A quarterback (commonly abbreviated "QB"), colloquially known as the "signal caller"[1], is a position in American and Canadian football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes.

An example of quarterback positioning in an offensive formation


Mike Quinn
Mike Quinn, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback, throwing the football.

In modern American football, the quarterback is usually the leader of the offense. The quarterback touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and his successes and failures can have a significant impact on the fortunes of his team. Accordingly, the quarterback is among the most glorified, scrutinized and highest-paid positions in team sports.[2] Prior to each play, the quarterback will usually tell the rest of his team which play the team will run. After the team is lined up, the center will pass the ball back to the quarterback (a process called the snap). Usually on a running play, the quarterback will then hand or pitch the ball backwards to a halfback or fullback. On a passing play, the quarterback is almost always the player responsible for trying to throw the ball downfield to an eligible receiver.[3] Additionally, the quarterback will often run with the football himself, which could be part of a designed play like the option run[4] or quarterback sneak,[5] or it could be an effort to avoid being sacked by the defense.[6]

US Navy 031108-N-9593R-011 Navy quarterback Craig Candeto pitches the ball out
Navy quarterback Craig Candeto pitches the ball while running an option-based offense.

Depending on the offensive scheme by his team, the quarterback's role can vary. In systems like the triple option the quarterback will only pass the ball a few times per game, if at all,[7] while the pass-heavy spread offense as run by schools like Texas Tech requires quarterbacks to throw the ball in most plays.[8] The passing game is emphasized heavily in the Canadian Football League (CFL), where there are only three downs as opposed to the four downs used in American football, a larger field of play and an extra eligible receiver.[9] Different skillsets are required of the quarterback in each system - quarterbacks that perform well in a pass-heavy spread offensive system, a popular offensive scheme in the NCAA and NFHS, rarely perform well in the National Football League (NFL), as the fundamentals of the pro-style offense used in the NFL are very different from those in the spread system.[10] while quarterbacks in Canadian football need to be able to throw the ball often and accurately.[9] In general, quarterbacks need to have physical skills such as arm strength, mobility, and quick throwing motion, in addition to intangibles such as competitiveness, leadership, intelligence, and downfield vision.[11]

In the NFL, quarterbacks are required to wear a uniform number between 1 and 19.[12] In the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), quarterbacks are required to wear a uniform number between 1 and 49; in the NFHS, the quarterback can also wear a number between 80 and 89.[13][14] In the CFL, the quarterback can wear any number from 0 to 49 and 70 to 99.[15] Because of their numbering, quarterbacks are eligible receivers in the NCAA, NFHS, and CFL;[16][17] in the NFL, quarterbacks are eligible receivers if they are not lined up directly under center.[18]


Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) and the Packers break the huddle.
QB Aaron Rodgers (12) and the Green Bay Packers breaking the huddle.

Often compared to captains of other team sports, before the implementation of NFL team captains in 2007, the starting quarterback is usually the de facto team leader and well-respected player on and off the field. Since 2007, when the NFL allowed teams to designate several captains to serve as on-field leaders, the starting quarterback has usually been one of the team captains as the leader of the team's offense.

In the NFL, while the starting quarterback has no other responsibility or authority, he may, depending on the league or individual team, have various informal duties, such as participation in pre-game ceremonies, the coin toss, or other events outside the game. For instance the starting quarterback is the first player (and third person after the team owner and head coach) to be presented with the Lamar Hunt Trophy/George Halas Trophy (after winning the AFC/NFC Conference title) and the Vince Lombardi Trophy (after a Super Bowl victory). The starting quarterback of the victorious Super Bowl team is often chosen for the "I'm going to Disney World!" campaign (which includes a trip to Walt Disney World for them and their families), whether they are the Super Bowl MVP or not; examples include Joe Montana (XXIII), Trent Dilfer (XXXV), Peyton Manning (50), Tom Brady and Julian Edelman (LIII). Dilfer was chosen even though teammate Ray Lewis was the MVP of Super Bowl XXXV, due to the bad publicity from Lewis' murder trial the prior year.[19]

Being able to rely on a quarterback is vital to team morale. San Diego Chargers safety Rodney Harrison called the 1998 season a "nightmare" because of poor play by Ryan Leaf and Craig Whelihan and, from the rookie Leaf, obnoxious behavior toward teammates. Although their 1999 season replacements Jim Harbaugh and Erik Kramer were not stars, linebacker Junior Seau said "you can't imagine the security we feel as teammates knowing we have two quarterbacks who have performed in this league and know how to handle themselves as players and as leaders".[20]

Commentators have noted the "disproportionate importance" of the quarterback, describing it as the "most glorified -- and scrutinized -- position" in team sports. It is believed that "there is no other position in sports that 'dictates the terms' of a game the way quarterback does, whether that impact is positive or negative, as "Everybody feeds off of what the quarterback can and cannot do...Defensively, offensively, everybody reacts to what threats or non-threats the quarterback has. Everything else is secondary". "An argument can be made that quarterback is the most influential position in team sports, considering he touches the ball on virtually every offensive play of a far shorter season than baseball, basketball or hockey -- a season in which every game is vitally important". Most consistently successful NFL teams (for instance, multiple Super Bowl appearances within a short period of time) have been centered around a single starting quarterback; the one exception was the Washington Redskins (1982-91) under head coach Joe Gibbs who won three Super Bowls with three different starting quarterbacks.[21]

On a team's defense, the middle linebacker is regarded as "quarterback of the defense" and is often the defensive leader, since he must be as smart as he is athletic. The middle linebacker (MLB), sometimes known as the "Mike", is the only inside linebacker in the 4–3 scheme.[22]


Compared to other positions in gridiron football, the backup quarterback gets considerably much less playing time than the starting quarterback. A backup quarterback, besides being dressed for a game in case of an injury to the starter, may also have additional roles such as a holder on placekicks or a punter, and often helping to prepare the defense. Backup quarterbacks typically have the career of a journeyman quarterback and have short stints with multiple teams, a notable exception being Frank Reich who backed up Jim Kelly for nine years at the Buffalo Bills. A capable backup quarterback, however, may threaten the starting quarterback's place in the team (see Platooning quarterbacks below); Aaron Rodgers was drafted by the Green Bay Packers as the eventual successor to Brett Favre, though Rodgers served in a backup role for a few years in order to develop sufficiently for the team to give him the starting job.

