Earlier in the week, I noted that Bruce Gradkowski, a former member of the Pittsburgh Steelers, had expressed interest in being a quarterbacks coach. The Steelers just so happen to be open to hiring a standalone quarterbacks coach, with that function currently being held in a dual role by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
Gradkowski expressed that interest during an interview on The Fan, so I went ahead and actually listened to the interview, and he had some interesting things to say, including from his perspective as a quarterback evaluator for Pro Football Focus this past year, which has provided new insights for him. At the outset of the interview, however, he was asked about, from his experience, how important the role of the quarterbacks coach is, and he had a lot to say about that, both in general and relative to the Steelers’ situation.
I think it’s a hard enough job for Randy to try to do both offensive coordinator and quarterback coach. I can also understand that you want the language being spoken to the quarterback as one voice. If I’m an offensive coordinator, I’m running my quarterback meetings, too, because I want there to be no missed information, no lack of details. I want to know that these quarterbacks are going to execute my offense how I see it. And sometimes when you go through someone else, are they getting the proper information in the meeting room? That’s when you trust the guy you hire and so forth.
It’s interesting that Gradkowski would say that, but of course, he’s speaking from a quarterback’s perspective, and not every offensive coordinator has a quarterback’s background or a history of teaching the position. There are certainly those who have been running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, or offensive linemen—even those who played defense—who have been successful leading an offense.
“But I think at this point, too, it’s not like Ben needs a quarterback coach, right?”, he added. “You need to get Ben the information he needs week in and week out. However he can get that information, digest it, and be prepared for Sunday”. For Pittsburgh, though, it’s about more than just Roethlisberger.
But the young quarterbacks, it’s a mindset. Playing the quarterback position, it’s about your feet, your vision, the mindset, how the thought process works of a quarterback from breaking the huddle to getting to the line of scrimmage to seeing the rotation, the front, the linebackers. Where’s the rotation, where is my hot, where are my progressions?
Then at the snap of the ball, how has that all changed now? Am I hot, am I throwing a hot? What’s my footwork? Where does my progression start? And then you get hit upside the head and you have to do it all over again. There’s a lot that had to go through a quarterback’s mind, and I always think a lot of good quarterback coaches help simplify it for the quarterback, because at the end of the day, it’s about playing decisive and playing fast and making the right decision.
As a former quarterback, and now as an analyst, Gradkowski has been gaining a more well-rounded perspective of what the quarterback coach position entails. Nevertheless, it must be said that he has never held a coaching job before. Even Matt Symmes, already on the staff, has more experience in that sense.