In 2018, NFL quarterbacks attempted over 17, 000 passes.
Of those, 64.
9% were completed.
That’s the highest completionpercentage in league history.
And if you look closely, all of those successfully completed passes had one thing in common: They were thrown witha nice, tight spiral.
But throwing a perfect spiralisn’t as easy as it looks.
Here’s what it takes.
First, we have to answerone basic question: How exactly do you throw a spiral? To answer that, we went to an expert.
My name’s Ryan Larsen, and I’m the quarterbacks coach herefor Columbia University.
Narrator: Larsen says that the first key to throwing a spiral is the grip.
No matter a quarterback’s hand size, there are really only two fingers that are crucial tohow they hold the ball.
Larsen: We’re gonna orient the best we can our middle finger and our thumb in a straight line on the ball, and then we’re just gonnawrap our fingers down and let them rest in control.
Narrator: After that, the quarterback’s goal is to build up force behind the ball.
So, first, they’ll load the ball back, with their elbow above their armpit.
This helps to ensurethat the quarterback is what’s called being “on top of the ball.
” That’s important because, otherwise, the quarterback won’tbe able to throw as far.
Larsen: The second you’re low, now you’re, yet again, you’re pushing the ball.
So when you try to drive thatball deep down the field, you’re underneath it, andyou’re lacking arm strength.
Narrator: After that, the quarterback uses their other arm totwist their upper body while stepping forward into the throw as they prepare to release the ball.
But a quarterback couldcomplete all of these steps and never end up witha spiraling football.
Getting that spiral comesdown to the very last thing the quarterback does in the split second before they release the ball, and it comes back to the grip.
Because, in order togenerate a good spiral, the last finger that should touch the ball as the hand releases it is the quarterback’s index finger.
Larsen: The spiral’screated by that final flick, that last finger.
You really want that lastfinger to come off of it and then finish down, and that’s that spin that you’re trying toget to create the spiral.
Narrator: But here’s the problem.
Even the slightest of errorsin how the quarterback lets go of the ball can affect the throw.
Larsen: If you’re finishingwith the ball on your wrist, you’re finishing like that, now your index finger’snot the last finger.
Now you’ve got multiple ones, and that’s when you start toget balls that get wobbly.
Narrator: And wobbly footballs are a quarterback’s worst nightmare.
Chad Orzel: Really, precision in the release and in the flight of theball is absolutely critical to success if you’re gonnabe a passing quarterback.
My name is Chad Orzel, and I am a professor at Union College in the departmentof physics and astronomy.
Narrator: When it comesto how well a football flies through the air, there are two key elements: spin rate and velocity.
Let’s start with spin.
On average, a good spiral has a spin rate of roughly 600 rotations per minute.
That’s as fast as an electric screwdriver.
Orzel: If you get theball spinning rapidly, the ball will tend to staywith its axis of spin, pointing in the samedirection all the time.
So if it’s spinning fast andmoving nose-on through the air, it’s going to feel a smallerair-resistance force, and that means it’llgo a little bit farther because of that.
Narrator: The reason arapidly spinning football stays on course betterthan a slower-spinning ball is due to its angular momentum.
Angular momentum measures how likely a ball is to wobble through the air or not.
Orzel: The more angular momentum something has, the harder it is to change the orientation of that object.
Something with a lot of angular momentum wants to keep its spin axis always pointing in exactly the same direction.
The faster you make the ball spin, the better it will hold its orientation, the more angular momentum it’ll have.
Narrator: So a rapidly spinning football will fly straighter than onethat isn’t spinning as quickly, and it will even helpit fly a little farther.
How far, however, mostlydepends on the velocity of the ball flying through the air.
Orzel: The initial velocitythat the ball’s given pretty much determineseverything about the flight.
It determines, all right, how high is the passgoing to go in the air, the arc that it’s gonna follow, it determines how far it’s going to go.
Narrator: And building thatvelocity behind the ball is pretty straightforward.
It’s all about muscle strength.
Larsen: The most importantthing in generating velocity, and therefore what you wouldcall a great spiral, right, is using your strongestmuscles in your body.
Your strongest musclesin your body are gonna be in your quads, your hamstrings, your glutes, and then your core.
Narrator: However, velocitycan be a double-edged sword.
Because trying to increasethe velocity behind a throw can sometimes compromise theintegrity of the ball’s spiral.
Orzel: If you’re trying to throw the ball really, really hard, sometimes that means you can’t get as much spinon it as you would like, and then the ball ends upnot going as far as it could, just because it doesn’thold its orientation, and it tumbles in the air, and it’s not as accurate.
Larsen: The lower body iswhat creates everything in terms of that velocity, but if you have badmechanics in your upper body, you’re not gonna be able to have a spiral to get the ball downfield.
Narrator: So, ultimately, the best throws come down to: Larsen: Having a tighter spiral, and more velocity behind that spiral is gonna give you the ability to make throws on thefield to be successful.
Narrator: So, if throwingthe perfect spiral is just a matter of the rightgrip and sufficient strength, what distinguishes themediocre quarterbacks from the greats? Orzel: The key is gettingjust the right balance of precisely controlled velocity and a good spin rate on the ball.
Narrator: And, as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Larsen: Anytime you’redoing things repetitively, over and over and over, andcreating that consistency, that’s gonna now give you accuracy.
The second that yourmechanics go out the door, your accuracy goes out the door, because now every throw is different.
Narrator: Of course, repeatingthose exact mechanics perfectly every time iseasier said than done.
Especially when your targetis moving at 20 miles an hour and 300-pound defensive tacklesare barreling toward you.
But for the all-time greats, that skill is what makes them so special.
Larsen: You think about some of the most accurate quarterbacks of all-time, you think about Dan Marino.
Unbelievable arm talent, unbelievably strong, could make every throw, his mechanics are perfect.
People talk about Dan Marino having the quickest release they’ve ever seen, well, he has a quick release because there’s no inefficienciesin his throwing motion.
Tom Brady is unbelievablymeticulous with his mechanics, whether it’s footworkor how he’s throwing, yet again, it’s theconsistency in your mechanics that’s gonna create accuracy.