photo op

Overanalyzing President Obama’s Passing Form

President Barack Obama throws a football on the field at Soldier Field following the NATO working dinner in Chicago, Illinois, May 20, 2012.
Not bad. Not great. Photo: Pete Souza/The White House

Two days ago, President Obama was snapped by White House photographer Pete Souza on the Chicago Bears’ Soldier Field tossing a football to Lord knows who. It’s a nice shot — Obama looks downright statuesque and seems, at a minimum, not totally unfamiliar around a pigskin. And yet — probably because he is not actually a quarterback — there was also something off about Obama’s throwing form. As part of our never-ending quest to nitpick everything in the world, we asked Chris Brown — who has written about football for the New York Times, Grantland, and his own site, Smart Football, as well as in his new book, The Essential Smart Football — to take an unnecessarily critical look at Obama’s mechanics, and tell us what he’s doing wrong.

I’ve seen worse,” Brown writes in an e-mail. “His arm and shoulder look like they are at a solid right angle, and he appears to be doing a good job of driving his right arm and elbow back to generate force so that his throwing arm will be pulled through like a whip. But there are big concerns: His front leg is way overextended — his knee is back behind his heel — so he’ll never be able to fully transfer his weight over his knee to be able to properly follow through and really generate force on the ball.”

More concerning to Brown is Obama’s aim. “This is obviously some kind of long-ball throw,” Brown continues, “and it’s a common technique on long throws for the passer to point his shoulder slightly upwards so that he has a higher release point to get more arc under the throw. But unless he’s trying to take out one of the lights in the stadium, I’m not sure even he knows where that ball is going to land.”