What the general is to the army, the quarter back is to the football team. He directs the battle and success, in a large measure, depends on his plan of campaign. He must be a man of the highest mental and physical qualities. He must be a man who can inspire confidence in the mind of every player on his eleven. Mentally, he must be of quick thought and judgment and must have plenty of nerve. Physically, the quarter back must have strength and clean activity and, above all, an unlimited amount of endurance.
The necessity for these qualifications in a good quarter back will be easily seen by a review of his duties given under the head of "Generalship."
When playing on the offensive, the quarter back should stand just far enough behind the center to be able to touch the latter with his finger tips. The quarter back should always face the center. His feet should be planted squarely under him and just far enough apart to ensure steadiness. He should, with the center, be the first of the team to get into position before a play.
The quarter back should always give the signals, because he is in the best position to know the condition of his own men, can most readily discover the strength and weakness of the opponents and can save time and error by himself calling the signals of the plays, which he alone can start. The quarter back should be the practical captain on the field and should be unhampered in his work by anyone. The captain may consult him when time is out but the working should be such that consultation is unnecessary at any other time.
The quarter back should be thoroughly familiar with his list of plays and should also know under what conditions each play can be used to the best advantage. He should know when to order a kick and when a rush. He must distribute the work of his team among his men in such a way that every man is ready for more. The best and strongest player may be overworked by an injudicious quarter and, as a result, this player may fail when his best services are most needed to win success for the team.
To make himself sure in receiving the ball from the center, the quarter should practice as much as possible with the center. In case of a fumble, the quarter should always fall on the ball immediately. In passing the ball to the runner he must be very accurate and swift. In runs outside of tackle, the ball should be passed to the runner as soon as the quarter can get it out of his hands. The ball should be passed ahead of the runner, making him come up to it, but it must always be tossed accurately and safely, so that the runner need lose no time trying to get it. In plays through the line between tackles the ball should be placed against the stomach of the runner as he comes by the quarter, and the latter should then help the runner to break through.
Showing how to hurdle the line.
In starting a play the quarter should be very careful not to give away to his opponents the intended point of attack.
Under the present rules the quarter back is a most valuable offensive player, since he can himself carry the ball on a direct pass from the center, provided he crosses the scrimmage line five yards from the point where the ball was in play. But even when he does not carry the ball, his place as an aid to the runner is most important. In plays going between the tackles, the quarter is in position to help the runner by pulling him along after he is tackled, by holding him up or pushing him through. In plays through outside the tackle, the quarter should be in the interference ahead of the runner. After a play is started the quarter need not watch for fumbles, as the following end is a general safety man.
The qualifications necessary for a good offensive quarter are usually found in a man weighing between 150 and 170 pounds. Hence, on the defensive, the quarter back and the full back usually change positions, for the light-weight quarter cannot readily stop the mass plays, but should be very good in open field tackling and handling punts. Whoever plays quarter on the defensive should be very alert in watching opponents for the direction of their plays. He should always keep his men watchful and active in breaking up the attack of the opposing team. He should watch for "fake" plays, call out to his men where the attack is to come, and keep them on tip-toe, ready to smash up the coming charge.
The quarter back must be the leader of the team when it is in action. He must do his own work coolly accurately and swiftly, and at the same time do all that he can to keep his men up to the fighting pitch. He must be a director, a fighter and a good talker.