Chalk Talk: “Windows in the Passing Game”

Pasadena OC Mike McKay

By Pasadena Offensive Coordinator Michael McKay

I believe that some of the biggest differences in the passing game, from high school to pro, is the “the throwing window”…

This term refers to a particular location the quarterback is throwing to— where the receiver can get it but not the defensive player.

Very often this window is located not right at the receiver or chest high. For example, sometimes a quarterback will locate the “window” high to get over a defender and the receiver has to jump to make the reception. Or it may be low and away, like many comeback routes, where the receiver needs to dive low to make the reception.

In the NFL, the throwing windows are much smaller than in college and high school, and the windows do not stay open as long. The defensive backs and linebackers are so quick and fast that the throwing windows are not open for long. This also means the pass has to be on time.

Often just a fraction of a second will make a pass late. This is one reason why Joe Montana was so successful because he was so in tune and aware of when and where these throwing windows were that he would deliver the ball on time. Montana was known to not have the strongest arm but who can argue with his success?

Many factors determine when and where the windows will appear. One basic rule is that a zone tends to minimize the windows but then the defense must rely on the defensive line to apply pressure. If they can’t, this will allow talented receivers to run and create throwing windows a good quarterback will find.

Conversely, man to man (unless the defense has outstanding DB’s) allow some great opportunities for receivers to get open and provide big windows. The drawback is that the defense will be blitzing and applying serious pressure. A good quarterback must locate the window early and throw on time.

It is also important for the running backs to block effectively often against an outstanding linebacker.

Michael McKay played his prep football at Culver City, and starred at Tulane. He had professional experience in both NFL and USFL camps. His most recent coaching stops have been at Eagle Rock (two CIF championships) as an assistant to Jerry Chou, at Temple City under Anthony White, and last season at Montebello (where he also teaches) with Pete Gonzalez. In 2011 he will be coaching quarterbacks for Randy Horton at Pasadena High School.

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