I did a full story on this a few years ago, but this has been in my mind lately since there are a number of teams using the running ability of their quarterback as a significant portion of their offense so far this season.
The total number of rushing yards from quarterbacks and the percentage of total rushing yards from quarterbacks both hit record high numbers in 2021. Quarterback rushing yards accounted for 15.4 percent of all rushing yards last season (9659 of 62694 yards). While the percentage of rushing TDs from QBs came down from its record high in 2020, QBs still accounted for 19.4 percent of all rushing TDs in 2021.
So far this season quarterbacks have run for 3310 yards which is 14.7 percent of the 22474 rushing yards so far this season. It’s interesting to look at the historic view shown below
This season QBs have run for 34 touchdowns which is 20.1 percent of the league total of 169 so far.
There was another inflection point back around the turn of the century. If you can recall that time in the NFL, there were quite a few QBs who gained significant yards on the ground. In fact there were nine QBs who ran for 300 or more yards that season and this was before Michael Vick or Vince Young was in the NFL.
|Quarterback||TEAM||Runs||Rushing Yds||Rush TDs|
|Jeff Garcia *||SFO||72||414||4|
Those nine QBs accounted for 3867 yards on the ground and 37 touchdowns, but they had to play in an era when it was much more dangerous for a quarterback to run with the football.
There were ten QBs in the NFL last season who ran for 300 or more yards.
|Quarterback||Team||Rushing Att||Rushing Yds||Rushing TDs||Rushing 1D|
It feels like the NFL is in a moment when a defender can get called for roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness simply by breathing hard on the QB. Its a reason why the career longevity for running QBs like Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, Jalen Hurts, Justin Fields, Josh Allen, and Taysom Hill should be much longer the career lengths of some of the previous elite dual-threat QBs like Michael Vick, Randall Cunningham, Daunte Culpepper, Vince Young, Steve McNair, and Cam Newton.
So what does this mean for the 2022 Denver Broncos? Can Russell Wilson’s diminished ability as a runner be used to help the horribly struggling offense?
Let’s look at the teams that are currently doing this. There are currently seven teams who have had their QBs carry the ball 40 or more times so far this season.
|Quarterback||TEAM||Runs||Actual Runs||Rush Yds||Actual Rush Yds||Actual YPC||Rush TDs||Rush 1D|
Remember that the NFL still counts a QB kneel-downs as a run for -1 (or 0 or -2 yards). This needs to change, but there are some things that are glacially slow to change in the NFL. That is the reason for actual runs and actual rushing yards since I have removed the kneel-downs.
The fact remains that all of the seven QBs shown above are running five or so times per game, but how many of these runs are designed runs and how many are scrambles? We can find that as well. Below is a table that shows the difference between the QBs who can run when they need to scramble and the QBs who have play-callers designing plays for them to run (or potentially run).
|Quarterback||TEAM||Actual Runs||Scrambles||Designed Runs||% of Designed Runs||% of team rush yards|
We can see that three of these QBs are running out of necessity or opportunity (Fields, Allen and Jones) while the others are are more often running by design.
We can also see that outside of Mariota, these QBs have accounted for 25 percent or more of the rushing yards for their team. With 102 actual rushing yards on 15 carries, Russ accounts for 15.4 percent of the Bronco’s rushing yards so far this season. In fact for QBs with 100 or more actual rushing yards this season (shown below), only Jacoby Brissett has a lower percentage of his team’s overall rushing yards (11 percent - 113 of 1032). Right now Lamar Jackson has accounted for 49 percent of the Ravens rushing yards. That is pretty crazy. Even in his best years so far his legs have only accounted for roughly one third of their rushing yards.
|Player||Tm||Actual Runs||Actual Rush Yds||TD||1D||Team Rush Yds||% of Team Run Yds|
If we look at Russell Wilson, he has fifteen actual runs this season and 12 of them are scrambles so only three of them (20%) have been designed runs. While I am not advocating for the Broncos to make running the ball with Russ a focal point of the offense, I do think that once of twice per game would be a good way to game some relatively easy yards particularly in the red zone where this strategy works for the rest of the league that has mobile QBs. It should also be mentioned that Russell Wilson in the past has been quite good at running the ball in the red zone.
Unfortunately Russ has not really being doing many designed runs recently in the NFL. He had 37 actual runs in 2021 and 23 of those were scrambles so he only had 14 designed runs last season in 14 games. That is big change from earlier in Russ’ career when he was used on more designed runs, but this is may not be something that is wise to do very often (designed runs) with our 245 million dollar QB. In 2020 Russ had 67 actual runs, but 53 of those were scrambles. In fact Russ had the second highest numbers of scramble runs in 2020 (DeShaun Watson had 62).
Should the Broncos use Russell Wilson more often on designed runs? He has three in six games so far.
This poll is closed
Are you crazy? He just hurt his hammy, we need him to turn into Tom Brady.