A quarterback controversy results when a team has two capable quarterbacks competing for the starting position. Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry alternated Roger Staubach and Craig Morton on each play, sending in the quarterbacks with the play call from the sideline; Morton started in Super Bowl V which his team lost, while Staubach started the Super Bowl VI next year and won. Although Morton played most of the 1972 season due to Staubach's injury, Staubach took back the starting job when he rallied the Cowboys in a come-from-behind win in the playoffs and Morton was subsequently traded; Staubach and Morton faced each other in Super Bowl XII. Another notable quarterback controversy involved the San Francisco 49ers' who had three capable starters; Joe Montana, Steve Young, and Steve Bono. Montana suffered a season-ending injury that cost him the 1991 NFL season and was supplanted by Young. Young was injured midway though the season, but Bono held the starting job (despite Young's recovery) until Bono's own injury let Young reclaim it. Montana also missed most of the 1992 NFL season making only one appearance, then was traded away at his request where he took over as the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Trends and other roles

In addition to their main role, quarterbacks are occasionally used in other roles. Most teams utilize a backup quarterback as their holder on placekicks. A benefit of using quarterbacks as holders is that it would be easier to pull off a fake field goal attempt, but many coaches prefer to use punters as holders because a punter will have far more time in practice sessions to work with the kicker than any quarterback would.[23] In the Wildcat, a formation where a halfback lines up behind the center and the quarterback lines up out wide, the quarterback can be used as a receiving target or a blocker.[24] A more rare use for a quarterback is to punt the ball himself, a play known as a quick kick. Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway was known to perform quick kicks occasionally, typically when the Broncos were facing a third-and-long situation.[25] Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, an All-America punter in college,[26] was also known to punt the ball occasionally, and was assigned as the team's default punter for certain situations, such as when the team was backed up inside their own five-yard line.[27]

As Roger Staubach's back-up, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White was also the team's punter, opening strategic possibilities for coach Tom Landry. Ascending the starting role upon Staubach's retirement, White held his position as the team's punter for several seasons—a double duty he performed to All-American standard at Arizona State University. White also had two touchdown receptions as a Dallas Cowboy, both from the halfback option.

Special tactics

If quarterbacks are uncomfortable with the formation the defense is using, they may call an audible change to their play. For example, if a quarterback receives the call to execute a running play, but he notices that the defense is ready to blitz—that is, to send additional defensive backs across the line of scrimmage in an attempt to tackle the quarterback or hurt his ability to pass—the quarterback may want to change the play. To do this, the quarterback yells a special code, like "Blue 42," or "Texas 29," which tells the offense to switch to a specific play or formation, but it all depends on the quarterback's judgment of the defense's alignment.

Quarterbacks can also "spike" (throw the football at the ground) to stop the official game clock. For example, if a team is down by a field goal with only seconds remaining, a quarterback may spike the ball to prevent the game clock from running out. This usually allows the field goal unit to come onto the field, or attempt a final "Hail Mary pass". However, if a team is winning, a quarterback can keep the clock running by kneeling after the snap. This is normally done when the opposing team has no timeouts and there is little time left in the game, as it allows a team to burn up the remaining time on the clock without risking a turnover or injury.

Dual-threat quarterbacks

Michael Vick, a member of the NFC team at the NFL's 2006 Pro Bowl, uses his mobility to elude Dwight Freeney.

A dual-threat quarterback possesses the skills and physique to run with the ball if necessary.[28] With the rise of several blitz-heavy defensive schemes and increasingly faster defensive players, the importance of a mobile quarterback has been redefined. While arm power, accuracy, and pocket presence – the ability to successfully operate from within the "pocket" formed by his blockers – are still the most important quarterback virtues, the ability to elude or run past defenders creates an additional threat that allows greater flexibility in a team's passing and running game.

Dual-threat quarterbacks have historically been more prolific at the college level. Typically, a quarterback with exceptional quickness is used in an option offense, which allows the quarterback to hand the ball off, run it himself, or pitch it to the running back following him at a distance of three yards outside and one yard behind. This type of offense forces defenders to commit to the running back up the middle, the quarterback around the end, or the running back trailing the quarterback. It is then that the quarterback has the "option" to identify which match-up is most favorable to the offense as the play unfolds and exploit that defensive weakness. In the college game, many schools employ several plays that are designed for the quarterback to run with the ball. This is much less common in professional football, except for a quarterback sneak, but there is still an emphasis on being mobile enough to escape a heavy pass rush. Historically, high-profile dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL were uncommon, Steve Young and John Elway being among the notable exceptions, leading their teams to three and five Super Bowl appearances respectively; and Michael Vick, whose rushing ability was a rarity in the early 2000s, although he never led his team to a Super Bowl. In recent years, quarterbacks with dual-threat capabilities have become more popular. Current NFL quarterbacks considered to be dual-threats include Cam Newton,[29] Russell Wilson,[30] and Tyrod Taylor.[31]

Two-quarterback system

Some teams employ a strategy which involves the use of more than one quarterback during the course of a game. This is more common at lower levels of football, such as high school or small college, but rare in major college or professional football.

