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Thursday, August 31, 2023

'Quarterback' Takes You Inside the Huddle


'Quarterback' a show  on Netflix takes you inside the huddle and shows you what it takes to do the toughest job in all of sports.


Being a professional quarterback is arguably the toughest job in football — maybe in any sport, period. Quarterback, the new eight-episode docuseries from NFL Films and Omaha Productions, follows three of the biggest quarterbacks in the game throughout the 2022 season, giving an unprecedented look at what it takes for the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, the Minnesota Vikings’ Kirk Cousins and the Atlanta Falcons’ Marcus Mariota to succeed when all eyes are on them.

“Look — we’ve seen quarterbacks mic’d up for a game. We’ve certainly seen training camp. But we’ve never followed a quarterback throughout the entire season to see what he does Sunday night after a big win, after a brutal loss on a last-second field goal — what they do on Mondays and Tuesdays on their off days,” Hall of Fame quarterback and Quarterback executive producer Peyton Manning told Netflix. “Are they hanging out? Are they playing golf? Are they in the weight room and watching film and grinding for that next game? Which is the answer, by the way, not to give it away. There is no golf in the season.”


The series gives fans an inside look at the players’ lives on the field and off. It documents intimate moments with their families, friends, and trainers, following them from the field to their homes in a first-of-its kind, in-depth look at the job. It also reveals the many pressures involved: what it’s like to receive an entire stadium’s cheers or boos or be chased by a 300-pound defensive lineman and the reality of having to ask your loved ones to make sacrifices on your behalf. Given these demands, why add filming responsibilities on top of what’s already a brutal role? Manning explained: “A couple of the quarterbacks early on asked me, ‘Peyton, would you have allowed the cameras to follow you around?’ And maybe early in my career, because I didn’t really know what all that meant, I probably would’ve said no. But later in my career, absolutely, yes. I told Patrick, ‘You’re going to want your kids to know what you used to do, what you really went through.’”

Below, check out our comprehensive guide to Quarterback — what the job is, how the players set themselves up for success, how this extraordinary series was filmed and an overview of each episode to follow along. 

Who are the quarterbacks in Quarterback?

The three players featured in the series are at completely different points in their careers. Mariota struggles to hang on to his starting role, while Mahomes is considered to be the best quarterback in the game. Cousins is an entrenched starter, but has yet to have an extended playoff run. And only one of the league’s 32 starting QBs can navigate all the pitfalls that pop up each season, lead his team to a Super Bowl win and reap the rewards that come with that success. As Manning told Netflix: “Mahomes balled out. Kirk had a good year. Marcus is going to be back.”

How was Quarterback made?

What sets Quarterback apart from other NFL documentaries is the unprecedented access granted during and outside of games. Mahomes, Cousins and Mariota all wore a microphone during practice once per week and during every game of the season, marking the first time the NFL had allowed such a setup with quarterbacks. They were also interviewed throughout the season, and each player was assigned a different director to coordinate their shoots, which involved letting the crews into their personal lives.


“If you can make the players comfortable with the person they’re dealing with, they’re going to be more trusting, more open to you,” Quarterback showrunner Joe Zucco told Netflix. “We’re really inside the lives of these three guys from Week 1 through the season.”

Beyond seeing how players experience wins and losses on the field, Quarterback allows us to understand how quarterbacks deal with those successes and setbacks at home in some of the most fascinating footage of the series.

“Any quarterback’s season is gonna be a roller coaster. Even with Patrick Mahomes, who only lost three games, there’s still ups and downs,” Quarterback executive producer Keith Cossrow told Netflix. “To be able to track those contours of a season gives people insight into what these guys go through and how they handle such a high-pressure job.”

As for whether the series distracted the quarterbacks from their professional duties, Manning points to Mahomes as evidence that it did not: “Look, we are all set to move forward with season two of this series Quarterback, and we have a lot of quarterbacks that want to do it because now they realize, ‘Hey, if I do this, I'm going to win the Super Bowl and be the MVP of the league.’ Right? Mahomes has shown that. We had a couple quarterbacks pass last year because they said this might be too much of a distraction. Don't say that because that is not true.”

What does a quarterback do, exactly?

