Vick scrambles his way to top of record book

Posted Oct. 15, 2011 @ 4:14 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

Michael Vick entered Week Five 70 yards shy of Randall Cunningham's record for most career rushing yards by a quarterback. On a 53-yard scramble in the third quarter of last Sunday's 31-24 loss at Buffalo, Vick passed Cunningham — and he did it in 59 fewer games.

The Eagles' signalcaller will finish his career as the best running quarterback of all time. With the rise of dual-threat quarterbacks and spread offenses in the college ranks, it's possible another Vick will come along, but for now, he is certainly in a class of his own.

Most of the quarterbacks on this list of the QBs with the most career rushing yards were prolific throwers who had the legs to scramble for positive yards when a play broke down. Plenty of running QBs have proven that you can't make it as an NFL quarterback on running alone, making this a unique group of dual-threat signalcallers.

1. Michael Vick / 4,948 yards* — Vick always had been known much more for his running ability than his passing, and while his 3,018 passing yards and 21 touchdowns in 2010 showed he can still throw, he will be remembered for his running. He was the first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, rushing for 1,039 with a whopping 8.4 yards per carry in 2006. He has been incredibly elusive and dangerous in the open field, but his most memorable run came against the Vikings in 2002, his first season as a starter, when he rushed 46 yards for a touchdown in overtime to lead the Falcons to victory. His career 7.2-yard rushing average is the best of all time.

2. Randall Cunningham / 4,928 yards — Though he had a big arm and threw for more than 3,200 yards five times, Cunningham was even more dangerous because of his ability to make plays with his legs. Best-known for his time with the Eagles in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the quarterback often tucked it and ran, giving defenses fits because of his terrific speed and agility. His best season came in 1990, when he threw for 3,466 yards and 30 touchdowns and ran for 942 yards and five TDs, winning the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers of America MVP award.

3. Steve Young / 4,239 yards  The leader in passer rating among retired QBs also was an outstanding runner. Young, elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2005, gained nearly six yards per carry during his career and scored 43 rushing touchdowns. His game-winning 49-yard touchdown run against the Vikings in 1988 is considered one of the greatest plays in NFL history. 

4. Fran Tarkenton / 3,674 yards — The Hall of Famer was a prolific passer, ranking sixth all-time in passing yards. He never rushed for more than 376 yards in a season, but his longevity helped get him on this list. He rushed for only 108 yards in 1975 when he won the NFL MVP award. He did reel off a couple of big runs in his career, including a 52-yarder in his rookie season of 1961. Tarkenton finished his career with a 5.4-yard rushing average.

5. Steve McNair / 3,590 yards  Despite being known as "Air" McNair, the QB also did plenty of damage on the ground. Early in his career with the Titans, McNair was one of the league's top dual-threat QBs, running the ball more than 70 times in six consecutive seasons. In the 1999 AFC championship game, he ran nine times for 91 yards and two touchdowns, helping the Titans reach the Super Bowl for the only time in franchise history.

6. Donovan McNabb / 3,459 yards*  McNabb was very much a dual-threat quarterback in his first few seasons in Philly, especially in 2000, when he rushed for a career-high 629 yards and six touchdowns. In his career, McNabb has rushed at a clip of 5.6 yards per carry. On Nov. 26, 2000, McNabb rushed for 125 yards on 11 carries in a 23-20 win over the Redskins, including a 54-yard run. McNabb added a pair of 100-yard rushing games in his injury-shortened 2002 season. He will need to stay healthy (and remain a starter), but McNabb could move ahead of McNair before his career concludes.

7. John Elway / 3,407 yards  For 14 of his 16 seasons with the Broncos, Elway had between 146 and 304 rushing yards. Though he had only one run of 30-plus yards, his quick feet and the threat of his big arm allowed Elway to post some impressive numbers on the ground (six TD runs in 1991) in his Hall of Fame career.

* - Denotes active player

PFW associate editor Eli Kaberon contributed to this article.