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Greatest Rushing QBs in NFL History


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I went through rushing yards by QBs from 1950-2021 to see who was the greatest rushing QB in relation to their peers. QBs today rush for more yards than previous QBs, but a lot of that is also due to an evolution of play formations, plays, and rules. 

1. Rushing QBs by most seasons top 3 in rushing yards among QBs:

  • 8x Steve Young
  • 7x Fran Tarkenton, Randall Cunningham, Cam Newton
  • 6x Tobin Rote, Michael Vick
  • 5x Daunte Culpepper, Donovon McNabb, Russell Wilson
  • 4x Bobby Layne, Bobby Douglass, Steve Grogan, Greg Landry, John Elway, Lamar Jackson

Analysis: What's white guy doing leading this list!? Steve Young was a freak of nature. He wasn't even close to as fast as Cunningham and etc., but he was just really smart about rushing. He also had over 40 rushing TDs. Tarkenton is the first rushing QB who was also exceptional at passing. Cunningham best foreshadows the contemporary rushing QB. Newton has about 75 rushing TDs. Tobin Rote is the first rushing QB, but he wasn't generally great at throwing. Vick, I believe, is the first QB to rush for over 1,000 yards. Douglass is the worst QB on this list, he struggled to complete 40% of his passes. Elway is kind of a shocker in that he actually wasn't that fast. Jackson will rise up in this list. 

2. Rushing QBs by most seasons leading the league in rushing yards among QBs:

  • 6x Tobin Rote, Randall Cunningham
  • 5x Michael Vick
  • 4x Fran Tarkenton, Steve Grogan
  • 3x Bobby Douglass, Steve Young
  • 2x Bobby Layne, Greg Landry, Mark Brunell
  • 1x too many to list

Analysis: Rote was running circles around his competition. He often had about 200 more yards than the second place person, who was frequently Bobby Layne. Cunningham comes right before McNabb, Culpepper, McNair, etc ushered in the modern rushing QB era, so he's helped by the fact that he's running against Elway. Cunningham frequently led his team in rushing, which is the most impressive. My memory of Grogan is late in his career in the late 80s. He was an old guy with the neck of giraffe. That he ever led QBs in rushing for 4 seasons in a row is a shock. Douglass was basically a running back forced to be QB because the Bears had no one else that could throw for three years. I'd say Vick's placement is the most impressive because he had several rushing competitors, moreso than anyone on this list. 

3. Honorable Mention of interesting rushing QBs:

  • Otto Graham has the 2nd most rushing TDs by a QB with 44, but he was never a top 3 rushing QB. 
  • Future VP nominee and US Rep. Jack Kemp had 40 career TDs, but does not make any of these lists above. 
  • Archie Manning, father of Peyton and Eli, is in the top 3 on three occasions. Father Manning exceeds his sons only in his rushing ability. He was quite mobile while his sons were not as QBs. 
  • Famous Bears QB Jim McMahon somehow was in the top 3 on three occasions. He always seemed immobile to me. 
  • Troy Aikman was #3 in rushing among QBs during his rookie season. This is a surprise because he did not rush often at all after that season. I remember when he was drafted, he was getting Elway comparison. I think Aikman must have injured his knee or something that year or in the 2nd season. I remember he did miss games his rookie season due to injury. 
  • Aaron Rodgers was top 3 on three occasions. 
  • Kyler Murray has been top 3 on two occasions through 2021. 
  • Jalen Hurts has been top 3 on 1 occasion, also leading all QBs in rushing that one time through 2021. 

Analysis: I think Jackson, Hurts, and Justin Fields are going to be battling for top three for a few seasons now. I'm sure some future QB will be added in this mix as these guys age out. 

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