QB or Not QB?


(Photo credit: Mills/AP)

The Buffalo Bills and other NFL teams seeking quarterbacks should look no further than former grocery store bagger Kurt Warner.

Not Kurt Warner specifically, but his rags-to-riches story. His path. His training and skill set.

Teams with great defenses like the Bills are only a QB away from Super Bowl contention. They need a Jay Cutler like they need a headache. (One in the same, by the way.)

What they need is the next Kurt Warner.

In a 2009 book called The Talent Code, author Daniel Coyle discloses all you need to know about finding (or maybe even growing) another Kurt Warner. The all-time great QB isn’t mentioned in Coyle’s book, but his story fits Coyle’s thesis: high achievement comes from deep and targeted practice. The italicized word comes up repeatedly in the book.

Coyle studied phenomenal pianists and violinists who practiced not entire songs, but a targeted series of notes over and over and over again. He studied artful Brazilian soccer players, who hone their brilliant skills by practicing with smaller balls in tighter playing areas.

Deep and targeted practice led to world soccer dominance. Put a Brazilian player on a regulation field, with all that space to maneuver, and give him a larger ball, and the game became easy compared to the cramped and targeted conditions in which he trained. Same with the musicians; master the skills first, then tackle complete concertos.

Apply that thinking to Warner’s story. After his college graduation in 1993, he wasn’t drafted, and nothing much happened for him as a pro QB until 1996 and 1997, when he set passing records in the confined quarters of the Arena Football League. Two seasons later he had one of the most prolific years in NFL history and led the Rams to victory in Super Bowl 34.

The offense the Rams ran was predicated on an Arena Football League model–quick reads, short throws, fast wide receivers eviscerating defenses with enormous yardages after the catch. Now the best NFL offenses ALL do this.

Why not get a QB who’s good at that? Strong arm, quick reads, short throws, no mistakes. And design the offense accordingly.

So, who are the next Kurt Warners? Look at the guys who are succeeding at Arena small ball right now. Nick Davila, Shane Austin, Jason Boltus, Erik Meyer. Just a few of the AFL’s top QBs in passing efficiency.

No-names? Sure, but who cares? All of them have been perfecting these essential modern day QB skills in the targeted crucible of indoor football. Just like Warner did in the AFL, right before he became an NFL star.

Couldn’t you argue that the experience a guy like Warner gained was more valuable than being an understudy and carrying around a clipboard on an NFL sideline?

Yeah, but we want an Andrew Luck or Aaron Rodgers. Well, good luck with that search.

First round draftees aren’t the only QBs to win Super Bowls. Consider Warner (undrafted), Brad Johnson (9th round draft pick), Joe Montana (3rd round), Mark Rypien (6th round), and, currently, Tom Brady (6th round). All of them: smart, mistake-averse, and good at managing efficient offensive schemes.

It will only be a matter of time until the next Kurt Warner wins big in the NFL with the micro skills he acquired in the indoor game. The Bills and other teams seeking an immediate answer at QB, and looking at big names or draftees like Jay Cutler or EJ Manuel, should consider a successful no-name from the indoor league. And, for good measure, maybe hire an Arena League offensive coordinator as well.

Dave Coombs was a QB in 7th grade, his team went 0-6, and he never played football again.

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