NFL Football: 10 Best Dual-Threat Quarterbacks of All Time

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

NFL Football: 10 Best Dual-Threat Quarterbacks of All Time

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    In the NFL, dual-threat quarterbacks are both a new trend and an old commodity.

    Quarterbacks with the ability to extend plays with both their legs and their arm have actually been around since the days of Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach, but this style of play has only become truly popular in recent years.

    Michael Vick's introduction to the NFL in 2002 forever changed the landscape of the position and forced defensive headaches.

    So who are the best of the best when it comes to dual-threat QBs?

    Which players have been the most adept at combining the skills of a drop back passer with the athleticism of a running back?

    Let's look at the 10 best dual-threat quarterbacks of all time.



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    This list goes deeper than just listing 10 quarterbacks with the most career rushing yards. 

    Rather, numerous criteria were examined, including:

    1. Career Longevity

    Sustaining excellence over an extended period of time is a serious requirement for being one of the best of all time. 

    2. Scrambling Ability

    The ability to make plays outside the pocket both through the air and on the ground is a key factor in determining a great dual-threat quarterback.

    3. Ability to Change Defensive Game Plans

    Do opposing defenses have to change how they play because of your abilities? If so then you deserve consideration.

    4. Rushing Yards

    Actual career rushing yards may not be the top factor in a dual threat quarterback but it's still an important statistic. 

    5. Skills as a Passer

    Dual threat QBs don't just run the ball. Once in a while they have to throw the pigskin as well, and the better they do that, the higher the placement they likely earn on this list.

Honorable Mention: Jim Zorn

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    Jim Zorn took the reigns of the upstart Seattle Seahawks franchise and helped make them relevant.

    His mobility was a large catalyst to his game as he was often put in pressure-filled situations due to his less than stellar offensive line.

    Zorn rushed for 1504 yards during his nine-year career and had a decent 21,115 passing yards.

    His statistics never jumped off the chart, but when you take into account what he was able to accomplish with a new franchise like the Seahawks, it becomes apparent that Zorn deserves mentioning.

Honorable Mention: Aaron Rodgers

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    If you look past the Super Bowl title and the MVP award that Aaron Rodgers has garnered, you will find a quarterback that has a surprisingly multi-faceted game.

    Rodgers is not the type of QB that looks to tuck and run all the time, but he is particularly effective when he does.

    Over the past four seasons, the Packers signal-caller has rushed for 1,136 yards and 16 touchdowns.

    These stats go hand in hand with his 17,000+ passing yards in that time frame.

    Rodgers averages only 17 yards per game on the ground for his career, but he has proven that when he does run, he makes it count.

Honorable Mention: Cam Newton

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    Cam Newton ranks extremely high in four of the five listed criteria. If he only had a larger body of work he would already be higher on this list.

    Newton is the rare physical specimen that has ideal size, strength and speed for a dual-threat quarterback.

    He ran for 7.9 yards a carry in 2011, on his way to 706 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground.

    Couple those impressive numbers with his 4,000 passing yards and you have one of the most exciting rookie campaigns in recent memory.

    Newton has the potential to go down as possibly the best dual-threat quarterback of all time—he just needs to play more than one season before we anoint him with that honor.

10. Bobby Douglass

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    There was a time in the early 1970s when Bobby Douglass of the Chicago Bears was the epitome of mobility at the quarterback position.

    He was never a great passer, which really hinders his spot on this list, but Douglass was supremely capable on the ground.

    He rushed for 2,654 yards in his 11-year career and added 22 touchdowns on the ground.

    His best season undoubtedly came in 1972, when he averaged 10.1 yards per carry and finished the season with 968 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.

9. John Elway

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    Yes, John Elway is on this list.

    Before you question his inclusion, let's look at the numbers.

    Elway ran for 3,407 yards in his career, largely because for a long period of time the Broncos had a very weak backfield behind him.

    Elway was great perhaps not because of his pure athleticism, but because he knew the proper times to stay in the pocket and when he needed to put his head down and take off.

    Who will ever forget his diving attempt at the endzone in Super Bowl XXXII against the Green Bay Packers?

    Here is a shining example of someone who is not known for his rushing ability, but utilized his legs as a perfect complement to his 51,475 career passing yards.

8. Doug Flutie

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    The little engine that could.

    What would this list be without Doug Flutie?

    Few players are better known for their dual-threat capabilities than the former Boston College star.

    With a listed 5'10" frame, improvisation and mobility almost had to be key facets of Flutie's game.

