Editor's note: This is the last in a series of stories examining how BYU’s new offensive coordinator describes the most valuable traits for quarterbacks.
PROVO — Quarterbacks don’t need a cannon and they can lead in myriad ways, says BYU’s new offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.
BYU’s new offensive coordinator will spend this week enjoying family time in Baton Rouge on orders from Kalani Sitake. Then, he’ll be in Provo putting his brand on BYU’s offense and one of the first things he’ll do this winter is put out an all-points bulletin: Quarterbacks wanted.
In the three previous installments on what Grimes likes in a quarterback, the new OC listed competitive spirit, accuracy, toughness, intelligence and physicality as abilities that rank atop the board.
What about arm strength? Leadership?
It sure is nifty to see a passer throw a leather ball 60 miles per hour. Zip it like a laser. Knock over a stack of cinder blocks from 30 yards away. But that has little to do with playing the game.
Grimes believes arm strength is important, but it is down his list of things to look for in a quarterback.
“I don’t want to completely neglect that," Grimes said. "When I was at BYU before, we had John Beck. John is a guy with a very big arm. That feature in Beck allowed BYU to attack the field in specific ways.
“We could run our crossing routes across the middle of the field and then have an out route to the far hash. If the defense played soft man coverage, he had access to the receiver to the far side of the field. A lot of quarterbacks can’t make that throw. If you can throw the out route to the far side of the field in single coverage you can get first downs all day long.
"If he doesn’t have that, you don’t call it, you give him other options and put him in a good position. Not every quarterback has that kind of arm to make that throw, but you’d like to have a guy who can make that throw.”
Most quarterbacks can complete enough throws to be productive in most offenses, said Grimes.
“A guy who can make all the throws? You hear during the NFL draft people say, ‘That guy can make all the throws.’ Well, honestly, there aren’t that many guys who can make all the throws. And that’s OK. If you can’t, that’s all right.”
Grimes said people mistake arm strength for downfield throws or the ability to throw the long post or a deep fade.
“That isn’t arm strength. Everybody can throw the ball 50 yards. Heck, I can throw the ball 50 yards. What is hard is throwing the ball to a place a long ways off before the defender can close.
"Those are the throws that take arm strength but you don’t have to have that to throw the ball deep. To do that, you have to have anticipation, timing and touch on the ball and most guys do that.”
One of BYU’s best QBs ever was Ty Detmer, with average arm strength. But his anticipation, timing and accuracy allowed him to set several NCAA records and pass for more than 15,000 yards and 121 touchdowns. His pass efficiency ranked among the best of all time in 1990, the year he won the Heisman Trophy. Detmer succeeded because his arm wasn’t big, but deadly.
A quarterback has to lead, take charge, and there are all kinds of pathways to get that done. Detmer got it done by production and the fact his teammates simply loved and trusted him.
Grimes will weigh leadership and values it in a QB.
A quarterback has to have some level of leadership, the “it” factor. It is the ability to motivate teammates either vocally or by action. It is a force. Leadership isn’t decibel level. Leadership isn’t necessarily getting in somebody’s face and screaming. Leadership can be as simple as holding oneself and others accountable. Leadership is hard work.
There are silent leaders and verbose preachers on a football field. There are emotional powder kegs and quiet assassins. But no style or personality is more important than wins — or creating the belief and faith that wins can be produced.
Grimes said it almost goes without saying, leadership is very important and it goes along with a love for the game and a competitive spirit.
“You’d like for a guy to be your leader. If your quarterback does have a great love for football and a competitive spirit about him, is tough and physical, then he is going to be a leader in some sense. If he’s your most outspoken leader, I think that makes your team better but I don’t believe he has to be, because you know what? Your center might be the best leader on your team. Or your middle linebacker might be.28 comments on this story
“Some guys are natural-born leaders and if he’s not, that’s OK, we can deal with that, we’ll find somebody else to lead our team and we’ll teach him to hand the ball off when he’s supposed to and keep it when he is supposed to and to throw it to the right guy. But if he can be our leader, it certainly makes our team better.”
Grimes said he is trusting his coaching staff to be great teachers at each position and the QB slot is one of the most important.
This week, Grimes finishes wrapping up his life in Baton Rouge after LSU lost to Notre Dame in Monday’s Citrus Bowl.
In a week, he'll be in Provo holding meetings, making plans and welcoming players back on campus after the holidays.
Examining the lineup of QBs competing for the job has to be at the top of his list.