Football fans regularly hear scouts drooling over the next "prototype" QB ready to revolutionize the position. The pundits gush over the kid's "big arm", "pocket presence", "mobility", "leadership skills" and "toughness". Mel Kiper proclaims the young man, "the best NFL quarterback prospect in 20 years". Sometimes the prophecy takes root and fans enjoy years of watching a Payton Manning tear up opposing secondaries. Unfortunately just as often, a Ryan Leaf busts and disappoints. Then suddenly, and surprisingly, a lower regarded, perhaps mid round, draft pick emerges into the next superstar. Tom Brady and Joe Montana are examples. The profile of the NFL's great quarterbacks mixes adequate physical attributes, poise and maybe most importantly, mental acuity.
An NFL QB must be able to throw the ball. While most never will throw with vicious John Elway like velocity, they still most have enough zip for difficult sideline passes and deep balls. Few will possess Micheal Vick's blinding speed but the great ones will need a knack to feel the rush and move to avoid the pressure. Cement footed Dan Marino was an effective slider who could buy himself a few more seconds.
The best NFL quarterbacks are rarely ever rattled under any circumstances. John Unitas, John Elway and Joe Montana ALWAYS thought they'd engineer that last successful drive down the field to pull out the victory. Similar to soldiers under siege, great QB's will keep getting up, standing in and playing despite being repeatedly battered by huge, nasty defenders. Jim Kelly never shied away from standing tall in the pocket. Tom Brady and Payton Manning share that mentality today.
Poise is so important. During an important drive, trailing with just over a minute left, Joe Montana huddled his teammates and proceeded to inform them that comedian John Candy was in the stands! Yes, the 49ers did win that game.
The most important and hardest attribute to evaluate how a quarterback's mind works. What is the difference between Tom Brady's and Ryan Leaf's thought process. Based on physical skills, Leaf should have been a more successful NFL quarterback. Unfortunately, his mind was inadequate. NFL action is a blur compared to college football. Many never execute their reads quickly enough. Brady seems to be a frame or two ahead of everyone else. He processes information unbelievably quickly, makes his decision and gets rid of the ball. Montana was notorious for delivering the ball to the right receiver. He'd find his 4th choice before pass rushers could get near him. Many fail, here. The speed of NFL defenses is overwhelming.