The Quarterback Exchange

By Bill Hewitt | Posted 2/28/2020

How many fumbles in the past have we all watched as coaches or fans? You can almost guarantee a few in any football game. Sometimes the offense will not lose possession of the football, but it’s still called a fumble. Here are a few of the reasons why this may occur?

  • Cold and wet weather conditions
  • Poor concentration 
  • Fine motor skills
  • No muscle memory 
  • Mechanics and poor body position 
  • Old coaching techniques 
  • Physical pressure by opponents 
  • Mental situation (Not Being Prepared)
  • Self-confidence 
  • Poor teamwork and not being prepared to execute the plays
  • Poor coaching 

How can some of these problems be solved:

For one thing make sure to teach the proper mechanics, especially to the skilled position players. Employ the protection personnel properly to maintain and execute the plays. Quick and efficient hand offs.

  • Make sure to protect the football. Two hands are better than one
  • Never forget the third hand. (Your body)


Running backs: 

  • Running backs keep the football high, tight and dry if possible 
    • This means keeping the football tight against the arm pit and cover the nose of the football with the hand and fingers
    • Use the other hand to help control and cover the football 

There are a few techniques used by the running backs to receive the hand off. Here are a few suggestions 

  • Elbow pocket technique: This is where the running backs put their thumb in chest area with thumb pointing down. Bottom hand pinky finger in the belly button making a pocket to receive the football.
  • Elbow push option technique: The Quarterback will put the football into the running backs pocket (belly area) if the Quarterback reads to keep the football. He will push the running back bye or forward with his elbow. The Quarterback Still keeping two hands on the football and run.
  • The basket technique: This is where the running backs open both palms up thumbs out making a basket with pinky fingers touching 
  • The half basket technique: One hand palm up the other hand thumb up to stop the football as it is placed by the Quarterback 
  • Option pitch: Arms extended looking to receive the football with soft hands 
  • The old option wishbone hand off. The fullbacks’ arms hands to elbows both sides. With arms folded all fingers should be pointed down waiting for the football from underneath. The quarterback will put the football under both locked arms. The fullback will just squeeze the football with both hands. Holding the ball against his body and continue to run



  • Receivers protect the football same as the running backs. 
  • Especially before collision with the defensive players.
  • Again, protect the football with two hands if possible while running 
  • Look the Football ball into the pocket. 
  • Catch the football with your soft fingers and hands, like catching an egg
  • Just like a shock absorber. Never with the body. The football will bounce off the pads.



  • During the football exchange, quarterbacks look into the running backs pocket with a quick glance. This will cut down on fumbles while optioning 
  • Teach the running back to rotate the thumb down to Keep the pocket up and open. Running Backs Remember elbow up to toward the quarterback and rotation of the thumb down in the sternum area.
  • During the Zone Read or Run Pass Offense (RPO) use the Slip Hand Technique
  • The quarterback will step ride the running back towards the Line of scrimmage or sideways to attack the Line of scrimmage. Remember the option is two sprints in one. The quarterback should always use two hands on the football during the ride. (The Read) in the running backs pocket stomach area. He is reading first defensive player to option to keep the rock or give it to the running back.
  • For all quarterbacks while optioning the running back. The quarterback again two hands on the football against the running back belly. This is called the ride and read. The running back will know if he is getting the football when the quarterback pulls his left hand out feeling the football against his stomach. If the hand is still there the quarterback is keeping the football.
  • The old technique (Tug or Take) by tugging to give or take will causes fumbles. I know when I played, we used this technique. The quarterback will tug and keep or release the football to the running back while riding 
  • Remember two hands on the football is better than one.
  • The Slip Hand Technique can be used with the “Hand Basket” this is used by the running backs that have problems keeping and using the elbow technique. The running back will have palms up with thumbs out and the pinky fingers are touching to make the basket. Some running backs prefer this technique.

Body position and balance will always help control the football. Proper teaching of techniques and repetition helps keep the football safe and secure. This will minimize the fumbling of the football.

Coaching these simple techniques will make a difference in performance and in the Win Loss column.