The hand-off, the pitchout and the bootleg
A hand-off is faked with one hand by many quarterbacks. They hide the ball on their hips or in their stomachs and stick out an empty hand to the faking halfback. Who is fooled by that? The linemen and the linebackers are looking for the ball. If they see an empty hand offered a halfback or a fullback they forget that ball carrier. I fake with the ball in both hands; put it in the back's belly, then if he's not the intended carrier take it away again. You give the linemen and the backers a look at the ball and create a doubt in their minds as to whether this particular back is going to get it. You're not trying to get a pro player to go all the way for the fake—to move out of his position to chase a faking back. What you want to do is make him doubtful enough so that he will stay put long enough for the blockers to reach him—the way he was drawn as an X on the play diagram.
For a pitchout, you also keep both hands on the ball. When I hand the ball to a back, I put it against his belt buckle with a slight tap—not too hard. We want our backs to run with their hands in a natural running position, then take the ball with both hands at hip level. If I'm going to pitch out, I take the ball away from the back, pull it into my stomach, then throw it with both hands out to the receiver. You see quarterbacks make the pitchout with one hand sometimes, their arms pulled back behind them like a Softball pitcher. Maybe it works for them. But I'd hate to have a lineman come through and hit me when I've got that ball in one hand; a good tackier might steal the ball from you. With two hands, you've got a good grip and good control. And, with a little practice, you can learn to throw as hard and as far with a two-hand shot from the hip. And keep your rear low on the spin—that helps hide the ball from the defense.
THE BOOTLEG: Some quarterbacks, like Eddie LeBaron of the Redskins, depend on pure deception to get around the end on a bootleg (left). I don't go that route. I like to work against the pressure of our blockers. A defender has a natural tendency to put pressure against any block. What I want to do is get outside of the defensive end, quick, while he's working against the blocker. For instance, I fake to Perry up the middle, fake to McElhenny off tackle. The end is trying to come down the line toward the flow of the other backs against the pressure of a blocker and, if I'm lucky, I'm around him before he can react. There are ends in the league you never get around; I've never been able to run a bootleg against Andy Robustelli, for instance. I couldn't do it when he was with the Rams, and I can't do it now when he's with the Giants. After I get outside the end, I hide the ball on my hip from the linebackers and the halfbacks and I decide whether to throw or to run by the way they react to the situation. If they come up fast, thinking it's a run, I throw and vice versa. Of course, a good part of the success of a bootleg depends on the acting ability of the other backs. They've got to hit in there just like they had the ball. If they quit too soon, it leaves me out there undressed, no blockers, with a couple of linebackers and maybe a corner back drawing a bead on me. It's not a comfortable—or a healthy—spot to be in. Normally, I'll run the bootleg to my right—it's easier for a right-handed passer to throw while he's running to his right.
How to throw a forward pass
You're born with a certain amount of depth perception. If you haven't got enough, you'll never be a good passer. The rest you can pick up by practice. For instance, figuring how much to lead a receiver is a matter of intense practice and timing and every receiver is different. After a while it becomes automatic. I know, unconsciously, when and how far to lead the receivers on the 49ers. And you can't overemphasize the importance of receivers running their patterns precisely. If they don't do what I expect them to do, the odds on an interception are good.
The motion in passing (below) is a lot like the motion in any throw, or even in hitting a golf ball or a baseball. You lead with the left side. Your weight's back on your right foot, then you move forward with your left and your arm and shoulder follow and you wind up on the left foot, following through with your right arm like a pitcher. Once in a while you see a passer fake a throw once or twice. I don't do that unless it's a stop-and-go pass, where I fake when the receiver stops, then throw when he goes. The defensive halfbacks in pro football aren't going to bite on those fakes, anyway. They don't see them. They're watching the receivers coming downfield. The fake throws may give you a little more time to get the pass off if they fool the line coming in on you, that's all. Detroit has always been a tough club to throw on because of a fine, quick secondary and a fast-moving defensive line. They don't go for the fakes, for sure. When you unload, it helps if you get the ball away fast.
You got to know your receivers, too. Take R. C. Owens. He makes a quarterback look real good, if you throw it right. You hang it high for R. C., but you underthrow him a little so he can cut back in front of the defense like a basketball player taking a rebound off the backboard. You got to know what the receivers can do best. Billy Wilson, for instance, picks up enough yards on a defensive halfback when he comes back on a hook pass so that he can catch a hook against just about anybody in the league.
Then you got to figure the defense, too. A rookie defensive back has a tendency to be overaggressive—he may, now and then, take a reckless chance. A vet, on the other hand, takes calculated risks. He may look like he's out of position on a couple of plays just to try to lure you into a pass he can pick off.
The big thing, of course, is your protection. You can't throw if you don't have time to find a receiver. The big guys up front ought to be credited in the pass-completion statistics.