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On Connor Halliday and the labels we give quarterbacks

The term "gunslinger" is far too limiting in terms of what WSU's presumptive starter is capable of going forward.

Connor Halliday: Quarterback
Connor Halliday: Quarterback

Assigning a label to someone does a tricky thing to the human psyche. Instead of some behavior being what they do, it transforms into who they are, it defines them. This is as true in football as it is in life.

Connor Halliday is a gunslinger.

In football, being a 'gunslinger' could mean a bunch of different things, but mostly people just think of Brett Favre. Gunslingers have a big arm and play quarterback with a high risk/high reward style.

Since the end of the season, a lot of space on the site has been occupied by some variation of "Connor Halliday needs to improve his field vision." His deficiencies were very apparent to just about anyone that watched him play in the Air Raid; he stuck with his primary read and tried to make plays with his arm, as opposed to finding open targets and enabling them to make plays with their legs.

The game of football moves quickly at the quarterback position -- matters of seconds. Decision making at that speed is more instinctive than active. You go with your gut, read and react -- no 'thinking' in that in phrase. Thinking will get you into trouble more often than it will get you out of it. Observation triggers action; how comfortable you are reacting to those observations is how comfortable you'll be in the offense.

Halliday missed almost all of last spring and summer recovering from his liver injury. Another way of saying that would be -- he missed hundreds of hours establishing the observation-action link using tens of thousands of physical repetitions. Come fall, his instincts and reactions weren't exactly congruous with what Coach Leach would like him to do.

That doesn't mean he didn't understand what was asked of him, or that it can't be coached into him.

Tweaks in throwing mechanics become more difficult the more years of muscle memory you build up. Changing someone's throwing motion over the winter is a tall order. Conversely, decision making is entirely coachable, that's one way to gain maturity, and can be coached up in the time frame of an offseason. This is what you read, this is how you react, do it a thousand times.

And if you think it's not coachable, let's check in with Alex Brink again.

The strength that was the quarterback position at this point in time a year ago, is now one of the uncertainties heading into the upcoming season.

Halliday needed to put in some work this offseason, but he's not alone on some island. Mike Leach is the quarterback's coach and he's been teaching this system to college QBs for over a decade, long before it was en vogue at the high school level and he could recruit guys tailor made to his offensive style. Nearly every QB he's interacted with has had collegiate success. I refuse to believe he can't coach up Halliday, or that Halliday is some bad decision QB machine incapable of human growth and reform.

Connor Halliday is a gunslinger.

In lieu of the physical reps and all the benefits they bring to field vision and decision making, he played to his assets last season, using his big arm and making good throws at bad reads. He's not inaccurate, he doesn't have poor mechanics or bad technique, he's certainly not a bad kid, or an unintelligent kid -- it's just his game day decision making wasn't in sync with the Air Raid. His decision making led him to play "hero ball" instead of "game manager", but that doesn't mean that's who he is.

How well he improves will not only be a testament to the hardwork studying he put in during the offseason, but the ability of the coaching staff to get him there. His problem was a coachable one, and he has one of the best passing attack coaches in the nation working with him.