Shoulders Don’t Lie

Quarterbacks always have and always will be the talk of the timeline. They play the most important position in all of sports, naturally earning them unrelenting attention in the media. Between the importance of the position and the nature of human beings, everyone has a take on all the hot quarterbacks. Of course, there is nothing wrong with an abundance of opinions, but there is a problem when it has been taught that there is one cut-and-dry way to throw the football.

Hitch, plant the front foot and follow through the throwing motion. This has been preached as the “right” way to throw the football. More than anything, the glaring issue here is that the draft is said to be a process in which every player must be looked at under a unique lens. Each player tells their own story, has their own blend of skills and has their own style of play. Yet, when it comes to analyzing a passer’s throwing motion, there is a notion that everybody must throw the same way because it is the “right” way.

The fact of the matter is that there is no definitively “right” way to throw. The key to throwing well comes down to a basic commodity: comfort. Passers need to throw in a way that is comfortable for them, not necessarily in a way that is easy on the eye. Passers typically throw one of two ways.

The first way to throw is what many believe to be the “right” way to throw. These quarterbacks thrive when they can set their plant foot well and drive through their motion. The comfort factor with this style of throwing is the fact that both feet are comfortably under the passer and the quarterback has a stable platform to generate torque from. This sort of motion combines the benefit of a plant step, which pushes a quarterback’s momentum through his upper body and the ball, with the benefit of some hip rotation to give the ball that pop when it is released.

Way11 Way12 Way13Way14

All four of those quarterbacks (Teddy Bridgewater, Tom Brady, Matt Ryan and Jared Goff, respectively) have been lauded for their mechanics. They keep their shoulders squared and they keep a clean base under them. All of what they do looks scripted, yet smooth. There is a precise method to the way they throw the ball and they tend to struggle when they are not allowed to go through the motion that is comfortable for them. That is not to say they falter when throwing from every uncomfortable platform, but it is more likely to see these passers miss throws when they can’t go through this motion, in comparison to other passers around the league.

On the other side of the coin there are passers who pull their velocity from their back leg and their hips. This is most often seen as unorthodox or wrong, but it is much more common than is perceived. These passers tend to be better on the run, too, because they are more used to squaring their shoulders up without their feet being squeaky clean.

Passers of this nature focus more on their shoulders than their feet. In Bruce Feldman’s “The QB” (an excellent book), Trent Dilfer speaks on the shoulders guiding the feet, not vice versa. Dilfer stresses that a lot of the best passers in the NFL don’t even need their feet to the extent to which many believe because the torso is truly where one’s throwing motion is made or broken.


Cam Newton is currently the poster child for not needing “correct” mechanics. He does not step into this throw at all, but he squares his shoulders to the target and swings his hip with incredible force, allowing him to throw both accurately and with velocity.

More and more college passers are starting to throw this way, too. The influence likely lies in the ever increasing popularity of spread systems and mobile quarterbacks. Though, instead of noticing and adapting to a shift in normality, many have simply disregarded this style of passing. Passers are becoming more comfortable like this and it is slowly becoming a norm in itself.


Look at Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, for example. At first glance, his throwing motion looks ugly and inefficient. Mayfield’s motion is efficient, though, despite how rough it is on the eyes. He uses his back foot as a platform to hop and twist his hips, generating plenty of torque and velocity. He puts this throw on the money, too, placing the ball ahead of the receiver and a little bit low to make it more difficult for the trailing cornerback to get a hand on it. Unorthodox, wrong, ugly; whatever you want to call it, it is comfortable for Mayfield and it woks for him, and that is what matters.

Passers who can win off their back foot consistently also tend to be good throwers on the move, as stated before. They understand that they need to keep their shoulders set at all times, even while they are avoiding defenders in pursuit. Throwing without much of a base is already a difficult task. For a quarterback to throw on the run, without their base and not set their shoulders well almost assures an incompletion, barring a miracle. It is simply too difficult to generate a fluid motion without either a base or correctly set shoulders.


Notice the way in which Russell Wilson travels up the field. He is not moving around just to move around. Wilson gets out of the pocket, then proceeds to climb back up to the line of scrimmage with his shoulders squared to his target. The play looks a little manic, but Wilson knows exactly what he is doing and how to keep himself ready to throw accurately at any time. Granted, Wilson is one of the few passers who can operate just the same no matter what style of throw they go through with, but he has established himself as one of the best mobile passers in the league.

Passers, more often than not, are clearly better at one throwing form than the other. There is a handful of elite passers who can thrive no matter what, such as Wilson, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers, but most passers show some sort of difference in success between the two throwing styles. Of course, whichever style they are better at is the one they tend to throw with.

There needs to be a mass realization that there are different ways to throw the football. There is no “right” way to generate velocity. Some passers need to step into the throw and follow through, while others feel more comfortable with a more free style of passing that allows them to operate mostly with their upper body.

Every passer is unique and can find their own way to comfortably throw the football. Not every passer has to fit the same mold. The conceppt is as old as time: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This does not have to be complicated.