The quarterback position has been regarded as the most important position on a football team. In the early years of the NFL, quarterbacks were required to only pass along with having a big arm and accuracy. As the years have passed, running became a bigger part of the game. As a result, many quarterbacks started to run and this continued with future quarterbacks. Now in the present-day NFL, more general managers want dual-threat quarterbacks as they see the value in them. Teams prefer a quarterback with scrambling skills as they provide many benefits such as an expanded playbook. Along with football evolving, quarterbacks have evolved. Here are the top 5 greatest dual-threat quarterbacks to ever play in the history of the NFL.
The 5 Greatest Dual-Threat Quarterbacks in NFL History
I have rated players on this list based on rushing stats, passing stats, and achievements throughout their careers. Picking the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks was hard as there have been many greats throughout the years. It was between seven players for five spots, but you can make an argument for the two that didn’t make it to be in the top 5. I couldn’t exclude the two players I didn’t include, so I put them in my honorable mentions.
Russell Wilson is arguably the second-best quarterback in the present-day NFL. He has been one of the NFL’s most consistent players year in and year out whether it be in passing or rushing. Throughout his eight seasons, he has totaled 29,734 passing yards and 3,993 rushing yards which rank 5th all-time among quarterbacks. Along with that, he’s scored 227 passing touchdowns and 19 rushing touchdowns. Not only that, but he also has a 3.34 touchdown to interception ratio which is 2nd best all-time.
Besides statistics, Russell Wilson has been a great achiever in the league. He has won a super bowl with the Seattle Seahawks and he is a 7-time Pro Bowler. Surprisingly, he has never won an MVP. He is one of the best NFL players to have never won an MVP, but that might change in the upcoming years. He isn’t on the top 5 list because he has played the second least amount of games among these quarterbacks. Additionally, he doesn’t have as many rushing yards and rushing touchdowns as the other quarterbacks. I will say though, after 5 more years, Russell Wilson for sure should be in the top 5. When he retires, he will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
Cam Newton is known as one of the league’s best rushing quarterbacks. Throughout the nine seasons he has played, he’s thrown for 29,041 yards and 181 touchdowns. More importantly, he has rushed for 4,806 rushing yards which are 3rd all-time among quarterbacks. Additionally, he has rushed for 58 touchdowns, which is an NFL record. Expect that to change with the up and coming Lamar Jackson.
In those nine seasons, he took the Carolina Panthers to a super bowl but lost. Also, he won the 2015 MVP award and is a 3-time Pro Bowler. He is not a top-five greatest dual-threat quarterback because he has played the least amount of games among these quarterbacks. Also, he has the most rushing attempts in NFL history. Naturally, that correlates with the fact that he had a lot of rushing plays designed for him. This means he stats were boosted, rather than gaining them through pure scrambling. Though Newton’s rushing yards and rushing touchdowns were convincing, this is a dual-threat list. His passing stats are not that great compared to the others on this list. Like Russell Wilson, if he plays a couple of more years, he should finish in the top 5.
#5. Donovan McNabb
Donovan McNabb is one of the most balanced, consistent, and greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history. He played 13 seasons, most of them with the Philadelphia Eagles. In his time, he threw for 234 touchdowns and 37,276 passing yards. He also racked up 3,459 rushing yards which 8th all-time among quarterbacks and 29 rushing touchdowns. When I said “balanced” above, I meant that many of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks are fantastic runners with mind-blowing rushing stats, but their passing stats and abilities aren’t that great. Donovan McNabb is balanced; he is an equally good passer and runner, and the stats can show that.
His greatest achievements through 13 NFL seasons were being a 6-time Pro Bowler and taking the Philadelphia Eagles to the super bowl, but losing. He also is tied for the most playoff wins without winning a super bowl by a quarterback (nine). With the achievements and stats he had, he should be in the NFL Hall of Fame, but he isn’t. Donovan McNabb is one of the best NFL players to never be inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame. The biggest factor with him not being higher on the list is the rushing yards. Of the seven players I was considering for this list, he had the lowest amount of rushing yards. However, the passing stats made up for it.