    He rushed for 1,634 yards in his NFL career and had 14,715 passing yards—Not elite numbers by any means, but the way he utilized what he had and seemingly always came up with the big play when needed is more than enough to get Flutie placement.

7. Kordell Stewart

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    The artist formerly known as "Slash" lived up to that nickname and then some.

    Stewart could not be labeled just a dual-threat quarterback. Instead he was a quarterback/wide receiver/punt returner.

    Stewart was never elite at anything, but he was always very good at whatever he was doing.

    His 10-year career included 2,874 rushing yards to accompany his 14,746 yards passing.

    Stewart was never afraid to escape the pocket and attempt to make plays on the edges of the field.

6. Roger Staubach

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    Roger Staubach was a dual-threat quarterback before such a term was cool or really even existed.

    The Dallas Cowboys star signal-caller of the 1970's, Staubach was never afraid to attempt risky plays in order to move the ball.

    He would run, juke, dive or underhand toss the ball in almost any situation.

    Staubach's 22,700 passing yards sometimes mask his 2,264 career rushing yards, but make no mistake, Staubach was a dual-threat QB.

    Never was this more evident than in 1974 and 1975 when he had back-to-back seasons of over 300 yards on the ground.

5. Donovan McNabb

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    Donovan McNabb is a prime example of the modern-day dual-threat quarterback.

    He ran quite a bit early in his career but developed more of a pocket presence as the seasons wore on.

    Still, McNabb was a lethal weapon when he did scramble.

    Did he have the speed or athleticism of a guy like Michael Vick?

    No. But McNabb excelled both on the ground and through the air—a balance few quarterbacks are ever able to master.

    Before moving on to the Washington Redskins and Minnesota Vikings, McNabb became a household name with the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The Syracuse alum has registered 37,276 passing yards and 3,459 rushing yards in his 13 NFL seasons.

4. Randall Cunningham

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    Randall Cunningham was not just a great quarterback, he was a great quarterback for a long time.

    Cunningham rushed for at least 200 yards in eight different seasons and crossed the 500-yard mark in six of those campaigns.

    He also threw for 3,000 yards five times, on his way to 29,979 career passing yards.

    Cunningham embodies the penultimate dual-threat weapon.

    If you attempted to spy him and keep him in the pocket, he could shred a defense with one of his 207 career passing touchdowns.

    But if you dared to allow him on the edge of the field, he could burn you—Cunningham averaged nearly five yards a carry during his storied career.

3. Steve Young

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    Steve Young had a tough task in front of him when he took over as starting quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers: replace future Hall of Famer Joe Montana.

    How did Young respond?

    By playing Hall of Fame-caliber football of his own in a completely different style than Montana.

    With Jerry Rice at wide receiver and a Super Bowl-caliber offense around him, Young was able to find running lanes whenever he saw fit.

    His 4,437 career rushing yards would be his most impressive statistic if not for his mind-boggling 96.8 career passer rating.

    Young confused defenses and became a quarterback that was impossible to game-plan for.

    Fifteen seasons, two NFL MVP awards and 43 career rushing touchdowns help to bolster Young's case as one of the best dual-threat QBs in history.

2. Fran Tarkenton

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    "Scramblin Fran"..."The Mad Scrambler"..."Frantic Fran".

    Fran Tarkenton earned each of these nicknames because he helped to originate the concept of a quarterback doing more than handing the ball off and throwing passes.

    Tarkenton was an innovator of his craft, rushing for an astonishing 3,675 yards in his career; however, this does not mean he could not sling it with the best of them.

    In fact, Tarkenton set a then-NFL record with 47,003 passing yards over the course of his illustrious 18-year career.

    The longtime Viking made the quarterback position exciting in a way that had never been seen before.

    He would be the top dual-threat quarterback of all time if someone else hadn't come along in 2002...

1. Michael Vick

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    When Michael Vick entered the NFL, he completely redefined a position that had already been defined numerous times.

    No defense knew what to make of the kid from Virginia Tech that was faster than a running back and had a stronger arm than almost any quarterback in the league.

    Vick rushed for 3,859 yards in just six seasons with the Atlanta Falcons and made his presence felt throughout the NFL.

    His passing was never great in Atlanta, but since joining the Philadelphia Eagles, Vick has thrown for 3,000 yards in consecutive years.

    Whereas defenses used to expect Vick to make mistakes through the air and throw interceptions, they now have to respect every facet of his game.

    He currently has 5,219 career rushing yards and 17,912 career passing yards with no signs of slowing down.

    Vick is the greatest dual-threat quarterback of all time and his game continues to evolve.