For years quarterbacks have been taught to slide when ending a scramble, first because the rules are set up to protect them if they slide and second because everyone has always assumed the slide puts you in a less vulernable position than the headfirst dive. But now Bill Musgrave is challenging the conventional wisdom behind the second part of that statement. Musgrave is actively teaching Christian Ponder to dive headfirst rather than slide into on-coming defenders, because Musgrave believes this technique better protects the QB from taking a hard hit.
Musgrave isn’t just talking out of his butt either. He has research to back him up. The offensive coordinator has studied film of quarterback hits going back years and determined that sliding into defenders actually increases the likelihood of an injury. Musgrave has shown these tapes to Ponder and is encouraging him to dive headfirst if there are defenders ahead of him.
As Musgrave himself explained, “It’s a personal preference, and what’s really important when a quarterback runs is getting down in time … as those defenders converge. You can maximize or squeeze out the last possible yard, but at the same time, maintain your health so you can line up for the next play.”
Ponder has taken the lessons to heart, employing the technique on a couple of occasions already this preseason. Fans and commentators were alarmed by Ponder’s apparent recklessness and suggested he go back to sliding, but must have a different perspective now that they know Ponder is being coached to do this.
But is the headfirst dive really the safer option? Common sense dictates that the headfirst approach is actually more dangerous because you’re putting the head in a vulnerable position. But when you think about it, the diving QB actually presents less of a target for a defender than the sliding QB. Musgrave makes this point in his argument, saying the sliding QB is actually in more danger due to his “periscope up” position.
Musgrave stresses that the dive technique is only useful if the QB is going into traffic. If he’s in the open field he should still slide and have the benefit of the officials’ protection. Hopefully Christian Ponder won’t be put into position to test Musgrave’s hypothesis too often. The dive might be better than the slide in certain cases, but the upright position is always the best of all.