Every NFL Starting Quarterback's Worst Habit

Alen Dumonjic@@Dumonjic_AlenContributor IIJuly 11, 2012

Every NFL Starting Quarterback's Worst Habit

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    NFL quarterbacks are often in the limelight, receiving praise for a great throw they made that helped the team seal a win or getting blasted on morning show radio for the awful decision that they made which resulted in an interception and cost the team the game.

    The praise and criticism of quarterbacks is expected, but we all have to understand that every single quarterback (besides Peyton Manning) has a bad habit or flaw that rears its ugly head every now and then, but the question is, who has what flaw and why?

    That's what I look to answer as I analyze all 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and the bad habits that they have which make for good talk on the early morning Sports Center show. 

Tony Romo: Decision Making

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    Tony Romo has been a polarizing figure in Dallas. When he wins, he doesn't always get credit, and when he loses, he gets all of the blame. The reason for the blame is because his bad habits tend to come late in the game when the Cowboys most need him to step up.

    Much like the most of the quarterbacks in the NFL, he has issues with making smart decisions with the ball, especially late in the game. To Romo's credit, he's cut down his interception totals and improved each year on his decision making, but there are still instances in which he seems to throw them at the absolute worst time. 

    Case and point: In Week 1 against the New York Jets, Romo made a very poor throw into double coverage in the final seconds of the fourth quarter, consequently losing possession and ultimately the game. 

Eli Manning: Falling Away from Throws

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    Over the course of his eight-year career, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning has had a lot of bad luck, such as running to move the chains and then randomly fumbling the ball as he's sliding or making a great throw, only to watch his receiver miraculously let the ball slip through his hands and into those of the defender. 

    In short, it's been a very weird career.

    But Eli's guilty of some of the bad plays that the Giants have made over the last few years, such as turnovers. He threw 16 interceptions last year, which is an improvement over the 25 he threw the previous year, but they come from his bad habit of fading away from the line of scrimmage. 

    Manning doesn't always step into his throws, instead fading away, which leads to a decrease in velocity and, unfortunately, poor throws that result in interceptions. 

Michael Vick: Identifying the Blitz

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    Have you ever watched Michael Vick before the snap? 

    He seems to be doing everything right as he's pointing out the middle linebacker with his two index fingers and then looks at a potential blitzing defender. When he takes the snap, everything goes downhill; the defender that he thought was going to blitz drops in coverage and from the opposite side, a defender actually blitzes. As a result, Vick does not see nor feel the blind-side pressure and is stripped and sacked for a loss of possession.

    These problems may stem from a lack of thorough study of the team's playbook or him simply being confused, but whichever one it is, he has had this issue a long time now and it has cost him.

Robert Griffin III: Flat Feet

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    The first rookie on the list, Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, was drafted No. 2 overall this past April after the team gave up a bundle to get him.

    Head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff understand that Griffin III is a dynamic talent that has consistently improved as he's gotten more game experience, as indicated by his performance in college, and is very confident in his ability to make plays.

    Perhaps too confident.

    While in the pocket, Griffin III tends to get lazy mechanically and play flat-footed. When he does this, it takes him a longer time to get rid of the ball, which means more time for a pass-rusher to close in on him and more time for a defensive back to recover and deflect the pass. 

Kevin Kolb: Leaving the Pocket Early

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    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb has the pressure on him this season, as his starting job is in question with the play last season of backup John Skelton, and that's not a good thing because Kolb does not handle pressure well.

    Kolb was an impressive passer while in Philadelphia (aren't they all?), and this led to the Cardinals paying a significant amount to acquire his rights. 

    However, things haven't worked out as planned due to his health and overall play. In the limited time he's been on the field (he played nine games last year), he hasn't played all that well.

    Last season, he had 11 turnovers in nine starts and didn't do well under pressure. As a matter of fact, he often left the pocket too early when there was a hint of pressure, as witnessed on numerous plays including against the Washington Redskins when he left the pocket too early and threw a bad interception

    If Kolb doesn't improve, he'll no longer be the starting quarterback, and the Cardinals will get bad return on their investment. 