There are four circumstances in which a two-quarterback system may be used.

The first is when a team is in the process of determining which quarterback will eventually be the starter, and may choose to use each quarterback for part of the game in order to compare the performances. For instance, the Seattle Seahawks' Pete Carroll used the pre-season games in 2012 to select Russell Wilson as the starting quarterback over Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson.

The second is a starter–reliever system, in which the starting quarterback splits the regular season playing time with the backup quarterback, although the former will start playoff games. This strategy is rare, and was last seen in the NFL in the "WoodStrock" combination of Don Strock and David Woodley, which took the Miami Dolphins to the Epic in Miami in 1982 and Super Bowl XVII the following year. The starter-reliever system is distinct from a one-off situation in which a starter is benched in favor of the back-up because the switch is part of the game plan (usually if the starter is playing poorly for that game), and the expectation is that the two players will assume the same roles game after game.

The third is if a coach decides that the team has two quarterbacks who are equally effective and proceeds to rotate the quarterbacks at predetermined intervals, such as after each quarter or after each series. Southern California high school football team Corona Centennial operated this model during the 2014 football season, rotating quarterbacks after every series.[32] In a game against the Chicago Bears in the seventh week of the 1971 season, Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry alternated Roger Staubach and Craig Morton on each play, sending in the quarterbacks with the play call from the sideline.

The fourth, still occasionally seen in major-college football, is the use of different quarterbacks in different game or down/distance situations. Generally this involves a running quarterback and a passing quarterback in an option or wishbone offense. In Canadian football, quarterback sneaks or other runs in short-yardage situations tend to be successful as a result of the distance between the offensive and defensive lines being one yard. Drew Tate, a quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders, was primarily used in short-yardage situations and led the CFL in rushing touchdowns during the 2014 season with ten scores as the backup to Bo Levi Mitchell.[33][34] This strategy had all but disappeared from professional American football, but returned to some extent with the advent of the "wildcat" offense. There is a great debate within football circles as to the effectiveness of the so-called "two-quarterback system". Many coaches and media personnel remain skeptical of the model.[35] Teams such as USC (Southern California), OSU (Oklahoma State), Northwestern, and smaller West Georgia have utilized the two-quarterback system; West Georgia, for example, uses the system due to the skill sets of its quarterbacks. Teams like these use this situation because of the advantages it gives them against defenses of the other team, so that the defense is unable to adjust to their game plan.[36]


Spalding's how to play foot ball; (1902) (14597024517)

The quarterback position dates to the late 1800s, when American Ivy League schools playing a form of rugby union imported from the United Kingdom began to put their own spin on the game.[37] Walter Camp, a prominent athlete and rugby player at Yale University, pushed through a change in rules at a meeting in 1880 that established a line of scrimmage and allowed for the football to be snapped to a quarterback.[37] The change was meant to allow for teams to strategize their play more thoroughly and retain possession more easily than was possible in the chaos of a scrummage in rugby.[37] In Camp's formulation, the "quarter-back" was the person who received a ball snapped back with another player's foot. Originally he was not allowed to run forward of the line of scrimmage:

A scrimmage takes place when the holder of the ball puts it on the ground before him and puts it in play while on-side either by kicking the ball or by snapping it back with his foot. The man who first receives the ball from the snap-back shall be called the quarter-back and shall not rush forward with the ball under penalty of foul.

— Walter Camp, rule adopted at Springfield, Massachusetts Intercollegiate Football Association convention, 1880[38]

The quarterback in this context was often called the "blocking back" as their duties usually involved blocking after the initial handoff. The "fullback" was the furthest back behind the line of scrimmage. The "halfback" was halfway between the fullback and the line of scrimmage, and the "quarter-back" was halfway between the halfback and the line of scrimmage. Hence, he was called a "quarter-back" by Walter Camp.

Bo McMillin tossing a pass.

The requirement to stay behind the line of scrimmage was soon rescinded, but it was later re-imposed in six-man football. The exchange between the person snapping the ball (typically the center) and the quarterback was initially an awkward one because it involved a kick.[37] At first, centers gave the ball a small boot, and then picked it up and handed it to the quarterback.[37] By 1889, Yale center Bert Hanson was bouncing the ball on the ground to the quarterback between his legs.[37] The following year, a rule change officially made snapping the ball using the hands between the legs legal.[38] Several years later, Amos Alonzo Stagg at the University of Chicago invented the lift-up snap: the center passed the ball off the ground and between his legs to a standing quarterback.[37] A similar set of changes were later adopted in Canadian football as part of the Burnside rules, a set of rules proposed by John Meldrum "Thrift" Burnside, the captain of the University of Toronto's football team.[39]

The change from a scrummage to a "scrimmage" made it easier for teams to decide what plays they would run before the snap.[40] At first, the captains of college teams were put in charge of play-calling, indicating with shouted codes which players would run with the ball and how the men on the line were supposed to block.[40] Yale later used visual signals, including adjustments of the captain's knit hat, to call plays.[40] Centers could also signal plays based on the alignment of the ball before the snap.[40] In 1888, however, Princeton University began to have its quarterback call plays using number signals.[41] That system caught on, and quarterbacks began to act as directors and organizers of offensive play.[41]

Early on, quarterbacks were used in a variety of formations. Harvard's team put seven men on the line of scrimmage, with three halfbacks who alternated at quarterback and a lone fullback.[37] Princeton put six men on the line and had one designated quarterback, while Yale used seven linemen, one quarterback and two halfbacks who lined up on either side of the fullback.[37] This was the origin of the T-formation, an offensive set that remained in use for many decades afterward and gained popularity in professional football starting in the 1930s.[37]

