Learning The Ropes

Quincy Carter has been broken, ala horse whisperer-style, by coaches Bill Parcells and Sean Payton.

Updated: November 13, 2003, 2:31 PM ET
By Steve Young | Special to ESPN.com

The last few seasons, Quincy Carter has been like a wild stallion out on the prairie, playing football on instinct and raw talent alone. But from the looks of it, he has been broken, ala horse whisperer-style, by Bill Parcells and assistant head coach Sean Payton.

Quincy Carter
Carter

A certain amount of quarterbacking requires reading and reacting to defenses. But, what many people don't realize is that quarterbacking requires a significant amount of footwork.

Carter has great feet, he just needed to be more specific in regards to where he was putting them. And it looks as if the first thing Parcells and Payton went to work on was Carter's footwork.

In addition, the Cowboys' coaches reduced the number of complicated reads for the young quarterback. They're giving him half, as opposed to the entire, field to work with -- up-to-down and one-to-two, then drop the ball off.

And with three talented wide receivers in Terry Glenn, Joey Galloway and Antonio Bryant, Parcells and Payton are choosing pass plays that are simplistic, yet effective.

In return, Carter has done a nice job of finding his receivers. He's also been watching and recognizing what opposing safeties are doing, and reacting accordingly.

What's perhaps most impressive is that he's making tough, redzone throws that are winning games. That speaks to not only his abilities, but to his poise and confidence as well. Both of which are testaments to good coaching and to the talented players that surround him -- having those weapons makes all the difference.

The Cowboys know that no team survives on constantly dropping back and throwing the ball. So, they've also been committed to running the ball. They may not always be successful, but they're committed. A formidable running game also enables them to utilize play action, which again, helps keep things simple for Carter.

I don't know for sure, but I would assume there has been a lot of information passed along from coach to quarterback. And to Carter's credit, it looks as if he's taking it all in, listening intently and studying hard to make a profession out of his potential.

There is so much more to being a good quarterback than just going out and playing. Certainly, there are a lot of young quarterbacks who just aren't willing to invest the time to learn and master the intricacies and intangibles. But Carter is not one of them, and he's now bearing the fruits of that labor.

Last season, he was a player. Now, he's a professional.

Steve Young

Sunday Night NFL Countdown analyst
Pro Football Hall of Famer and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young is an NFL analyst for ESPN. He travels to the Monday Night Football city each week for Monday Night Countdown and the pre- and post-game editions of SportsCenter. Young also contributes to ESPN's annual Super Bowl and NFL Draft coverage, including the past five years (2006-10) on ESPN's main set at Radio City Music Hall.