Alex Smith: Locking Front Leg

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    San Francisco 49ers signal caller Alex Smith had a resurgence last season under the tutelage of head coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman.

    The passer cut his 2010 interception total in half in 2011 and executed a quarterback-friendly offense very well. Despite this, issues, particularly the locking of his front leg when he's passing, still exist and they're unlikely to ever go away. 

    He has a strong tendency of locking his front leg when he's getting ready to pass the ball, and this affects his accuracy. Quarterbacks need to bend their knees when they are passing the ball (similar to a shooter in basketball), and because Smith doesn't always do so, his shoulders sometimes end up nearly parallel to the ground, which affects his accuracy. 

    There are an abundance of plays that can be found in which he's done fine throwing the ball despite this issue, but if one takes a close look at his deep passes, the dots can be connected. 

Tarvaris Jackson: Throwing off Back Foot

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    Tarvaris Jackson has teased football coaches and fans since he's come into the NFL.

    He has an intriguing blend of mobility and arm strength, but has yet to put it together and unlikely ever well. Some thought he might after stringing together some quality performances last season, but he continues to not see the entire field, make bad decisions and play with poor footwork. 

    Jackson has made a lot of bad throws either falling away or throwing off his back foot when he's gotten playing time, so take your pick as to which habit is worst. This year, he comes into training camp competing for his job with former Packers quarterback Matt Flynn and third-round pick Russell Wilson. 

Sam Bradford: Forcing Throws

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    Coming out of Oklahoma, quarterback Sam Bradford was one of the most impressive prospects ever at the position.

    He displayed uncanny accuracy, a strong arm and great anticipation. However, since coming to the Rams, he has done nothing to show any of those. In fact, he's been very poor after getting drilled nonstop behind his turnstile offensive line. 

    It's unfortunate because Bradford had the talent that could have placed him in the discussion for top quarterback in the NFL, but things have changed since. He's developed very bad habits because of the plethora of sacks he's taken, such as forcing the ball to his primary receiver

    At times, it appears that he doesn't even look at the rest of his options and just wants to get rid of the ball in a hurry to avoid getting sacked. 

    Going into this season, the Rams offensive line better shape up before it's too late to get the old Sam Bradford back.

Jay Cutler: Throwing into Coverage

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    Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler is one of the most maddening players in the league because of his decision-making. He either is stubborn or overly confident because some of the decisions to throw into double and triple coverage are unfathomable. 

    Cutler has arguably the strongest arm in the league, able to make throws on a rope a long distance through the winter air, but as noted, he does not use it smartly. He puts his team in far too many bad situations because of his strong tendency to force passes into coverage. 

    If the Bears are ever going to get back to the Super Bowl under the leadership of Cutler, he'll have to improve his decision-making. 

Matthew Stafford: Throwing off Back Foot

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    In one season, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford quickly ascended into one of the league's brightest and best young talents.

    After two injury-plagued years, there was doubt he'd ever stay healthy but the signal-caller roared back last season, throwing a eyebrow-raising 41 touchdowns.

    He also threw 16 interceptions, which is actually a good number considering the amount of throws he was asked to make, but the way he threw them was not always good.

    Like Cutler, Stafford is very confident in his strong arm and some of his turnovers come, but he has a tendency to fall away from the line of scrimmage and throwing off his back foot. 

Aaron Rodgers: Doesn't Always Set Feet

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    What is there to say about Aaron Rodgers last season besides that he was fantastic? 

    Rodgers didn't make many mistakes last season and was arguably the league's best quarterback, but sometimes he plays loose with the ball and doesn't set his feet before throwing. He's made numerous throws without doing this and is probably the only quarterback in the league that can get away with constantly doing this, but it has cost him at times. 

