Commentary

The best scrambling quarterbacks

You know about Michael Vick ... but Aaron Rodgers' legs had the most impact

Updated: August 5, 2011, 12:21 PM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider
Michael VickJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesMichael Vick was among the top running quarterbacks in 2010, but he was not the best one.

The NFL has never really had a problem with the running quarterback. The NFL has a problem with the quarterback who gets hit a lot. The ability to run faster than most is not a negative to scouts, and it never will be. It's just that players who run with the football tend to get hit a lot -- it's why NFL running backs have the shortest NFL careers by a wide margin.

And that's really the problem with the running quarterback: There's a stigma that says running equals injuries. And it's not about race. The stigma is because of money. Quarterbacks make a lot of it because they have by far the greatest impact of any player. Peyton Manning just gave the Colts a discount and will make close to 14 percent of the total allotted salary for a 53-man roster in 2011, and nobody blinked. If Manning gets hurt running with the football, then running with the football gets hurt. It's that simple.

But if the running quarterback carries a stigma, so should the quarterback who can't run. If you picked the two most devastating injuries to quarterbacks from the past 10 years, you wouldn't find chalk outlines at the scene of a running QB taking on a linebacker. Instead, you'd point to Tom Brady and Carson Palmer in 2008. Both were standing still in the pocket when defensive linemen rolled into them and caused them to shred their knees. Even before those injuries, Palmer and Brady could have had their 40 times measured with a sundial.

The whole thing is a balance. Running has great value for quarterbacks both as a threat -- a quarterback who can run is vastly more dangerous inside the 10-yard line than one who can't -- and as an act of preservation. And it's about time we started measuring the value of a quarterback's ability to run as a part of his overall profile. Based on the new Total Quarterback Rating, the best game of last year was Michael Vick's six-touchdown Monday night beatdown of the Redskins. That's because with the QBR formula, the two running touchdowns actually count. According to the older passer rating formula, Vick had just four touchdowns. This great skill, this ability that makes him almost unique, is rendered useless by a stat that is supposed to tell us everything.

The fact is, measuring a quarterback based only on his throwing is as stupid as measuring a point guard only by his assists. Just because it's a primary trait doesn't mean it's the only one.

So although we know that quarterbacks like Vick and Tim Tebow can run, who does it most effectively? The answer may surprise you.


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