Authors: By BARRY WILNER
Patience, commitment and faith.
Those qualities are just as important in developing NFL quarterbacks as strong arms, good vision and a love for the game.
Super Bowl winning coaches and current offensive coordinators who have worked with some of the NFL's elite passers agree that any other approach simply won't work, no matter how talented the quarterback.
With such an influx of young arms in starting spots throughout the league - 11 teams could have No. 1 QBs with three or less years of pro experience, although one is 28-year-old rookie Brandon Weeden in Cleveland - the teaching regimen is more intense than ever.
Yet, it still needs to be old school.
"The key is to commit to one guy once you decide he is the player who you think is it," Browns President Mike Holmgren says. "You know you will go through some bumps and bruises with him, you will get criticized, but you have to commit and then stick with it.
"There needs to be a mutual trust between coach and player, and a need for sticking by your guns. Be willing to take the heat. Hopefully you are in a position with the owner where there won't be any knee-jerk reactions."
With the upcoming change in ownership in Cleveland, it's uncertain that Holmgren and his hand-chosen staff led by coach Pat Shurmur and offensive coordinator Brad Childress, will have that stability. But they certainly have the credentials to turn Weeden into a star.
Holmgren, of course, has worked with a Hall of Fame worth of quarterbacks, including Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre. Childress helped make Donovan McNabb into a winner. Shurmur nurtured Sam Bradford in his first pro season, and the Rams' signal-caller was the 2010 Offensive Rookie of the Year.
They all follow the same guidelines, whether they come from the Bill Walsh, West Coast offensive coaching tree, or from another.
"It's also important to have continuity with the head coach and offensive coordinator and the player," Holmgren says. "It only makes it that much harder when you're changing coordinators or offensive systems. He's going to be all screwed up in the beginning, anyway, so you need to provide stability."
History shows how important consistency is. Check out Mike Shanahan with John Elway in Denver (two Super Bowl titles) or Bruce Arians with Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh (ditto) or Kevin Gilbride and Tom Coughlin in New York with Eli Manning (ditto again).
Shanahan, in particular, has been a QB guru, earning yet another NFL championship with Young and the 49ers. He now gets to nurture Robert Griffin III, whose smooth delivery, athleticism, instincts and smarts would make any coach salivate.
"In the first year, you really make sure you know what the quarterback does best and you remind them that everything will come in time," says Shanahan, whose hands-on approach with Griffin has had the Heisman Trophy winner looking sharp in practices. "You work on what they do best, but you also work on the other areas and be patient knowing that growth will come in time.
"Eventually, they begin reading defenses. They learn to handle the two-minute (offense). There is so much they get thrown at them in the first couple months."
Not only will Griffin and top overall draft pick Andrew Luck in Indianapolis suffer from information overload, but they won't be surrounded by players with their skill level. That also can be a major issue early in a quarterback's career, something that can retard his growth significantly.
"The quarterback also must have help," Holmgren says. "Players need to develop around him. He cannot be carrying the whole load. He needs some receivers and backs and a line, and he needs strong defense and special teams. Otherwise, he can run into confidence problems.
"Baltimore has done it the right way with Joe Flacco. Look how Flacco has become a good player and into a very good player. A big part of it is he is in a good place to play."
Indeed, Flacco might be the most recent poster child for developing a young QB, following in the steps of Roethlisberger and Manning. He had the luxury of joining a solid team, and the Ravens have strengthened the roster at virtually every position in his four NFL seasons.
If not for a dropped pass in the New England end zone at the end of the AFC championship game in January, Flacco might be a Super Bowl quarterback. He certainly could become one this season.
"I think, first and foremost, credit goes to Joe and the amount of hard work he has put in and always does," Ravens offensive coordinator Cam Cameron says. "He's always wanting to learn.
"I think things are just maturing and growing, getting better. He still can keep getting better and better and better, and no one knows it better than him."
Cameron was new to the Ravens when they worked out the bazooka-armed QB from Delaware. He was impressed initially that Baltimore's highly regarded scouting staff led by GM Ozzie Newsome wanted to take a deep look at Flacco. Then he - and the rest of the Ravens - practically were knocked over by Flacco's abilities.
All of which convinced them that he would mature rapidly in the NFL.
"He's not a fragile guy," Cameron says. "Things that affect some guys don't affect him. We came out, we ran routes on a (field with) no lines, receivers he didn't know, new footballs, all this stuff, and he just never blinks."
Roethlisberger is similar in that respect. Like Flacco, Elway, Griffin, Luck, Bradford and a few others, he was anointed the starter almost immediately out of college. And he has never really blinked, even with some off-field issues that made many - even some teammates - wonder about him.
As a rookie, Roethlisberger helped Pittsburgh go 15-1. The next year, the Steelers won the Super Bowl with him behind center, although he struggled in the big game.
But he clearly was progressing. Arians, now with Indianapolis, saw it.
"He has to have a great command of what he's trying to get done," Arians says. "He has to know his protections because that's when you get killed, on your hots and your blitzes; especially now with all the zone blitz and things that we see. He has to be inside out, up-and-down, on the money on his protections and then building a rapport with his receivers, which sometimes is a little overrated.
"We run everything on timing so that part has to be there, especially in the red zone when you'll know a guy's subtle moves and stuff."
There's no better example of that than Roethlisberger's scramble and pinpoint pass to Santonio Holmes in the back of the end zone to beat Arizona in the Super Bowl after the 2008 season.
Ah, but when do you know they are ready to blossom?
"They know," Shanahan says. "You hear how the game slows down for them. That is true, definitely true. It goes from being a blur and then, with more reps and getting comfortable in the system, the game seems to slow down. And they make the right decisions. Then you see all that talent come out."
AP Sports Writers Michael Marot in Indianapolis and David Ginsburg in Baltimore contributed to this story.