The recent release of Cam Newton by the Patriots marks what could be the end of Cam Newton’s career as a starting QB in the NFL. Newton is listed at 6-5, 245 pound, and he is always a threat to run the ball. He has averaged 7.7 carries per start during his NFL career.
Newton is already, by far, the NFL career leader in total rushes among quarterbacks with 1,071 carries. He will most likely not hold that title for too long with Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson both projected to blow past him in the near future. Wilson currently has 803 carries. Lamar Jackson currently only has 482 (which puts him outside of the top 10 all-time), but he has been getting 160 per season (about 10 per game). If he can avoid the injuries that derailed Newton’s career, he should finish with many more than 1,100 carries.
Newton is currently second in NFL history in quarterback rushing yards. Michael Vick is the career leader with 6,109. Only three active quarterbacks are in the top 10, Newton, who is second with 5,398 yards, Wilson, who is fourth with 4,506 yards and Aaron Rodgers, who is tenth with 3,271 yards. Lamar Jackson already has 2,906 despite only have been a starting qb in the NFL for two and a half seasons. Barring serious injury, Jackson will move into the top 10 this season. He is averaging about 1,100 yards rushing per regular season when he’s the main starting quarterback.
Three Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks are in the top 10 in carries and yards: Steve Young, Fran Tarkenton and John Elway. The HoF QB who is in the top 10 for QB rushing TDs is Steve Young, who finished his career with 43, which is good for second all-time. Newton, with 70 is strongly in first place and should stay there for a long time. With 70 rushing touchdowns, Newton is currently 32nd all-time and is the only player in the top 100 who did not play running back during his NFL career. Jackson has 19 right now and is averaging about six per season. At that pace, it would take nine seasons to surpass 70 rushing touchdowns.
Jackson is currently 24 years old and if he can avoid serious injuries that hurt his ability to run the ball, he could realistically have another 10+ years of high level QB play in the NFL. Even if he runs less as he ages, he should easily set the records for quarterback carries, yards and maybe rushing TDs.
Another QB who currently uses his legs as an offensive weapon is Kyler Murray. While he was the first overall pick like Newton, Murray is almost the anti-Newton, in that he is tiny. Murray is listed at 5-10, 207 pounds, but that is generous. Murray, in many ways, is like some of the great running backs who would use their quickness and elusiveness to avoid big hits (and the resultant injuries). Emmitt Smith was great at this. It seemed like he never took a hard hit despite thousands of NFL carries. Cam Newton preferred to used his size and power since his elusiveness was limited. This led to many big hits.
In 2020, Murray ran 133 times for 819 yards and 11 touchdowns. In fact, QB rushing touchdowns were at an all-time high in 2020 (at least going back 30 years). Oddly enough, a QB has never led the NFL in rushing TDs despite years when eleven (2015), twelve (2013) or thirteen (2017 and 2014) rushing TDs led the league.
There were 126 rushing TDs by QBs in 2020. In other words, quarterbacks accounted for 23.7 percent of all rushing touchdowns in 2020. Compare that to 1993 when QBs accounted for only 7.2 percent of all rushing touchdowns. Both the percentage of touchdowns and the total number of QB rushing touchdowns were at historic high numbers for the NFL in 2020. Admittedly my data gets less accurate before 2004 since espn.com only goes back to 2004 for full league individual rushing data and PFR doesn’t list positions for every player (which is frustrating when trying to tabulate something like all QB rushing TDs). See the full data set below - back to 1990, but I have the data all the back to 1970. There were only 21 QB rushing TDs in 1970 (in 14 regular season game) compared to the 126 in 2020 (in 16 regular season games).
