Friday, October 17, 2003
Art Of Quarterbacking
By Steve Young
Special to ESPN.com
Every quarterback dreams of getting to that place where experience and ability meet. That beautiful vortex where you've played long enough to understand the intricacies and intangibles of the game, while your still sharp enough to move around and make plays.
When you get to that place, you've essentially grasped what I call the "art of quarterbacking."
The art of quarterbacking shows itself in a myriad of forms: looking off receivers, finding the big play, finding the fourth and fifth receiver outlets, as well as the subtleties of moving in the pocket to find space to throw the football. Then, there's getting the ball out of your hand, and having the ability to orchestrate the offense, instead of trying to make plays yourself.
There is also understanding everyone's position on the field and the spatial relationship between you and your receivers and offensive linemen as well as opposing defensive linemen. Once those skills are polished, it allows you to slow down and let your mind relax. It is at that point when you become better under pressure simply because you're never hurried. You're not rushing the moment, you're controlling it. And suddenly, it all comes together and you just "get it."
Titans' quarterback Steve McNair is in that place. It's evident from watching him play and by his NFL-leading 107.8 quarterback rating. And from the looks of it, McNair will be in quarterbacking nirvana for the next few years.
Oftentimes, by the time a quarterback "gets it," he's past his prime. But McNair is one of the lucky players who, at the age of 30, understands the game and still has plenty of years left to display and enjoy his talents.
For many years, the Titans were known as a power-running, defensive squad -- that's what got them to Super Bowl XXXIV. But that offensive philosophy has since changed. They still run the ball occasionally, but they're relying more on McNair's savvy ability to recreate a running game with his short-passing game.
As McNair has expanded his game, the offensive playbook has expanded, too. Because when Jeff Fisher knows that McNair can not only make any pass, but also protect the ball, it gives him the freedom to use his entire arsenal. That's how the Titan's offense stays on track.
Toughness is a moniker every quarterback wears because it comes with the territory of taking hits throughout a 16 week season. But McNair's tenacity is insurmountable, and has now become one factor of his game.
McNair used to get it done by utilizing sheer athleticism, but he's since graduated from the fine arts school of quarterbacking. Not many quarterbacks get to where he is. I've enjoyed watching him play over the years but most notably the past few weeks. He has a solid command of the offense, one you don't see a lot these days.
It's a beautiful thing.