Get a grip: How Mahomes, Brady, Lamar and 10 other QBs fling the football

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Updated: November 19, 2019

The index finger is really important, especially if you’re trying to get that spiral. It’s the last thing on the ball. There’s definitely supposed to be a little bit of space between your palm and the ball. I just like to feel the full ball in my hand without any space in between. I started with baseball and I was always very tight when I gripped a baseball, so I don’t know if it transferred from that, but it’s definitely something that I do a little different from everyone else. I also keep a lot of my pinkie on the seam of the ball, more just to stabilize it. The left-handed grip? That for sure is all natural. Never thought about it much. It’s more of just shot-putting the ball to wherever the guy is.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

Any time you get a good spread on the football, I think there’s two good pressure points, there’s this finger and this finger [the middle and pointer fingers], which are the last two to come off the ball. So when you throw, it’s coming out of your hand, those last two are going to create the spiral. … A lot of the young guys, they have such big hands — and I have pretty big hands too — but their ability to transition the football and flick the football is almost like a baseball. Some of those young guys are spinning the ball so good.

I actually think snow is a great advantage. The defenders are very slippery, so when they’re moving slower, it’s good for me. The windy ones are the hard ones. We had a windy one against the Giants, and every time we were throwing a certain direction, it would hit the wind and it would just [die].

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Last year [then-Ravens offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg noticed that my finger placement on the ball was so high on top of the ball, and he was like, “You could try to move that down some and it might give you a tighter spiral.” But I feel like that finger on top of the ball gives me more power.

Last year before the Chiefs game, at the TV meetings, Kurt Warner noticed my grip and asked me where my hand was placed on the ball and why my finger was so high on top of it. We had a football at that meeting, and he grabbed it. I showed him my grip, and he was like, “That’s crazy, because mine is the same.” He showed me his hand placement, and it was pretty cool to see. He’s a Hall of Famer, and he was saying, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” I’ll adjust it a little bit, move it a little bit down and see if that works. But you really don’t want to change something that’s not broken.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

My dad has a big shop in the back of our house — the ground is gravel, all rock. And when I was younger I’d go out in the backyard and pick up rocks and try to throw them in the dumpster. Whether it was 50 or 100 feet away, I’d just stand out there and throw rocks, like for hours, and I think that’s one thing that really correlates to my throwing. My grip started with my dad actually buying these little quarterback informational tapes that he’d get to learn quarterback stuff. Some old guy did these tapes; I can’t even remember his name. Dad learned from that and taught it to me.

Follow-through is a big factor in a throw. It starts with the sequencing of the throw: Your hip fires first, your shoulders come around, you follow through with your elbow and then you’re kind of flicking it off your index finger, the last part of the grip. When you don’t throw a good ball, it’s almost always when that follow-through doesn’t quite feel right. The follow-through is the tell-all. When it comes off that index finger and it’s fluid, and you know it’s gonna spin, it’s gonna be a good throw. You can just feel it.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

I try to put my second finger basically right here on the second string. I think the bigger the hands, the easier it is to grip the football and let it rip. I try to put this pointer finger right near the tip of the football and let it rip, let it spin. I’m used to turning two, playing baseball — I figured out how to get the laces pretty quickly. You definitely practice that some, but if you need to late in the game, or something happens and you’re scrambling, whatever it may be, usually I find the strings pretty quickly.

There’s been some great quarterbacks that just can flip their wrist and really let it rip. I think that’s a big thing that I try to do, for sure, especially when I’m scrambling or whatever. You change your arm slide, you change it around, you have to get the ball out. I’m a shorter guy, obviously, so I try to get the ball in my hand quickly and get it through lanes. But I think flicking the wrist is everything. Some people say you got to flick the booger off your finger. That’s one of those things that you got to really wrist it. I think that helps the deep ball as well, when you’re really flicking your wrist and letting it ride.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

I wasn’t always a quarterback. I started out as a running back and linebacker, so I wasn’t even focused on gripping the football. No one’s ever given me real tips on how to grip a football. I’ve always kind of found out just from reading books and everything, things like there should be a little space between the ball and your palm and you should be able to see through the crack.

My grip has changed over the years, from high school to college to the NFL. It’s always been a little different just depending on the ball. And sometimes my grip changes and I don’t even realize that it changes. Sometimes I’ll throw from the second and fifth lace and sometimes I’ll throw from the second and fourth lace. I don’t exactly know how it happens or why it happens. The most important thing is you just want to feel like you have control of the entire football, not that it’s too heavy on one side or the other. Just feel like you could grasp the whole thing. Just let it fly after that.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers