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What you should ask if your QB looks terrible in training camp

You should ask yourself a few questions before assuming your QB is just bad.

New York Giants Mandatory Minicamp Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

It’s that wonderful time of the year where everyone is freaking out over their team’s performance in training camp — particularly when it comes to quarterbacks.

Fans attend camp, can see things with their own eyes, but not really parse what they’re actually watching. As a result, every interception, errant throw and bad play is magnified — and often blown up on Twitter for everyone to see. Schadenfreude causes it to spread, and before you know it everyone is laughing at Daniel Jones.

Moments like this are heartbreaking if it’s your team. I mean, anyone sensible should not expect big things from the New York Giants in 2022 — in the future, sure, but not yet. Fans are often not sensible though, and always believe their team are ready to be elite. Hell, my friend Justin loves to remind me how many games the Minnesota Vikings lost by one score and try to convince me that Kirk Cousins is a top-tier QB, ready to win the NFC, which is his right as a fan — even if I think it’s ludicrous.

Still, there are really solid reasons why a QB might look like wet garbage in training camp — and not all of them are bad.

No. 1: They’re installing a new offense

This is one of the most prevalent reasons a QB might look bad in camp. It’s not easy for a QB to learn a new system, especially if they’ve spent a long time in another coordinator’s scheme. Take Daniel Jones, for example. He went from Mike Shula’s mind-numbing play action bore-fest, to Jason Garrett’s pass-heavy style, and now to Mike Kafka, who cut his teeth with the Chiefs and is expected to bring similar vertical concepts to New York.

Change like that doesn’t create immediate success, and expecting it is unrealistic. It’s difficult for a quarterback to change gears like that, especially multiple times in as many years.

This will often last through preseason, and potentially into the first part of the regular season as well. To be fair, the better the quarterback the shorter this onboarding process takes. Someone like Tom Brady or Russell Wilson will take a lot less time to get up to speed than a Daniel Jones or Baker Mayfield — but it’s still something to be mindful of when you see a lack of crispness to passing.

No. 2: They’re working on something specific that you don’t know about

This is where things really get tricky to analyze as a fan. Training camp is exactly that: Training. Sometimes this means asking a passer to do something that isn’t natural for them, or pressuring them to push out of their comfort zone.

This can be something simple like swapping out their comfort target to make them progress differently through their reads, or using a different offensive line configuration that changes the pocket. It could even entail intentionally throwing high or wide as a test for the receivers to attack the ball in the air and give coaches a better understanding of their players’ limitations.

All these things can look like a quarterback mistake, when they’re really achieving what the coaches are asking for. There’s also a serious chance that viewing a play that looks bad really isn’t problematic — heck, it can even be a good decision.

No. 3: Circumstance matters

If you’re looking at a QB in isolation during camp it can be like looking at the corner of a painting and assuming what the rest of it looks like. There are a few questions you should ask yourself after every “bad” play:

  1. Was the first team offense with him?
  2. Did the WR miss a timing route?
  3. Did an offensive lineman miss a block?
  4. Were they playing against the first team defense?

If you can answer all these and it keeps coming back to the QB’s fault then ...

No. 4: Your QB is just bad

This could absolutely be the case. Maybe there is no excusing that wide throw into the fan gallery, or the deep ball picked off by a fourth round rookie defensive back. I’m sorry, but your quarterback might just be awful — but don’t feel bad, because you’re not alone. A lot of teams will have really awful passers this season as they prepare to play for a draft pick, or try and make a major trade.

The good news is that in a few short months you won’t need to worry about football anymore. There will be no hopes left to dash. Your team will suck, and lose, and miss the playoffs — and you can get back your Sunday afternoons to do much more fun things with.

Until next summer when you’re watching training camp again and trying to work out why your QB looks so bad.