The NFL's Top 10 Mobile Quarterbacks of All-Time
Running quarterbacks help make viewing football contests more enjoyable. They bring the excitement of having a third option in terms of a team needing a play to execute at the goal line, 3rd-and-short or a 4th-and-long situation. Better yet when a play breaks down and the only individual in control is the quarterback with the ball in his hand.
It is always great to see the quarterback make an amazing throw.
Moreover, when a quarterback has the ability to make a play with their legs, football fans’ eyes open wider and their mouths drop with anticipation of witnessing something awesome—while coaches and team executives hold their breath.
The mobile quarterback has been embraced mightily, especially in the college rankings. In the NFL, having a running quarterback is not always welcomed in the league because their job is to orchestrate the offense and be effective up and down the field. The absolute need to get the ball into other playmakers' hands is more important than taking a chance on a franchise player’s ability (which is normally a quarterback) to scramble and be hit in the process.
Having a scrambling quarterback as a team’s signal-caller is not ideal, but in critical circumstances a quarterback with wheels can be an answered prayer.
Running quarterbacks are like having a hole in one’s shoe—it is never cool to have a hole, but it is always better to have a hole in a shoe than having no shoe at all.
Traditionally, running quarterbacks do not hold up the Vince Lombardi Trophy at season’s end. Nonetheless, running quarterbacks are held up to a great standard by teammates, as they are appreciated for their guts and willingness to win at all costs when they sacrifice their bodies for glory.
These top 10 running quarterbacks have help made their teams more competitive and dangerous as they were accounted for in weekly game-planning as a potential scoring threat. Some were successful in winning, yet all were outstanding on the playing field as football got better—with their help.
10. Cam Newton
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Newton may be the future of the running quarterback as he has displayed big-play ability with his legs. Newton has managed to earn four rushing touchdowns in his early NFL career.
Before it’s all said and done, Newton may be known for his arm as he has performed brilliantly by airing the ball up and down the field. He is third in the league for passing yards with 1,386. Newton has the opportunity to throw for over 4,000 yards in his rookie season.
The young quarterback's career just started—that is why he at the bottom of this list. In hindsight, Newton may finish near the top as a scrambling quarterback—with a championship.
9. Jim Zorn
Herald as the “left-handed Fran Tarkenton,” Zorn gave the fans of the newly franchised Seattle Seahawks in 1976 something to look forward to on Sundays. Zorn finished with 1,504 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns for his nine-year NFL playing career.
Due to his impact for a new NFL team with a less-than-average offensive line, Zorn was placed on this list because his running plays were not designed, as he ran for his life in certain situations, when others were by result of the type of defense that he faced on a play-by-play basis. Although the Seahawks never won a Super Bowl title, Zorn made things happen as he carried the young franchise.
8. Roger Staubach
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Staubach was on America’s stage in the 1970s as he threw, but scrambled his way around to bring the Cowboys their first of five Super Bowl titles to Dallas in 1971-72 season. In Staubach’s championship season, who also won another title in 1977-78 season, he had his best year in rushing the ball with 386 yards at 8.8 yards per carry.
The Hall of Fame quarterback finished with 2,264 career rushing yards.
7. Kordell Stewart
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There wasn’t anything that Stewart could not do as a NFL player. He could throw and catch. But Stewart was noticeably known for his running ability. Being nicknamed “Slash” was appropriate for Stewart as he torched opponents during his 10-year playing career as a quarterback, wide receiver and a punt returner.
Stewart finished with 2,874 career rushing yards and his 80-yard touchdown against the Carolina Panthers in 1996 was the longest run from scrimmage that season.
6. John Elway
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One of the all-time greatest quarterbacks in NFL history was known for his golden arm and two Super Bowl titles. However, what may have been overlooked was his ability to scramble and run. Elway ran out of necessity, largely due to not having much of a backfield, until Terrell Davis came along in 1995.
Elway amassed 3,407 rushing career yards within his 51,475 passing yards.
5. Donovan McNabb
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The Michael Jackson backslides in end zones around the league was a trademark celebration for McNabb. McNabb was not that slim-type mobile quarterback football fans were accustomed to see running around, but the man could move.
Since the trade from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Washington Redskins, McNabb has not been the same. Will he be a Hall of Fame quarterback with one Super Bowl appearance, even though he had several opportunities to play on Super Sundays? It will remain to be seen. As far as being a mobile quarterback, McNabb will go down as one of the greatest with that ability. Currently, McNabb has 3,455 career rushing yards.
4. Fran Tarkenton
Tarkenton was a trailblazer as he did the unthinkable in his era by being a running quarterback. Despite his style of being versatile as a runner and passer, Tarkenton was the NFL all-time leader in passing yards with 47,003 (Brett Favre holds the record at 71,838).
Tarkenton had a host of nicknames such as “The Mad Scrambler,” “Scramblin’ Fran” and “Frantic Fran” as he escaped defenders to avoid sacks and oftentimes took off. Tarkenton finished with 3,674 career rushing yards. The Hall of Fame quarterback was truly the originator for mobile quarterbacks, but if he had won at least one title, his legendary name would be greater.
3. Steve Young
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Young had great talent around him when he joined the San Francisco 49ers in 1987, which helped him to become a Hall of Fame quarterback. Nevertheless, Young’s scrambling ability was breathtaking.
In the '90s, the 49ers did not need Young to run often. Due to his intelligence and knowledge for the game of football, Young took advantage of what was open in the running lanes and at times when receivers and backs were not open, the three-time Super Bowl champion become the ultimate weapon which opponents could not plan for.
Young’s career passing rating is uncanny at 96.8. Apparently, this BYU graduate’s running ability help created one-on-one situations for his pass-catchers because Young needed to be accounted for by opposing defenses, so with his amazing accuracy he was able to deliver to his playmakers.
Young finished with 4,437 career rushing yards.
2. Randall Cunningham
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Tarkenton was the first and Young made the running quarterback a legitimate weapon. Cunningham was the first explosive, must-see signal-caller.
Standing at 6’4”, 215 lbs as a quarterback, Cunningham would have been an easy target for defenders to hit. The only problem was he could not be hit as Cunningham was blessed with speed, along with his height.
Cunningham is currently the NFL’s all-time leader as a rushing quarterback with 4,928 yards. Cunningham matured later in his career as a passer. Nevertheless, thanks to Cunningham, defenses around the NFL had to mature because he introduced the league to what they had to prepare for in the new era of quarterbacks.
1. Michael Vick
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From Tarkenton to Young to Cunningham, no one could have prepared for Michael Vick. With a cannon for an arm, the speed of a cheetah and the quickness of a rabbit, Vick is the most dynamic quarterback of all time.
Currently, Vick has 4,858 career rushing yards, averaging 7.1 yards per carry. Vick has baffled countless defenders and despite simulating the 6’0” quarterback in opposing teams' practices, teams around the league are still ineffective in stopping the real deal.
Vick will eclipse Cunningham’s rushing total with chances of no one ever breaking the record No. 7 will set.
If another quarterback does break the rushing record for quarterbacks, which will eventually be set by Vick, one thing is for sure: No other field general will be as breathtaking and remarkable as Vick.