“You have to know everyone else’s job just as well as your own,” Manning said in the series. As the player who receives the snap at the start of every play, the buck starts and stops with the quarterback. The job demands the player not only know what his teammates are doing for any given play, but also for every play that could possibly be called. Before every play is begun, they assess the formation of the opposing defense. Once the ball is in their hands, they try to move the ball downfield, typically by either handing the ball off to a running back, or passing it downfield to a receiver before they can get tackled by a defender –– all while making sure not to turn the ball over via an interception or fumble. (Though coaches typically call plays, the quarterback has the freedom and responsibility to improvise or call an “audible,” before calling the snap count and receiving the ball from the center.)

But the role of quarterback extends far beyond the field and the sidelines. Quarterbacks are expected to be leaders in the locker room and, fairly or unfairly, the face of their franchise, answering for everything that happens within a team on and off the field. Because of football’s popularity, the pressure from both media and fans is unmatched.

Why Quarterback Is the Toughest Position in Football“Win or lose, you are going to be front and center,” Manning says in the series. “You have to give credit when it’s good, you have to take the blame when it’s bad. You have to face the music when times are tough.”

Part of the difficulty of the job is the physical wear and tear that players experience –– often compared to being in a car crash every week –– for 17 weeks per season (and more, if they reach the postseason). Former New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady set a new standard for longevity in the position by playing until age 45 before his retirement in early 2023, but many top quarterbacks play until their mid-to-late 30s, before the job saps their physical skills to the point where they can no longer compete at the highest level. 

Quarterback documents the physical demands on the players throughout their 2022 season. Cousins is 34, and has taken his fair share of hits over his 11-year professional career. He employs a chiropractor and masseuse to manage joint and soft tissue damage. Mahomes works out with his own personal trainer outside of team practices, while Mariota employs a private chef to manage his nutrition at home. 

We get it: They’re athletic. What other skills does a quarterback need? 

It takes more than a great arm to make a quarterback. The position demands intense mental preparation each week, reviewing game film and studying massive game plans with highly specific strategies. “When you finish high school and you finish college you kind of say, ‘Okay, now no more homework,’ ” Manning told Netflix. “And for a quarterback, the homework is just beginning. You have to know not just your assignment, [but] 10 other guys’ assignments as well.”

In Quarterback, Mahomes takes us inside the process of studying game film of not only his own performances, but also of his opponents. Mariota enlists the help of his wife to help him memorize wordy play calls, while Cousins uses neurofeedback exercises to train his brain to stay focused during stressful situations — such as having to deliver a pinpoint pass when he’s about to be tackled by a massive defender. 

“I chuckle when I think back on my friends in high school or college who said I didn’t need to try in school because I’m an athlete,” says Cousins in Episode 4. “I laugh because getting ready for every game, all it is is me studying for a final exam like I’m in school again.”

How much do quarterbacks get paid?

If quarterbacks can handle the mental and physical workload that comes with the job, the benefits are unmatched. As the star attractions in a multibillion dollar industry, the most valuable quarterbacks earn around $50 million a year: Mahomes’ 10-year, $450 million contract with the Chiefs is the biggest in NFL history (though as is common in NFL contracts, much of that sum is not guaranteed, but will be paid in the form of bonuses contingent on Mahomes staying on the Chiefs’ roster). Cousins earned $40 million during the 2022 season with the Vikings, and Mariota made roughly $9 million after serving as a backup the previous two years. And, because quarterbacks are so prominent, the most successful and personable ones can rake in millions more from endorsements.

All said, the love of the game underwrites their paychecks. “I think all three of those quarterbacks would play for free,” Manning told Netflix. “They shouldn’t — they would never say that out loud, but I think they love football that much. That comes across in [Quarterback].”

 What do quarterbacks do off the field?

It’s a high-stakes, high-stress job, but quarterbacks clock out just like everyone else. At home, each player has family responsibilities to attend to, as well as philanthropic commitments like Mariota’s work with Motiv8

“Everybody sees the game days, but they don’t see the day-to-day grind,” Mahomes says in Quarterback. “They don’t see how you have to manage playing football and being a dad and being a husband.”

Where can I watch Quarterback?

Follow the stories of Mahomes, Cousins and Mariota over the course of the 2022 NFL season, leading up to Super Bowl LVII in Feb. 2023, and watch Quarterback on Netflix now. Keep reading for a guide to each episode and its major players. 


Topics: "NFL", "PatrickMahomes", Netflix, Quarterback