    Because he doesn't always reset his feet, he doesn't always realize the potential of his arm, which is very strong, and his ball placement isn't always proper. However, it is a minor issue in his case and doesn't significantly affect his throw as witnessed by his performance last season. 

Christian Ponder: Holding the Ball

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    Rookie quarterbacks had a significant amount of success last season, and Christian Ponder was no exception, as he was played well despite being thrown into the fire nearly midway through the season. 

    Ponder exhibited intelligence and a surprisingly strong arm that enabled him to make big throws downfield, but he also ran into a rookie wall that saw him make bad decisions and hold on to the ball too long, which led him to being sacked or missing an open receiver late. 

    However, I expect him to continue to improve and become one of the league's better quarterbacks because he has all the necessary traits to become one.

Matt Ryan: Pocket Movement

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    Altanta Falcons signal-caller Matt Ryan is one of the more impressive quarterbacks in the league, even though it may not always appear that way. 

    He possesses all but one trait that NFL scouts look for in a quarterback: pocket mobility. This is not a significant knock on Ryan, but it is one that has appeared while watching him, and my thoughts were confirmed by the great Greg Cosell of NFL Network

    Yet, there’s one element of Ryan’s game in which he struggles, and he will need to improve in order to play with greater consistency in the more important games, against the better defenses.  Ryan is primarily a pocket passer.  Certainly he can roll out by design at times, but he’s at his best sitting in a comfortable cradle with his feet balanced, striding into his throws with functional space.  That’s the ideal scenario: a secure pocket with room to deliver.  Unfortunately, that does not happen as often as you might expect.


    It’s the single most important trait that he must master to reach that next step in his development. Without it, he will remain inconsistent, and uncertain and tentative against defenses that can sustain pressure throughout the course of games.  As is the case with Michael Vick, Ryan must continue to refine his game in order to make the most of the natural talents that have gotten him this far.  For both players who still have much still to prove, 2012 will be another pivotal year in their NFL journey.


Cam Newton: Lack of Hip Rotation

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    Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton may have put together arguably the greatest rookie season ever at the position, but he was still a rookie, and that means mistakes and bad habits. 

    Newton was raw coming out of college, and it showed at times during the season when he'd make throws with only his arm, relying solely on his arm strength, which gets him in trouble. He needs to clean up his footwork and rotate his hips in order to transfer his weight forward and make a quality throw. 

    This is an issue that the majority of rookie quarterbacks have coming into the NFL, so it is no surprise with him, but it is still a habit that he needs to kick.

Drew Brees: Forcing Throws

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    Much like Aaron Rodgers of the Packers, Drew Brees is one of the league's best quarterbacks and doesn't really have a bad habit, but he does tend to force throws under pressure at times which leads to interceptions. 

    He only threw 14 interceptions last year despite throwing a significant amount of passes (468), which makes it only even more impressive. Because of the low interception total, it is not a major concern of Brees'. 

Josh Freeman: Tries to Do Too Much

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    Last year, Josh Freeman was one of the league's most disappointing quarterbacks. He had a quarterback rating slightly over 74, a 6.5 yard per attempt average and threw 22 interceptions, all worse than the previous season, where he looked like the next big thing. 

    Freeman tried to do too much last season to get the Buccaneers back to their winning ways, and it hurt him in the process, as stated by new head coach Greg Schiano. The young quarterback needs to learn that he can take what the defense is giving him and not necessarily look to make a big play. 

    When a throw is forced, it often results in a turnover that gives the opposition good field position, which is worse than living another down or punting the ball. 

Ryan Fitzpatrick: Locking Front Leg

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    The Irish quarterback was one of the biggest surprises last season when he led the Buffalo Bills to a hot start to the season. However, he quickly fizzled out, as he lost his weapons and reportedly suffered a rib injury that may have contributed to his downfall. 

    Despite the lack of weapons and the injured ribs, Fiztpatrick's main problems stem from his footwork, which he's been looking to improve under the guidance of quarterbacks coach David Lee.