Singlewingformation vs5
An image of the single-wing formation, a popular formation and offensive scheme created in the early 1900s.[42] Like many early formations, the quarterback did not receive the ball from center, and instead served as a blocking back.[43] In modern football, the single-wing is only used as a primary offense by a small number of high school teams.[42]

In 1906, the forward pass was legalized in American football; Canadian football did not adopt the forward pass until 1929.[39] Despite the legalization of the forward pass, the most popular formations of the early 20th century focused mostly on the rushing game. The single-wing formation, a run-oriented offensive set, was invented by football coach Glenn "Pop" Warner around the year 1908.[44] In the single-wing, the quarterback was positioned behind the line of scrimmage and was flanked by a tailback, fullback and wingback.[44] He served largely as a blocking back; the tailback typically took the snap, either running forward with the ball or making a lateral pass to one of the other players in the backfield.[44] The quarterback's job was usually to make blocks upfield to help the tailback or fullback gain yards.[44] Passing plays were rare in the single-wing, an unbalanced power formation where four linemen lined up to one side of the center and two lined up to the other.[44] The tailback was the focus of the offense, and was often a triple-threat man who would either pass, run or kick the ball.[45]

Offensive play-calling continued to focus on rushing up through the 1920s, when professional leagues began to challenge the popularity of college football.[46] In the early days of the professional National Football League (NFL), which was founded in 1920, games were largely low-scoring affairs. Two-thirds of all games in the 1920s were shutouts, and quarterbacks/tailbacks usually passed only out of desperation.[46] In addition to a reluctance to risk turnovers by passing, various rules existed that limited the effectiveness of the forward pass: passers were required to drop back five yards behind the line of scrimmage before they could attempt a pass, and incomplete passes in the end zone resulted in a change of possession and a touchback.[46] Additionally, the rules required the ball to be snapped from the location on the field where it was ruled dead; if a play ended with a player going out of bounds, the center had to snap the ball from the sideline, an awkward place to start a play.[46]

Despite these constraints, player-coach Curly Lambeau of the Green Bay Packers, along with several other NFL figures of his era, was a consistent proponent of the forward pass.[46] The Packers found success in the 1920s and 1930s using variations on the single-wing that emphasized the passing game.[47] Packers quarterback Red Dunn and New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers quarterback Benny Friedman were the leading passers of their era, but passing remained a relative rarity among other teams; between 1920 and 1932, there were three times as many running plays as there were passing plays.[47]

Early NFL quarterbacks typically were responsible for calling the team's offensive plays with signals before the snap.[48] The use of the huddle to call plays originated with Stagg in 1896, but only began to be used regularly in college games in 1921.[48] In the NFL, players were typically assigned numbers, as were the gaps between offensive linemen.[48] One player, usually the quarterback, would call signals indicating which player was to run the ball and which gap he would run toward.[49] Play-calling or any other kind of coaching from the sidelines was not permitted during this period, leaving the quarterback to devise the offensive strategy (often, the quarterback doubled as head coach during this era).[49] Substitutions were limited, and quarterbacks often played on both offense and defense. [49]

T Formation
An image of the T-formation, the formation that introduced and established the role of the modern quarterback. Although the T-formation dated to the late 1800s, its revival and success in the late 1930s and early 1940s led it to supplant the single-wing formation as the most-used formation in American football.[50]

The period between 1933 and 1945 was marked by numerous changes for the quarterback position.[51] The rule requiring a quarterback/tailback to be five yards behind the line of scrimmage to pass was abolished.[52] Hash marks were added to the field that established a limited zone between which the ball was placed before snaps, making offensive formations more flexible.[52] Additionally, incomplete passes in the end zone were no longer counted as turnovers and touchbacks.[52]

The single-wing continued to be in wide use throughout this, and a number of forward-passing tailbacks became stars, including Sammy Baugh of the Washington Redskins.[52] In 1939, University of Chicago head football coach Clark Shaughnessy made modifications to the T-formation, a formation that put the quarterback behind the center and had him receive the snap directly.[52] Shaughnessy altered the formation by having the linemen be spaced further apart, and he began having players go in motion behind the line of scrimmage before the snap to confuse defenses.[52] These changes were picked up by Chicago Bears coach George Halas, a close friend of Shaughnessy, and they quickly caught on in the professional ranks.[52] Utilizing the T-formation and led by quarterback Sid Luckman, the Bears reached the NFL championship game in 1940 and beat the Redskins by a score of 73–0.[52] The blowout led other teams across the league to adopt variations on the T-formation, including the Philadelphia Eagles, Cleveland Rams and Detroit Lions.[52] Baugh and the Redskins converted to the T-formation and continued to succeed.[52]

Thanks in part to the emergence of the T-formation and changes in the rulebooks to liberalize the passing game, passing from the quarterback position became more common in the 1940s and as teams switched to the T-formation, passing tailbacks, such as Sammy Baugh, would line up as quarterbacks instead.[52] Over the course of the decade, passing yards began to exceed rushing yards for the first time in the history of football.[52] The Cleveland Browns of the late 1940s in the All-America Football Conference (AAFC), a professional league created to challenge the NFL, were one of the teams of that era that relied most on passing.[53] Quarterback Otto Graham helped the Browns win four AAFC championships in the late 1940s in head coach Paul Brown's T-formation offense, which emphasized precision timing passes.[53] Cleveland, along with several other AAFC teams, was absorbed by the NFL in 1950 after the dissolution of the AAFC that same year.[53] By the end of the 1940s, all NFL teams aside from the Pittsburgh Steelers used the T-formation as their primary offensive formation.[53]

Steve Spurrier vs. Georgia
Steve Spurrier under center.

