With all the talk these days about how much quarterbacks must win outside the pocket (and that’s certainly true), one must never underestimate the importance of pocket movement — that is to say, the ability for a quarterback to move around in a pocket the size of a small boxing ring, and create positive plays with chaos all around him.
From Tom Brady to Joe Burrow to Patrick Mahomes, there are a few quarterbacks who set themselves apart with their sense of defenders around them, how they move around that chaos, and how they can expand that boxing ring with that sense of movement and expansion.
In that regard, Muhmmad Ali would have been a great pocket quarterback. While Ali’s opponents like Joe Frazier and George Foreman were all about cutting the rung in halves and quarters to suffocate you and then beat you into submission, Ali reacted to that ideally with his short-area elusiveness, forcing those constriction experts to flail around the ring more than they would have liked.
For Ali’s opponents, the end result was exhaustion. Ask Foreman, who lost The Rumble in the Jungle because Ali rope-a-doped him and forced him to go to parts of the ring to which he didn’t want to travel.
In this week’s episode of “The Xs and Os with Greg Cosell and Doug Farrar,” Greg (of NFL Films and ESPN’s NFL Matchup) and Doug (of Touchdown Wire) discussed the ideal attributes for the modern NFL quarterback, and pocket movement was a point of focus.
“You have to be able to function intelligently and athletically at game speed amidst a lot of chaos,” Greg said of those pocket savants. “You’re in a cauldron of fire. You have to move, but at the same time, maintaining balance, maintaining footwork, and keeping your eyes downfield. You never want to look at the rush. You have to have a feel.
“One of the first things I learned when I started working with Ron Jaworski in 1989 or 1990, and he told me, ‘You never want to see the rush; you have to feel the rush.’ Certainly quarterbacks who are more pocket-driven growing up in the game, like a Dan Marino or a Tom Brady or a Drew Brees… they grow up feeling the rush, because their first instinct is not to leave the pocket. Quarterbacks who are great movers, they may be the best athletes on the field, so anytime they feel anything [pressure], they’re going to leave [the pocket].
“But you want to have the ability to move within the pocket, and I’ve always used the analogy of the area of a boxing ring, but smaller.”
And there you have it.
You can watch the entire “Xs and Os” about building the perfect quarterback right here.
You can also listen and subscribe to “The Xs and Os” podcast on Spotify…