Randall Cunnigham played 16 NFL seasons from 1985-2001 and most of them came with the Philadelphia Eagles. He was regarded as a top 2 dual-threat quarterback in the 80s and 90s. He racked up 207 passing touchdowns and was, admittedly, on the lower end of passing yards with 29,979. Most importantly, he rushed for 4,928 rushing yards which is 2nd all-time among quarterbacks. His 35 rushing touchdowns are good for 8th all-time among quarterbacks.
He was a 2-time NFL MVP and a 4-time Pro Bowler. Like McNabb, Randall Cunningham has never been inducted into the Hall of Fame which is surprising with those stats. Don’t get me wrong, Randall Cunnigham had decent passing stats, but if they were better, he would have been higher up on this list. To sum up, Randall Cunningham was a great runner and a solid passer, making him one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.
One of the best pure scramblers the NFL has ever seen was Frank Tarkenton. He was the first to introduce the idea of a quarterback running in the NFL. For those reasons, he earned the nicknames, “Scramblin Fran”, “The Mad Scrambler”, and among others. He played a fantastic 18 seasons in the NFL, five for the New York Giants, and the rest for the Minnesota Vikings. In those long 18 seasons, he had 342 passing touchdowns and 47,003 passing yards. He also rushed for 3,674 yards which are 6th most all-time among quarterbacks and 32 touchdowns.
Fran Tarkenton was a nine-time Pro Bowler, he won the prestigious MVP award in 1975, and he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1986. Though Fran Tarkenton didn’t have the biggest rushing stats, he had mind-blowing passing stats. Another factor in putting him this high on this list is that he is responsible for introducing the idea of a dual-threat quarterback to the NFL. He will always be remembered for this and having a prestigious NFL career.
Michael Vick is one of the most popular quarterbacks ever to play and the most famous dual-threat quarterback in NFL history. He played 13 seasons and he was most known for when he played for the Atlanta Falcons. In his career, he threw for 22,464 passing yards, 133 touchdowns. But, he is most known for rushing for 6,109 rushing yards (an NFL record) and 36 touchdowns, which is 7th all-time among quarterbacks. He also holds the NFL record for most yards per carry with 7.0.
He was a 4-time Pro Bowler and he set two NFL records during his career. It’s controversial to not put Vick at number 1, but here are my reasons. His passing stats, like his 133 touchdowns and 22,464 passing yards, aren’t that amazing. This leads to my critical reason, which is a dual-threat quarterback is one that can throw and be a runner. Unfortunately, Mike Vick wasn’t that great of a passer. He is a mobile quarterback, but this is a dual-threat quarterback list, if it was a mobile quarterback list, then he is at number one.
Steve Young is regarded as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history and he deserves that. He played 13 seasons in the NFL and he played most of those for the red and gold of the San Francisco 49ers. In those 13 seasons, he threw for 232 touchdowns and 33,124 passing yards. Additionally, he rushed for 4,239 yards, which is 4th all-time among quarterbacks, and he rushed for 43 touchdowns, which is 2nd all-time among quarterbacks. Steve Young had it all: he was an elite passer and an elite runner.
In 13 NFL seasons, Steve Young had a lot of achievements. He was a seven-time Pro Bowler, he won the super bowl three times and the MVP award two times. He holds nine NFL records and he was inducted in the hall of fame in 2005. Steve Young had an edge over Mike Vick in passing and in achievements. The combination of prestigious achievements, super bowl wins, elite passing stats, elite rushing stats gave him the title of being the greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history.
The Greatest Dual Threat Quarterbacks Made History
Like I said, in the beginning, it was very hard to choose which player would make the top five list. You can make an argument for any of the above players on why they should have made the list or be higher. These seven players represent many great dual-threat quarterbacks that have played in the NFL. These players had fantastic careers and most of them deserve to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. From Fran Tarkenton to the young Lamar Jackson, the game has evolved. Dual-threat quarterbacks are the future of the NFL.
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