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Quarterback Rushing Data Since 1950

The 2007 season was the ultimate fantasy of the immobile quarterback lover. No quarterback rushed for 400 yards, after at least one quarterback did so in each of the ten prior seasons. Just as importantly, the top quarterbacks were all pocket passers: Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Tony Romo (only 129 rushing yards that season), Brett Favre, Jon Kitna, Peyton Manning, Matt Hasselbeck, Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler, Kurt Warner, and Eli Manning were the top 12 leaders in passing yards. As a group, those dozen quarterbacks rushed for just 67 yards, led by Cutler’s staggering 205 rushing yards.

But it was only seven years earlier that the mobile quarterback wave was taking the NFL by storm. Six quarterbacks hit the 400-yard rushing mark: Donovan McNabb (629), Rich Gannon (529), Daunte Culpepper (470), Kordell Stewart (436), Jeff Garcia (414), and Steve McNair (403). Of the top ten leaders in passing yards, only Vinny Testaverde and Kerry Collins failed to rush for at least 100 yards, and the top 12 leaders in passing yards rushed for an average of 236 yards.

Since 2012, the mobile quarterback has re-emerged. So how do we test how much each quarterback has run since 1950? Here’s what I did.

1) Calculate the percentage of league-wide passing yards by each player in each season. For example, Russell Wilson was responsible for 2.70% of all passing yards in 2014.

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 Wilson, this means multiplying 2.7% by 849 for a result of 22.9 rushing yards. Perform this calculation for each player in each season and sum the results to obtain a league-wide total. For 2014, this total was 159.7 rushing yards (obviously Wilson 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:

qbrushing

As you can see from the chart, the 2000 and 1951 seasons were the two most “run-heavy” among quarterbacks. We already discussed 2000; in 1951, it was Tobin Rote (523 yards), Charlie Trippi, and Bobby Layne (9.1% of all NFL passing yards, 290 rushing yards) were the big reasons for that. And remember, the NFL was a 12-team league back then and played 12-game seasons.

Finally, here’s the same data in table form:

YearRush Yds
2014159.7
2013159.5
2012156.8
2011133
2010118.2
200993.2
2008104.8
200781.3
2006109.3
200590.9
2004119.7
2003106.4
2002157.2
2001166.4
2000183.9
1999118.8
1998129.4
1997121.5
1996103
199594.5
199489.3
1993113
1992118
199192.1
1990151.9
1989130.6
1988120
198799.7
198694.8
198584.7
198492.9
1983101.8
1982101.4
198195.5
1980118
1979109
197899.1
1977106.4
1976112.5
1975102.3
1974100.3
1973106
1972150.7
1971101.2
197090.9
196983.6
196898.3
1967102.2
1966104.9
1965103.4
1964121.1
1963125.2
1962121.2
1961117.6
1960126.4
1959119.1
1958135.9
1957133.7
1956159.9
1955167.9
1954106.2
1953122.4
1952164.7
1951183.3
1950165.4
  • James

    Okay Chase, I’m confused by your first paragraph.

    “Tony Romo (only 129 rushing yards that season) … As a group, those dozen quarterbacks rushed for just 67 yards, led by Cutler’s staggering 205 rushing yards.”

    I don’t get the Romo parenthetical. It’s his career high (!), so is the “only” part a joke? And did you mean an average of 67 yards, or was there a typo?

    • I can understand why you’re confused.

      I am shocked to learn that Romo’s career high is only 129 rushing yards. The paragraph was discussing all the pocket passers in the NFL that season, and I’ve always thought (at least pre-back injury) of Romo as a pretty mobile quarterback. Maybe not Steve Young, but not Peyton Manning, either. Looking at his rushing numbers now, they are quite a bit less than I would have guessed.

      If you told me that one of Jay Cutler/Tony Romo has more than twice as many career rushing yards as the other, I would have lost a lost of money guessing which one.

      • By my count, the top 12 QBs in passing yards (Carson Palmer included) rushed for 769 yards before removing kneels and 910 yards after removing kneels. Romo’s “real” rushing personal best is 135 yards.

      • Dr__P

        Tony is mobile, but he learned the lesson of what happens to running QB’s. He is moving about to keep the play alive and always looking down field.

  • zinjanthropus

    How much effect can a single great running QB have on these numbers? The chart shows a spike in 1972. Bobby Douglass ran for nearly 1000 yards that year. If you took him out, how much would the 1972 aggregate number decine?