience executing a complex West Coast Offense, there are elements to the game that will make his head swim and lead to erratic decision-making. This 3rd and 8 late in the fourth quarter of the Eagles-Cowboys game is a good example of Wentz making a mistake and compounding the error due to the anticipation of pressure.
A more experienced passer would have thrown the ball out of bounds and kept the Eagles in field goal range. Wentz was preoccupied with getting the ball to Darren Sproles because he dropped the snap.
He wasn’t integrating the knowledge of field position, time left, and the score of the game into his thought process after dropping the ball. There was a lot going on and as a young player, he didn’t realize how this error disrupted the timing of this quick-hitting play.
Instead, he’s so process-oriented about what to do that his decisions and actions prevent the Eagles from extending its lead to 10 points, Dallas ties, and ultimately wins in overtime.
There are veteran NFL quarterbacks that would have made the same mistake so don’t jump to a conclusion that I’m saying Wentz lacks FBI. It’s not quality you either have in-full or you don’t.
This specific example of FBI is about keeping the context of the game at the forefront of one’s mind when reacting to something gone wrong. It’s a difficult thing to do as a rookie, but the fact he did it as a senior reveals a likelihood that Wentz will return to that level of awareness as long as he has a stable team environment to learn his craft.
Philip Rivers is a coach’s son and began his pro career with three years of Marty Schottenheimer. The play below is a good example of a quarterback accounting for factors that prevented his process from unfolding as planned.
If Rivers doesn’t account for the coverage, the compressed pocket, and lacks awareness of his arm limitations, this play is likely an interception or incomplete pass. A young player might have tried to muscle it down field with those results.
A wiser player like Rivers doesn’t try to force the play to go how it was drawn up. It’s why Rivers’ FBI made all the difference.
I seek prospects that display this kind of FBI within their scheme. Wentz had a degree of it. Russell Wilson had it. Brees had it.
If it’s notably lacking in certain spots after significant playing time in a system, it’s an important layer of information that bears further examination when projecting quarterbacks to the next level.