    Last season, he had a tendency to lock his front leg and fail to rotate his hips, which meant he wasn't generating power from his lower body. Consequently, he threw a lot of poorly placed passes that resulted in pass deflections and sometimes, interceptions. 

    Fitzpatrick will need to improve this area of his game in the upcoming season to avoid giving the ball away. 

Matt Moore: Inconsistency

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    When it comes to Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, there really isn't one specific bad habit that he has.

    You could point to his habit of throwing interceptions late in games, but that's not really always his fault. Interceptions have to be isolated, and when you isolate his, it's not always fair to blame him.

    If there is one thing that a critic can point to, however, it's his inconsistency. You never really know what you're going to get from Moore on a week-to-week basis and don't really want him starting for long stretches. Some may point to his play last season as suggesting otherwise, but over the course of his career, I don't think he's shown that he can play at a high level.

Tom Brady: Gets Lazy Mechanically

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    Tom Brady's one of the league's best quarterback, and a case can be made for him being arguably the greatest of all-time, but like all other quarterbacks, he has a flaw: He gets lazy mechanically as he has more time to work within the pocket.

    Maybe it is natural that we all revert to when we have spare time on our hands, but when he is in the pocket, he gets flat footed and appears to get looser with the ball, which leads to him throwing poorly-placed passes.

    This was a theme last season when he went through a rough stretch, and while many have pointed to an unnamed injury possibly affecting him, this habit was also an issue.

Mark Sanchez: Decision-Making

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    New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has been the target of heavy criticism as of late, and for good reason: He hasn't been very good since coming into the NFL. 

    Sanchez has had issues with seeing the entire field and decision-making. The latter is a bad habit of his because he tries to make passes that are of high degree of difficulty, subsequently leading to turnovers. He has 63 turnovers since coming into the NFL, 51 of which are interceptions. 

    If he doesn't improve his decision making with the ball this season, he could be watching from the bench as his teammate, Tim Tebow, attempts to pilot the Jets to victory.

Peyton Manning: Nothing

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    It may seem like a lazy evaluation of Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning when one says that he really has no bad habits, but the truth is, he really doesn't.

    Manning is exceptional in all facets of the game, from controlling the line of scrimmage to deciphering coverages while dropping back. He has had some injury issues as of late, namely his neck, but that's not a bad habit; that's just being unfortunate. 

    Perhaps this season, he will develop bad habits after a year-long sabbatical. 

Matt Cassel: Lack of Pocket Movement

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    Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is a pure pocket passer in the traditional sense. He practically lives in the pocket, standing like a statue and lacking mobility. He really doesn't manipulate the pocket well, and this can be seen when he's under pressure.

    He looks uncomfortable when dealing with pressure and won't completely step through his throws either, which is a problem when it comes to the vertical deep ball. It was said that he was going to improve this last season, but things didn't work out so well. 

    He's got a lot of work to do for the upcoming season, and he's on the quarterback hot seat. 

Carson Palmer: Indecisive

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    The former No. 1 overall selection of the Cincinnati Bengals comes back for a second season as the Oakland Raiders quarterback, and there's questions as to whether he'll pay off for the Raiders.

    If there's one aspect of his game that may never improve and prevent him from paying off, it is his indecisiveness. 

    Palmer is not a passer that anticipates his pass-catchers well. This is a problem because in the NFL, not every passing window is crystal clear, and sometimes, the quarterback has to throw to a spot and let his pass-catcher run under it. 

    Unfortunately, Palmer doesn't do that because he has to see it to believe it. 

Philip Rivers: Decision-Making

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    Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is one of the toughest and smartest players in the league, but sometimes, he doesn't always make the smartest decisions. 

    He has a strong tendency to be overly confident in his arm, thus trying to make throws that he really shouldn't be making. I discussed this before over at theScore.com last season, and as you can see, he tries to make throws into tight windows or no windows at all. 

