You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but can you teach a young quarterback new footwork techniques?
The Eagles are about to find out. New senior offensive assistant Rich Scangarello has brought a subtle nuance to Philadelphia, a trick he inherited from his good friend and former colleague Kyle Shanahan.
Scangarello has been instructing Carson Wentz to put his left foot forward when he’s standing in the shotgun formation. It should help Wentz better dig his foot in the ground, serving as a hypnotic timing mechanism on passing concepts and helping to disguise called run plays.
“The left foot forward part of it was something we really used, was something that fit our timing of our offense,” Scangarello said, referring to Joe Flacco utilizing it in Denver. “Every offense is different. Ultimately, it’s getting in a position to throw the football in each pass concept with his feet in the ground, in the right position, and the timing of the play.”
Don’t worry, Scangarello made it clear he wasn’t messing with Wentz’s mechanics.
“Carson, his mechanics have gotten better and better,” Scangarello said. “He’s worked really hard in the offseason. He’s not changing in any way. We’re continuing to do what they’ve done here.”
Flying in Face of Conventional Wisdom
A right-handed quarterback, like Wentz, has traditionally been taught to “stagger his left foot backward approximately six inches” during his pre-snap drop. Coaches have been teaching it for years, including Steve Axman who mentored Troy Aikman and Neil O’Donnell.
Axman’s famed book “Coaching Quarterback Passing Mechanics” is considered gospel on the subject. In it, he writes:
A right-handed quarterback staggers his left foot backward approximately six inches in a toe-to-instep relationship with his right foot. This slight stagger actually helps put the quarterback six inches deeper into his drop. More importantly, the slight stagger action of the feet helps to eliminate any false stepping action of the left foot, which often occurs when the quarterback starts with even foot positioning.
From an even alignment of his feet, a quarterback often will take a short punch step forward with the left foot so that he can push off of it more comfortably to get into his drop back action.
The reasoning being that most signal-callers have a tendency to lurch with their dominant leg anyway, or “punch step forward.” This often leads to false stepping, including botched snaps and quarterbacks tripping over centers.
Of course, Scangarello did provide some clarity for what he’s asking of Wentz. He wants him to do whatever is most comfortable, not forcing him to change his stance.
“If he can do that from right foot or left foot, it really shouldn’t matter,” Scangarello said. “It’s really the preference of the player. For really talented guys, especially like Carson and Joe in that case as a thrower.”
One other advantage for Wentz is that he has the benefit of working with one of the NFL’s best and brightest centers in Jason Kelce.