|Year||Total TDs||Rushing TDs||by QB||% by QB||QB rushing TD Leader||Rushing TDs||Rushing TD leader||Rushing TDs|
|2020||1403||532||126||23.7%||Cam Newton||12||Derrick Henry||17|
|2019||1244||447||80||17.9%||Josh Allen||9||Derrick Henry||16|
|2018||1286||439||71||16.2%||Josh Allen||8||Todd Gurley||17|
|2017||1121||380||66||17.4%||Cam Newton||6||Todd Gurley||13|
|2016||1229||443||65||14.7%||Tyrod Taylor||6||LeGarrette Blount||18|
|2015||1207||365||61||16.7%||Cam Newton||10||4-way tie||11|
|2014||1187||380||47||12.4%||Russell Wilson||6||DeMarco Murray and Marshawn Lynch||13|
|2013||1214||410||55||13.4%||Cam Newton||6||Jamaal Charles and Marshawn Lynch||12|
|2012||1158||401||65||16.2%||Cam Newton||8||Arian Foster||15|
|2011||1145||400||66||16.5%||Cam Newton||14||LeSean McCoy||17|
|2010||1150||399||40||10.0%||Michael Vick||9||Arian Foster||16|
|2009||1139||429||45||10.5%||Aaron Rodgers||5||Adrian Peterson||18|
|2008||1122||476||48||10.1%||Aaron Rodgers||4||DeAngelo Williams||18|
|2007||1106||386||40||10.4%||Cleo Lemon||4||LaDainian Tomlinson||15|
|2006||1072||424||44||10.4%||Vince Young||7||LaDainian Tomlinson||28|
|2005||1075||431||44||10.2%||Michael Vick||6||Shaun Alexander||27|
|2004||1148||416||39||9.4%||Aaron Brooks||4||LaDainian Tomlinson||17|
|2003||1081||427||58||13.6%||Jeff Garcia||7||Priest Holmes||27|
|2002||1154||460||65||14.1%||Daunte Culpepper||10||Priest Holmes||21|
|2001||1000||365||52||14.2%||Chris Weinke||6||Shaun Alexander||14|
|2000||1046||412||58||14.1%||Daunte Culpepper||7||Marshall Faulk||14|
|1999||1028||363||47||12.9%||Steve McNair||8||Stephen Davis||17|
|1998||1037||379||45||11.9%||Steve Young||6||Terrell Davis||21|
|1997||1001||384||49||12.8%||Kordell Stewart||11||Terrell Davis||15|
|1996||990||364||36||9.9%||Steve Young||4||Terry Allen||21|
|1995||1048||385||45||11.7%||Steve Bono||5||Emmitt Smith||25|
|1994||923||340||38||11.2%||Steve Young||7||Emmitt Smith||21|
|1993||821||304||22||7.2%||Jeff Hostetler||5||Marcus Allen||12|
|1992||849||333||34||10.2%||Randall Cunningham||5||Emmitt Smith||18|
|1991||869||358||32||8.9%||John Elway||6||Barry Sanders||16|
|1990||952||377||35||9.3%||Rodney Peete||6||Derrick Fenner/Cleveland Gary||14|
In 2020 quarterbacks also accounted for 14.3 percent of all rushing yards which was also the highest value in league history. The 8,697 QB rushing yards was also a historic high and more than twice as many QB rushing yards as we had in 2009.
|Year||Total Rushing Yds||QB Rushing yds||% of rushing yards by a QB|
Even elite quarterbacks who can run tend to run less later in their careers. This is mostly because of their value to the team and the risk of injury on a running play. In other words, their coaches would rather punt than have their starting quarterback get injured trying to run over a defender for a first down. This has been mitigated some by the rules protecting all players from big hits, but, in theory, quarterbacks lose many of their “quarterback protections” when they become runners.
With the rise of a group of young athletes at quarterback in the NFL, guys like Josh Allen, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray, who are just as adept at throwing the ball as they are at running the ball. We could be in for a long golden era of “dual-threat” NFL quarterbacks.
Keep in mind that top 10 quarterbacks in rushing yards accounted for 5,336 rushing yards in 2020. For comparison the top 10 running running backs in rushing yards accounted for 12,094 yards.
What do you expect to happen to the percentage of rushing TDs and rushing yds from QBs in 2021
This poll is closed
stay at 2020 levels (historic highs)
increase to new historic highs
decrease somewhat but stay above standard levels from the last decade
decrease to the same level as the last decade
decrease back down to levels from 2004-2010