    Rivers needs to come back with a strong season after a let down last year, which led many to speculate that he was injured, but he continues to deny it

Joe Flacco: Staring Down WRs

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    Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was heavily hyped up coming out of Delaware, but ever since then, all he's received is criticism for his play. 

    Flacco has been a bit underwhelming as a passer despite flashing potential of great quality at times. He has a bad habit of forcing passes and staring down his receivers, which is problematic when they happen on the same play. 

Andy Dalton: Inconsistent Footwork

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    In his rookie season, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton exceeded all expectations by starting and playing well. He showed poise, confidence and quality as he passed the ball well. However, he still has a lot of room for improvement and he knows this, as he explained:

    “Throwing the football all comes down to footwork,” Dalton said, via Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “I have to put more air under it and things like that.”

    As Dalton states, he doesn't always play with quality footwork, sometimes relying on his arm (which isn't great) to make throws and not resetting his feet. This is something that he'll need to become at because he doesn't have an elite skill set that can help him overcome any issues like Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers does. 

Brandon Weeden: Decision-Making Under Pressure

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    With last years starter Colt McCoy practically out of the picture, the Cleveland Browns have handed the keys to the franchise over to first-round pick Brandon Weeden.

    Weeden is one of the more impressive arm talents to come out from the Air Raid college system, which has a bad history of not producing top players, but he tends to make bad decisions under pressure, particularly when its at his feet. 

    Further, he will lock on to his first read at times, which gets him in trouble considering he's a gunslinger. 

Ben Roethlisberger: Doesn't Step Through Throws

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    Besides the bad habits in the bathroom stall, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a habit of not stepping into his throws at all times, which reduces his arm strength. 

    Quarterbacks need to step through their throws to rotate their hips and transfer their weight; otherwise, they will have issues with accuracy. Roethlisberger's had this issue before, and one has to wonder how much it has to do with all the injuries he's had.

Matt Schaub: Tunnel Vision

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    Houston quarterback Matt Schaub has been a pretty good player at his position since being acquired by the Texans.

    He's kept a relatively low turnover total, and his completion percentage is in the low 60s, which isn't bad. However, in a sort of weird way, he has tunnel vision at times because he doesn't see anyone but his receiver, and he throws it despite several defenders being around him. 

    It's as if he doesn't see the defenders around the receiver and throws it, which leads to the receiver either getting drilled by a defender or a defender jumping the receivers route for the interception. 

Andrew Luck: Mechanically Lazy

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    Indianapolis Colts first-round pick Andrew Luck has been the most impressive quarterback I've seen come out in a very long time.

    He has everything that you look for, including the "it" factor, but he is still a young player that is learning the ropes of the game, and it shows up in his mechanics at times.

    Similar to Tom Brady and Robert Griffin III, he tends to get lazy with his mechanics and footwork, which leads him to standing flat-footed in the pocket. It is a minor issue that needs to be corrected by the new Colts coaching staff and shouldn't hamper the development of Luck much. 

Blaine Gabbert: Leaving Pocket Early

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    2011 first-round pick Blaine Gabbert has been on the end of many jokes in the last year because of his lack of toughness in the pocket.

    Because of the offensive system that he came out of, he had a lot of space to work with in the pocket and didn't really get pressured much. The few times he did, he reacted poorly by flushing out of the pocket too early instead of simply sliding around and keeping his eyes down the field. 

Jake Locker: Too Much Velocity

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    There is an ongoing quarterback competition in Tennessee at the moment, featuring quarterbacks Matt Hasslbeck and Jake Locker.

    Hasselbeck started last season and is a wily veteran, while Locker is the future of the Titans and who I expect to win the starting job at some point this offseason or during the season. 

    Last year, Locker had some experience playing on Sunday's when Hasselbeck went down with injury, and he played pretty well. He had some growing pains that were noticeable when he was throwing the ball with too much velocity instead of simply throwing a touch pass, such as on a slant pattern. 

    Locker needs to acquire a better feel for playing quarterback, which could come with experience.