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Last year, Tyrod Taylor led all quarterbacks with 580 rushing yards. Colin Kaepernick, in 12 games, ranked 2nd with 468 rushing yards, and no other quarterback had even 400 rushing yards. But Aaron Rodgers, Blake Bortles, Cam Newton, Marcus Mariota, and Andrew Luck all had at least 300 rushing yards, so 7 out of 32 teams had a quarterback with at least that many yards.

How does that compare historically? Two years ago, in one of my favorite posts/methodologies, I looked at how to measure quarterback rushing yards. Here’s what I did.

1) Calculate the percentage of league-wide passing yards by each player in each season. For example, Tyrod Taylor was responsible for 2.3% of all passing yards in 2016.

2) Calculate the weighted average league-wide rushing yards for each season. So we take the result in step 1 and multiply that by each player’s number of rushing yards. For Taylor, this means multiplying 2.3% by 580 for a result of 13.4 rushing yards. Perform this calculation for each player in each season and sum the results to obtain a league-wide total. For 2016, this total was 150.9 rushing yards (obviously Taylor was the biggest contributor among quarterbacks).

3) For non-16 game seasons, pro-rate to 16 games.

Perform this calculation for each season since 1950, and you get the following results:

We are currently in an era for rushing quarterbacks, but it’s not a big outlier, either. The early ’50s, ’55 and ’56, 1972, 1990, and the early ’00s were also notable for rushing quarterbacks. The current trend started a few years ago: in 2009, the average was 93 rushing yards; that jumped to 118 in 2010, 133 in 2011, and 157 in 2012, and was at 159 or 160 in 2013, 2014, and 2015 before dropping slightly last year.

  • Not sure if you take requests, but another table I’d like to see updated is http://www.footballperspective.com/where-does-manningromo-rank-among-great-qb-games/

  • Ryan

    Thanks for sharing Chase, have you or others posted analysis on the historical great rushing QBs?
    I think I remember Brad O mentioning that a number of guys are underrated because rushing yards is almost ignored by the masses. Makes a huge difference for the good throw, great run types like Randall Cunningham.

    • Comment section analysis!

      My off-the-cuff top-10 running QBs of all time:

      10. Donovan McNabb
      9. Bobby Douglass
      8. Tyrod Taylor (if he keeps it up a few more seasons)
      7. Steve McNair
      6. Steve Young
      5. Russell Wilson (if he fully recovers)
      4. Colin Kaepernick (if he ever gets another gig)
      3. Cam Newton
      2. Michael Vick
      1. Randall Cunningham

      • Ryan

        Top 10 in career rushing yards
        10. Greg Landry
        9. Jim Harbaugh
        8. Kordell Stewart
        7. Donovan McNabb
        6. John Elway
        5. Steve McNair
        4. Fran Tarkenton
        3. Michael Vick
        2. Steve Young
        1. Randall Cunningham

    • Richie

      I have long wondered how valuable QB running is. Russell Wilson is a wizard at turning a busted pass play on third down into a first down when he runs for 9 yards. But, did he decide to run too soon? Would non-rushing QB like Brady turn that into an 18-yard pass play instead?

      Is it good for a QB to have more designed runs? Kaepernick seemed particularly dangerous at his peak when he would run. But he seemed to have inconsistent success with it. Was he just taking the place of rushing success from a RB who is better suited to take the hits of getting tackled?

  • This is cool. It’s interesting to see what quarterbacks were responsible for the spikes. In the 1950s there was sometimes a fine line between running back and quarterback; guys like Joe Geri and Charley Trippi were primarily tailbacks, but they would still throw for over 500 yards. It’s not really comparable to later eras.

    The spikes in 1972 and 1990 are primarily driven by outstanding years from Bobby Douglass and Randall Cunningham, respectively.

    In the early 2000s, there was Vick, of course, but Vick’s best rushing years were actually in the middle of the decade. The spike around 2000 was a collective effort from Vick and guys like McNabb, Stewart, Culpepper, and Gannon, but it was relatively shorted lived as guys started to fall off.

    The thing that could make today different is that there is the top-end elite running quarterbacks, but also a whole cadre of pretty good contributors. It seems unlikely that we will see a big drop off anytime soon — possibly ever. It could be the game is changing and most QBs are going to need to run to be good.

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