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What Makes a Top Quarterback?

Why do so few pro quarterbacks dazzle on the field? It's all about "dude qualities," this author says.

What exactly makes a Manning, a Luck, a Wilson? Quarterback is the most-analyzed position in all of American sports; but for all the stats and chatter spewed by pundits and fans, the actual success rate makes you wonder if anyone really knows what they’re talking about. Forty percent of first-round QBs from the past 10 years have flopped. And only 13% of four- and five-star collegiate recruits will ever earn an NFL starting spot.

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InThe QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, Bruce Feldman delves into the cutting–edge science, psychology, and often pure mysticism surrounding the position, actually embedding with some of the game’s most prominent “QB gurus,” including “QB Whisperer” George Whitfield Jr., who waves a broom in Johnny Manziel’s face to mimic defensive pressure; Tom House, a baseball-pitching scientist nicknamed “the Professor” who claimed to have “fixed” Tim Tebow by bolstering his accuracy and time-to-throw (judging by Tebow’s current gig behind a Fox Sports desk, we know how that ended); and Trent Dilfer, the mastermind behind ESPN’s QB-recruiting franchise, Elite 11.

Feldman concludes the obvious: There’s no physical archetype of the “successful” modern QB. Sure, the arm and legs are important. But what really matters happens inside the helmet. Success comes from traits that Dilfer calls “dude qualities”—things like leadership and creativity—which is why he challenges the sport’s religious reliance on rankings, stars, and hype when searching for the next Hall-of-Famer.

Because, as Feldman puts it, you don’t play quarterback. You are a quarterback.

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