As late as the 1960s, running plays occurred more frequently than passes. NFL quarterback Milt Plum later stated that during his career (1957-1969) passes typically only occurred on third downs and sometimes on first downs.[54] Quarterbacks only increased in importance as rules changed to favor passing and higher scoring and as football gained popularity on television after the 1958 NFL Championship Game, often referred to as "The Greatest Game Ever Played".[55] Early modern offenses evolved around the quarterback as a passing threat, boosted by rules changes in 1978 and 1979 that made it a penalty for defensive backs to interfere with receivers downfield and allowed offensive linemen to pass-block using their arms and open hands; the rules had limited them to blocking with their hands held to their chests.[56] Average passing yards per game rose from 283.3 in 1977 to 408.7 in 1979.[56]

The NFL continues to be a pass-heavy league, in part due to further rule changes that prescribed harsher penalties for hitting the quarterback and for hitting defenseless receivers as they awaited passes.[57] Passing in wide-open offenses has also been an emphasis at the high school and college levels, and professional coaches have devised schemes to fit the talents of new generations of quarterbacks.[57]

While quarterbacks and team captains usually called plays in football's early years, today coaches often decide which plays the offense will run. Some teams use an offensive coordinator, an assistant coach whose duties include offensive game-planning and often play-calling. In the NFL, coaches are allowed to communicate with quarterbacks and call plays using audio equipment built into the player's helmet. Quarterbacks are allowed to hear, but not talk to, their coaches until there are fifteen seconds left on the play clock.[58] Once the quarterback receives the call, he may relay it to other players via signals or in a huddle.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Tom Landry was an early advocate of taking play calling out of the quarterback's hands. Although this remained a common practice in the NFL through the 1970s, fewer QBs were doing it by the 1980s and even Hall of Famers like Joe Montana did not call their own plays. Buffalo Bills QB Jim Kelly was one of the last to regularly call plays. Peyton Manning, formerly of the Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos, was the best modern example of a quarterback who called his own plays, primary using an uptempo, no-huddle-based attack. Manning had almost complete control over the offense. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco retains a high degree of control over the offense as well, particularly when running a no-huddle scheme, as does Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers.


During the 2013 season, 67 percent of NFL players were African American (blacks make up 13 percent of the US population), yet only 17 percent of quarterbacks were; 82 percent of quarterbacks were white, with just one percent of quarterbacks from other races.[59] In 2017, the New York Giants benched longtime starter Eli Manning in favor of Geno Smith, who was declared the starter. The Giants were the last team to never field a black starting QB during an NFL season.[60]

Since the inception of the game, only two quarterbacks with known black ancestry have led their team to a Super Bowl victory: Doug Williams in 1988 and Russell Wilson, who is multiracial, in 2014.

Some black quarterbacks claim to have experienced bias towards or against them due to their race. Despite his ability to both pass and run effectively, current Houston Texans signal-caller Deshaun Watson despises being called a dual-threat quarterback because he believes the term is often used to stereotype black quarterbacks.[61][62]

See also


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  4. ^ Davie, Bob. "Football 101: Option football". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
  5. ^ Roenigk, Alyssa (August 9, 2011). "The art of the QB sneak". ESPN.com. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  6. ^ "Scramble". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved July 29, 2013.
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  9. ^ a b "Moon: CFL not option for Tim Tebow". ESPN.com. May 2, 2013. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
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  12. ^ NFL Rules 2012, p. 21.
  13. ^ NCAA Rules 2011–2012, p. 21–22.
  14. ^ NFHS Rules 2012, p. 16–17.
  15. ^ CFL Rules 2011, p. 35.
  16. ^ NCAA Rules 2011–2012, p. 73.
  17. ^ NFHS Rules 2012, p. 61.
  18. ^ "Forward pass". NFL.com. Retrieved July 30, 2013.
  19. ^ "Ravens Star Not Going To Disney". Articles.orlandosentinel.com.
  20. ^ Silver, Michael (August 30, 1999). "San Diego Chargers - After a season of discontent there's reason to be upbeat". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved February 21, 2012.
  21. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jan/29/sports/la-sp-super-bowl-quarterbacks-20120129
  22. ^ Cite error: The named reference TanierFOX was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  23. ^ Legwold, Jeff (October 31, 2009). "Q&A: Who's preferable as a holder for field goals - the punter or backup quarterback?". The Denver Post. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  24. ^ MacMillan, Malcolm. "The Wildcat Offense: 5 Things You Didn't Know". AskMen. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
  25. ^ "Time to quick kick Fair Board". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. July 18, 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
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  27. ^ Searcy, Jay (December 4, 1989). "Cunningham Puts A Foot To The Fore". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
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  • Bernstein, Mark F. (2001). Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-812-23627-9.
  • Long, Howie; Czarnecki, John (2011). Football for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: For Dummies. ISBN 978-1-118-01261-1.
  • Maxymuk, John (2007). Strong Arm Tactics: A Historical and Statistical Analysis of the Professional Quarterback. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. ISBN 978-0-786-43277-6.
  • Peterson, Robert W. (1997). Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-195-11913-8.
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy
American football positions

In American football each team has 11 players on the field at one time. The specific role that a player takes on the field is called their position. Under the modern rules of American football, teams are allowed unlimited substitutions; that is, teams may change any number of players after any play. This has resulted in the development of three "platoons" of players: the offense (the team with the ball, which is trying to score), the defense (the team trying to prevent the other team from scoring, and to take the ball from them), and the special teams (who play in kicking situations). Within those platoons, various specific positions exist depending on what each player's main job is.

