In this part we will talk about the actual coaching, drilling, and / or correcting the mental processes (reads / thought processes) that may be hurting your quarterback and causing misreads, indecision, and eventually turnovers. While all these situations may not cross the lines of various offenses, I have witnessed these personally and in many cases have learned from own mistakes.
a) The sink or swim mentality
I've seen this numerous times. A coach teaches a pass pattern and the thought process. Once on the field the individual routes are thrown on air and then the pattern is thrown in 7 on 7 with multiple stimulus hitting the quarterback while he tries to sort out the read process in his head.
Thought processes must taught the same way as any other skill. For example I teach the quarterback to "give unless the hand off key makes a clear path IN FRONT of the fullback's path."I will start off by sitting there and ask the QB if I've made a path in front of the fullback. (Notice I'm not saying if he sits do this.) Once he answers, he'll take three or four reps with the fullback just seeing the read and giving it; all the while knowing it is a give. We are TRAINING the thought process. We are TRAINING the eyes. We are TRAINING muscle memory to a particular stimulus. Next I'll give him a crash read in front of the fullback - easiest pull read and ask him what he does by rule. Then he'll take 3 or 4 reps knowing the read is coming. Training the eyes and thought process on the proper response. Once he sees this then I'll combine those two reads only (one give and one pull.)
The second day, I will teach a new pull read the same way. Then I will combine it with the one give read from the previous. Finally I will combine all three. The process is repeated till all looks have been trained into muscle memory. It becomes a reaction not a burdensome thought process.
The same is true with the pass. Take curl flat. Take three Qb's in individual and put one where the curl ends up and one where the flat to be. get a fourth to be the SS. First SS goes directly to the Curl only. So in "I throw the curl unless" the QB would reload (reshuffle his feet) and through to the QB who is standing where the fat pattern would be. Next have the SS jump the flat. Since he's not going to the curl - throw the curl. Next combine those two. And we will progress to throw all the reads two at a time. By doing this the QB learns the read as a reaction. If you throw him to the wolves it becomes a burdensome frustrating thought process and can lead to imperfect mechanics. Thought process trumps technique and you have turnovers.
b) Bad reads in drills
I don't know how many times I've seen coaches with shields on the line split mat taking one step and popping the fullback on the side of the shoulder and telling the QB it's a give read. FALSE. In order to be a give read the quarterback must understand the path has to be in front of the fullback not to his side. The read previously mentioned would end up as an arm tackle you would expect the fullback to break. Then the coach wonders why the qb can't read the up move or gets caught by the handoff key who stepped down and then came back out.
If you do it properly you must hit the fullback on the front of the shoulder not the side. This requires two things. You must move your feet and you will have somewhat of a minor collision if the fullback is running full speed. This is why I recommend teaching players in pads to be your reads - not old coaches like myself! (Trust me I learned from the shoulder surgery I was required after my last year at Spirit.)
The same holds true when the old coach plays the strong safety in the curl flat scenario and takes three lazy steps toward the curl and announces "good read" as the QB dumps the ball off to the flat. Then wonders in the game why overtime when the SS just opens his shoulders the QB dumps the ball and the SS makes the tackle for 2 yards.
Reads have to be full and realistic. The best way to get this is teach the players to be the read you want as you teach the QB then use the same guy everyday. Besides if you are so busy being the read and concentrating on how you are dropping, how can you coach the quarterback's mechanics. I could never figure that one out!
NOTE: It's not just using a coach as the read, it's what you expect and demand from your person giving the read.
c) Vanilla alignments by reads in practice.
This is the coach who has his defensive key (SS or handoff key or other) align in the exact same spot every time. Reading defensive reaction to a key is based three things: 1) distance from the rule (i.e. how far he is from the fullback's path.) 2) Angle he takes (the further his distance aligned the steeper his angle must be be. A 7 tech has to come flatter to get in front of the fullback then a 4 technique does. A screwed down safety from a cover two has a lesser angle then an OLB in a 3-4 to get to the curl.) 3) speed of his movement. (the further the defender is from the QB's "unless" rule the faster he has to move. (a 4-3 wide 9 better be sprinting to get to the fullback as opposed to a four tech who just has to step down. The screwed SS basically is in the curl with little or no movement. The 3-4 OLB better be on his horse.) So speed, distance, and angle are the three differentiators that a QB must understand and process in order to be a "good reader."
If you have your key align in the same spot every time (i.e. HOK on mat in a 4, cover three SS at 4 x 4) the quarterback will never understand this.
On the contrary, if on the mat ,we would have our read in a 4 or in a 5 or in a 6 or in a 7 or in a 9. Every day would be different while teaching the mental process. We would talk about the alignment as the drill was taking place. Talking about speed, distance and angle to get to the "unless" aspect of the read.
Even in our QB individual segment (other QBs as finished routes.) we may practice curl flat with the SS at 4x4 one time, 1/2 way out one time, screwed down from cover three one time.
In Part III we will deal with D through F