While Mariucci was coaching at Green Bay, he received a letter from an irate Packers fan named Ken Cote, demanding that Favre become more effective when flushed from the pocket. Mariucci was already using a series of practice plays in which Favre would have to escape left or right and either complete a pass or throw the ball away. He renamed the exercises the Ken Cote Drill, and it is still called that by teams that use it today.
For a righthander, the arm position at delivery ranges from nine o'clock (Jurgensen, often) to noon. Unitas threw at high noon, as does Manning. "Peyton's motion is not great," says Clarkson, "but he's so advanced intellectually that it overcomes any mechanical difficulties." Brees throws three quarters, and at the back of his delivery, he turns his left palm directly away from the target before snapping his body forward. Patriots star Tom Brady is about 11 o'clock. Rivers says he's 10 o'clock, but he gets there differently, dragging the ball out to the side of his body, rather than from behind his ear. During his apprenticeship with the Cowboys from 2003 to '05, Tony Romo would practice throwing from all manner of odd angles, trying to prepare himself to use varied release points during games.
Like deliveries, throwing mechanics are varied. Brady stands tall, with a wide base and a short stride. Rams and Cardinals standout Kurt Warner, says former NFL coordinator and quarterbacks coach Larry Kennan, "threw more effortlessly than anyone I ever saw. Incredible mechanics. He always just looked like he was playing catch, but he could make every throw." Former Ravens coach Brian Billick describes Warren Moon, whom he coached as a coordinator with Vikings in the '90s, in similar terms. "On most of his passes," says Billick, "he was in perfect position to make the throw."
Bradshaw often threw off his back foot, with a pronounced wrist snap. The Eagles' Michael Vick also throws conspicuously with his wrist. "More wrist in his throw than anybody I've ever seen," says Schaub, who backed up Vick for three seasons in Atlanta. "But nobody has given him enough credit. When he set his feet, he rarely threw a nonspiral, and he could throw the ball as hard or as far as anybody you could ever find."
The shotgun formation, ubiquitous at the college level and common in the NFL, has altered throwing dynamics. "It's made people sloppy," says Clarkson. "When you're in the shotgun, you're not forced to bring everything together, the way you do in a five-step drop from under center. Tim Tebow, who I think is a heck of a football player, clearly had his development slowed by playing in the shotgun."
Big guns get the buzz. "After my senior year in college [at Indiana] I went to the combine in 1993," says Trent Green. "When you get invited to the combine, you're pretty confident. You feel good about yourself, and you just want to go there and prove it. Everybody is that way. Then Drew Bledsoe came out and his velocity was different, the spin on his ball was different, and it was like, O.K., now I see why he's the Number 1 pick."
There remains a significant mythology surrounding Jeff George, who came out of Illinois in 1990 regarded as one of the most powerful throwers the game had ever seen. (Like Bradshaw, he gripped the ball with his index finger near the point.) "I went to Jeff's workout at Illinois," Kennan recalls. "I think Jeff just got off the plane from spring break, changed out of his flip-flops and completed about 60 straight balls. Unbelievable velocity. And the ball was catchable, too."
Mariucci worked George out in Detroit—when George was 38 years old. "He could still throw it," says Mariucci. "Great arm." Yet George's teams won only 46 of the 124 games he started in the NFL.
Bert Jones, who played nine years for the Colts and one for the Rams from 1973 to '82, is also regarded as possessing one of the strongest arms in history. "Bert could get it wherever he needed to get it," says Archie Manning, who played in the same era as Jones. Bobby Douglass, a strapping, run-first, T formation quarterback at Kansas, played parts of 10 seasons in the NFL from 1969 to '78 and could split receivers' hands with his passes. But he also threw 64 interceptions and 36 touchdowns.