Baker Mayfield

Baker Reagan Mayfield (born April 14, 1995) is an American football quarterback for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League (NFL).

Mayfield began his college football career as a walk-on player for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He is notable for being the first walk-on true freshman quarterback to start a season opener at a BCS school. Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma following alleged scholarship issues and a lack of communication with coaches. After sitting out the 2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules, Mayfield won the starting quarterback job in 2015. He won several awards for his performance as a senior in 2017, including the Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, and unanimous All-America recognition.

Mayfield was drafted by the Browns first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. In his first NFL appearance, Mayfield led Cleveland to their first win in 19 games, ending a 635 day winless streak. He threw 27 touchdowns in his 13 starts for the Browns in 2018, breaking the rookie-season, passing-TD record previously held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson.

Cam Newton

Cameron Jerrell Newton (born May 11, 1989) is an American football quarterback for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Auburn and was drafted as the first overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft. Newton is the only player in the modern era to be awarded the Heisman Trophy, win a national championship, and become the first overall pick in an NFL draft within a one-year span. He was the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, is a three-time Pro Bowler, and was named the NFL MVP in 2015.

In his rookie year, Newton broke all-time NFL rookie records for passing and rushing yards. He became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first game, shattering Peyton Manning's first-game record by 120 yards. He also broke Otto Graham's 61-year-old record for passing yards by any quarterback in an NFL debut. Newton went on to become the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. He also ran for 14 touchdowns, more in a single season than any quarterback in NFL history, breaking Steve Grogan's 35-year-old record.In 2015, Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and rush for 10 in the same season (35 passing, 10 rushing). He also became the only quarterback ever to have 300 yards passing, 5 touchdown passes, and over 100 yards rushing in the same game. Newton capped off the 2015 season by capturing MVP honors and leading the Panthers to a 15–1 record and a trip to Super Bowl 50.

Derek Carr

Derek Dallas Carr (born March 28, 1991) is an American football quarterback for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the Raiders in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He played college football at Fresno State, as did his older brother, former NFL quarterback David Carr.

Jim Kelly

James Edward Kelly (born February 14, 1960) is a former American football quarterback who played in the National Football League (NFL) for eleven seasons and spent the entirety of his NFL career with the Buffalo Bills. He also played two seasons with the Houston Gamblers in the United States Football League (USFL).

Kelly was selected by the Bills in the first round of 1983 NFL draft and was taken fourteenth overall. He chose to sign with the Gamblers instead and did not play for the Bills until the USFL folded in 1986. Employing the "K-Gun" offense, known for its no-huddle shotgun formations, Kelly led one of the greatest NFL scoring juggernauts. From 1990 season to the 1993 season, he helped guide the Bills to a record four consecutive Super Bowls, although the team lost each game. (Only two other teams have gone to three straight Super Bowls, the Miami Dolphins, with Bob Griese, and the New England Patriots, with Tom Brady.)

In 2002, Kelly was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his first year of eligibility. His jersey number 12 is one of only three numbers retired by the Buffalo Bills as of 2018.

Joe Flacco

Joseph Vincent Flacco (born January 16, 1985) is an American football quarterback for the Denver Broncos of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Delaware after transferring from Pittsburgh, and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft.

Flacco was Baltimore's starting quarterback from 2008 until midway through the 2018 season, and helped the Ravens win the AFC North twice, appear in three AFC Championship Games, and defeat the San Francisco 49ers to win Super Bowl XLVII following the 2012 season. Flacco was named Super Bowl XLVII's MVP, concluding a postseason run in which he tied Joe Montana's single postseason record for touchdown passes (11) without an interception. That offseason, Flacco signed a six-year contract worth $120.6 million, a record high for a quarterback at the time. Flacco was traded to the Broncos following the 2018 season.

Despite rather pedestrian regular season statistics and no Pro Bowl berths as of the 2018 NFL season, Flacco has proven himself as a better performer in the postseason, having established a career playoff record of 10–5 and holding the record for most postseason road victories by a quarterback with 7. Flacco is also known for having one of the strongest arms in the NFL, which allows him to use an "aggressive, high-risk deep downfield passing game."

Lineman (gridiron football)

In gridiron football, a lineman is a player who specializes in play at the line of scrimmage. The linemen of the team currently in possession of the ball are the offensive line, while linemen on the opposing team are the defensive line. A number of NFL rules specifically address restrictions and requirements for the offensive line, whose job is to help protect the quarterback from getting sacked for a loss, or worse, fumbling. The defensive line is covered by the same rules that apply to all defensive players. Linemen are usually the largest players on the field in both height and weight, since their positions usually require less running and more strength than skill positions.

National Football League Most Valuable Player Award

The National Football League Most Valuable Player Award (NFL MVP) is an award given by various entities to the American football player who is considered the most valuable in the National Football League (NFL) during the regular season. Organizations which currently give an NFL MVP award or have in the past include the Associated Press (AP), the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA), and United Press International (UPI). The first award described as a most valuable player award was the Joe F. Carr Trophy, awarded by the NFL from 1938 to 1946. Today, the AP award is considered the de facto official NFL MVP award. Since the 2011 season, the NFL has held the annual NFL Honors ceremony to recognize the winner of the Associated Press MVP award.

Nick Foles

Nicholas Edward Foles (born January 20, 1989) is an American football quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Arizona and was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. He has also played for the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs.

Foles played his first game with the Eagles in Week 10 of the 2012 season after Michael Vick left with an injury. Foles then made his first start the following week. In Week 9 of the 2013 season, he became the second quarterback to post a perfect passer rating (158.3) while passing for more than 400 yards, and also the first quarterback in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating and throw seven touchdowns in a single game. It was the 60th time in NFL history that a perfect passer rating was achieved overall.

