Coaching The Quarterbacks

May 18th, 2009

Bucs bust-in-waiting quarterback Josh Freeman has pretty darn good technique, says former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson.

Unsettled this weekend, Joe was tossing and turning thinking about the Bucs quarterback competition. And when Joe thinks quarterbacks, he calls former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson to talk shop.

Joe had a few questions for Carlson:

Joe:  Talking to Steve DeBerg, also a longtime QB coach, he said Byron Leftwich’s mechanics could be corrected rather easily. Do you agree? And, if so, why hasn’t that happened yet at any of his stops?

Former Bucs QB Jeff Carlson: “Correcting” Byron Leftwich’s mechanics is up to him. Many pro QBs don’t want to change what made them a pro QB (in Leftwich’s case a first round pick). The older a QB gets, the longer he has engrained bad habits and would be more difficult to change (old dog-new trick scenario). The QB position gets the least amount of coaching of any position in professional sports because so few people have ever played the position well or understand the mechanics of making an “oblong spheroid” fly properly, that few coaches try — they just coach the Xs and Os of the game. Up at the University of Florida, Tim Tebow has the worst delivery mechanics of any major QB and nobody wants to mess with his techniques (see articles about his new QB coach).

I have learned more about the details of throwing the ball since being out of the game than I ever did while playing. Byron Leftwich could improve his release time significantly if he got out of his long straight armed windmill delivery (remember Pete Townsend of The Who windmilling his arm on his guitar at the end of songs?). This long windup causes him to get hit more often (injury prone), which knocks his passes off course or he won’t throw it at all because he knows how long it takes to throw, which causes more sacks because of his lack of mobility.

Joe: In what way do the Bucs begin to coach Josh Freeman? What do you do first with a 21-year-old quarterback who is expected to sit for a while?

Carlson: Josh Freeman has pretty darn good technique for a rookie (there are plenty of little things to improve, but will the QB coach try?). Decision-making is the biggest thing for a QB to be successful and from what I have read about his college career, decision-making is where he needs to improve. If I were coaching him (I would improve some of his balance issues on the field) I would be making him make quick decisions in the film room. Many times film work is watching film and discussing it as it goes, but I would have game film on and making Freeman yell out coverages, reads and throwing decisions at “light speed.” Brad Johnson wasn’t near the top of the QBs in the game in 2002, but he made good, quick decisions with the ball and that is why he led the Bucs to the Super Bowl (OK, the defense gets some credit too — that good enough for you SAPP?)

Joe: Should the Bucs approach Freeman in a way that they sincerely ask him to compete for the opening day starter job, and then see how he handles the pressure of high expectations in the preseason? Or do they handle him gently?

Carlson: By the way Josh Freeman has handled himself in post-draft interviews, I see him as an opening day starter or at least pushing for the job. I don’t like the idea of openly setting a low expectation and telling any athletic competitor that his fate is already decided before the competition starts (David Price with the Rays is a good example). Luke McCown and others have talked about how this offense has been “dumbed down” from Jon Gruden and if it is significantly more simple, if Josh Freeman comes to work in June and July before training camp, there is no reason he can’t compete for the starting job immediately.

Joe: Perhaps this is a stupid question. But why is there no market whatsoever for Brian Griese? The guy did win a few games last year.

Carlson: There usually is a market of some sort for every kind of experienced player and Griese has won games, but he is also known for throwing critical interceptions as well. I would think there would be a team that has depth needs for a guy to count on in case of emergency, but many of those spots are filled by younger, cheaper players that have upside potential. At this point, Griese’s potential is upside-down.

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