After stints with the Rams and the Chiefs, Foles returned to the Eagles in 2017. After Carson Wentz was injured late in the regular season, Foles led the Eagles to the franchise's third Super Bowl appearance. The Eagles defeated the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII for their first Super Bowl title, and Foles was named the game's MVP.

Passer rating

Passer rating (also known as quarterback rating, QB rating, or passing efficiency in college football) is a measure of the performance of passers, primarily quarterbacks, in American football and Canadian football. There are two formulae currently in use: one used by both the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL), and the other used in NCAA football. Passer rating is calculated using a player's passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. Since 1973, passer rating has been the official formula used by the NFL to determine its passing leader.

Passer rating in the NFL is on a scale from 0 to 158.3. Passing efficiency in college football is on a scale from −731.6 to 1261.6.

Quarterback sack

In American football and Canadian football, a sack occurs when the quarterback (or another offensive player acting as a passer) is tackled behind the line of scrimmage before he can throw a forward pass, when the quarterback is tackled behind the line of scrimmage in the "pocket" and his intent is unclear, or when a passer runs out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage due to defensive pressure. This often occurs if the opposing team's defensive line, linebackers or defensive backs are able to apply pass pressure (also called a pass rush) to quickly get past blocking players of the offensive team (the quarterback's protection), or if the quarterback is unable to find a back to hand the ball off to or an available eligible receiver (including wide receivers, running backs and tight ends) to catch the ball, allowing the defense a longer opportunity to tackle the quarterback.

Performing a sack is advantageous for the defending team as the offense loses a down, and the line of scrimmage retreats several yards. Even better for the defense is a sack causing the quarterback to fumble the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage; this is also known as a strip sack and can result in a turnover if the defense manages to obtain the ball. A quarterback that is pressured but avoids a sack can still be adversely affected by being forced to hurry.

In the National Football League (NFL), it is possible to record a sack for zero yards. The QB must pass the statistical line of scrimmage to avoid the sack. If a passer is sacked in his own end zone, the result is a safety and the defending team is awarded two points, unless the football is fumbled and either recovered in the end zone by the defense for a touchdown or recovered by either team outside the end zone.

Russell Wilson

Russell Carrington Wilson (born November 29, 1988) is an American football quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks of the National Football League (NFL). Wilson played college football for the University of Wisconsin during the 2011 season, in which he set the single-season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8) and led the team to a Big Ten title and the 2012 Rose Bowl. Wilson also played football and baseball for North Carolina State University from 2008 to 2010 before transferring to Wisconsin. He played minor league baseball for the Tri-City Dust Devils in 2010 and the Asheville Tourists in 2011 as a second baseman.Wilson was selected by the Seahawks with the 12th pick in the third round (75th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. In 2012, he tied Peyton Manning's record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie (26) and was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. In 2013, he led the Seahawks to their first ever Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XLVIII over the Denver Broncos, and in 2014, led them to a second straight Super Bowl berth. Wilson has won more games (65) than any other NFL quarterback in his first six seasons, and has the second highest NFL career passer rating of all time behind Aaron Rodgers, the only other quarterback to have a regular season career passer rating of over 100. On July 31, 2015, Wilson signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension with the Seahawks, making him, at the time, the second highest paid player in the NFL.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Joseph Fitzpatrick (born November 24, 1982), is an American football quarterback for the Miami Dolphins of the National Football League (NFL). He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played college football at Harvard and was the first quarterback in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a career.A journeyman quarterback, Fitzpatrick is known for his tenure on eight teams during his career, starting at least one game for the Rams, Cincinnati Bengals, Buffalo Bills, Tennessee Titans, Houston Texans, New York Jets, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In 2018, Fitzpatrick became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 400 yards or more in three straight games.

Ryan Tannehill

Ryan Timothy Tannehill III (born July 27, 1988) is an American football quarterback for the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Texas A&M and was drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the first round (eighth overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award

The Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Award, or Super Bowl MVP, is presented annually to the most valuable player of the Super Bowl, the National Football League's (NFL) championship game. The winner is chosen by a panel of 16 football writers and broadcasters and, since Super Bowl XXXV in 2001, fans voting electronically. The media panel's ballots count for 80 percent of the vote tally, while the viewers' ballots make up the other 20 percent. The game's viewing audience can vote on the Internet or by using cellular phones; Media voters are asked to vote with about five minutes remaining in the game, but are allowed to change their mind when the game ends. They can nominate one player from each team, with instructions to count their vote for the player on the winning team. Voters cannot select an entire unit.The Super Bowl MVP has been awarded annually since the game's inception in 1967. Through 1989, the award was presented by SPORT magazine. Bart Starr was the MVP of the first two Super Bowls. Since 1990, the award has been presented by the NFL. At Super Bowl XXV, the league first awarded the Pete Rozelle Trophy, named after former NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle, to the Super Bowl MVP. Ottis Anderson was the first to win the trophy. The most recent Super Bowl MVP, from Super Bowl LIII held on February 3, 2019, is New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who had 10 receptions for 141 yards.Tom Brady is the only player to have won four Super Bowl MVP awards; Joe Montana has won three and three others—Starr, Terry Bradshaw, and Eli Manning—have won the award twice. Starr and Bradshaw are the only ones to have won it in back-to-back years. The MVP has come from the winning team every year except 1971, when Dallas Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley won the award despite the Cowboys' loss in Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts. Harvey Martin and Randy White were named co-MVPs of Super Bowl XII, the only time co-MVPs have been chosen. Including the Super Bowl XII co-MVPs, seven Cowboys players have won Super Bowl MVP awards, the most of any NFL team. Quarterbacks have earned the honor 29 times in 53 games.

Tim Tebow

Timothy Richard Tebow (; born August 14, 1987) is a former professional American football quarterback and current professional baseball outfielder in the New York Mets organization. He played college football for the University of Florida, winning the Heisman Trophy in 2007 and appearing on BCS National Championship-winning teams during the 2006 and 2008 seasons. Tebow was selected by the Denver Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent two seasons with the team. He also played for the New York Jets in 2012. Additionally, he had preseason stints with the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013 and 2015 respectively.

Tebow became the Florida Gators' starting quarterback during the 2007 season when he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy. In 2008, Tebow led Florida to a 13–1 record and its second national championship in three years, and was named the offensive MVP of the national championship game. The Gators again went 13–1 in 2009, his senior year. At the conclusion of his college career, he held the Southeastern Conference's all-time records in both career passing efficiency and total rushing touchdowns, appearing second and tenth (respectively) in the NCAA record book in these categories.As a member of the Denver Broncos, he started the last three games of his rookie season and became the team's full-time starting quarterback beginning in the sixth game of 2011. The Broncos were 1–4 before he became the starter, but began winning with him on the field, often coming from behind late in the fourth quarter, until they won their first AFC West title and first playoff game since 2005, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. Despite the team's success, however, Tebow's potential as a professional level quarterback was called into question due to a perceived lack of passing ability, persistent fumbles, and having the lowest passing completion rate in the league.During the 2012 offseason, the Broncos traded Tebow to the New York Jets, where he received little playing time and was released after the 2012 season ended. He signed a two-year, non-guaranteed contract with the New England Patriots on June 11, 2013, but was cut from the team on August 31, 2013. After two seasons away from the game, Tebow signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on April 20, 2015, but was released on September 5. Despite compiling a record of 8–6 as a starting quarterback with the Broncos and leading them to the playoffs, including a playoff win, he did not start again in the NFL. No other quarterback under 30 in NFL history has won a playoff game and then never started another NFL game.On October 1st, 2016, Tebow announced he would pursue a career in professional baseball, and signed a minor league contract with the New York Mets on September 8. He has played in Minor League Baseball for the Mets organization in 2017 and 2018.

Tom Brady

Thomas Edward Patrick Brady Jr. (born August 3, 1977) is an American football quarterback for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL). He has won six Super Bowls, the most of any football player ever, and due to his numerous accomplishments, records, and accolades, he is considered by many sports analysts to be the greatest quarterback of all time.After playing college football for the University of Michigan, Brady was drafted by the Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Due to his late selection, Brady is considered the biggest "steal" in the history of the NFL Draft. In Brady's seventeen seasons as a starter, he has played in a record nine Super Bowls with the Patriots, and is one of only two quarterbacks to win the Super Bowl in their first season as a starter (the other being Kurt Warner). Brady holds most of the postseason quarterback records, leading all players in postseason touchdowns, passing yards, and completions, while owning the corresponding Super Bowl records as well.

Brady has won four Super Bowl MVP awards (Super Bowl XXXVI, XXXVIII, XLIX, and LI), the most ever by a player, as well as three league MVP awards (2007, 2010, 2017); he is the oldest player to have received either award. Brady has also been selected to 14 Pro Bowls, and has led his team to more division titles (16) than any other quarterback in NFL history. He is fourth all-time in career passing yards for regular season play, third in career touchdown passes, fourth in career passer rating, and fourteenth in postseason career passer rating. For regular season and postseason combined, Brady is first all-time in career passing yards and touchdown passes.

The only quarterback to reach 200 regular-season wins, Brady is the winningest quarterback in NFL history. With a postseason record of 30–10, he is first all-time in playoff wins and appearances for an NFL player. Brady has led the Patriots to an NFL-record eight consecutive AFC championship games since 2011 (thirteen overall), and has never had a losing season as a starting quarterback. He is tied for the record for the longest touchdown pass at 99 yards to Wes Welker.For his alleged involvement in the highly publicized Deflategate football-tampering scandal, Brady was suspended for the first four games of the 2016 season. Brady and the Patriots won two of the next three Super Bowls, making him the record holder for most Super Bowl wins by a player, and the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, at 41.

Troy Aikman

Troy Kenneth Aikman (born November 21, 1966) is a former American football quarterback who played for the Dallas Cowboys in the National Football League (NFL). The number one overall draft pick in 1989, Aikman played twelve consecutive seasons as the starting quarterback with the Cowboys, the greatest number of seasons by any Cowboy quarterback. During his career he was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, led the team to three Super Bowl victories, and was the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII. Aikman was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and to the College Football Hall of Fame on December 9, 2008 in New York City.Currently he works as a television sportscaster for the Fox network. He is also a former joint owner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing team Hall of Fame Racing along with fellow former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach, and was a part-owner of the San Diego Padres.

Tyrod Taylor

Tyrod Di'allo Taylor (born August 3, 1989) is an American football quarterback for the Los Angeles Chargers of the National Football League (NFL). He was the starting quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies football team from the start of the 2008 college football season through the 2011 Orange Bowl, the final game of the 2010 college football season for Virginia Tech. He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft and served as the backup to starting quarterback Joe Flacco, including during the Ravens' Super Bowl XLVII victory over the San Francisco 49ers. Taylor was signed by the Buffalo Bills as a free agent in 2015, taking over the starting quarterback duties that season. He would make one Pro Bowl appearance and helped the Bills make their first playoff berth in 17 years before being traded to the Cleveland Browns in March 2018. In March 2019 he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.

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