You hear it all the time – the game has changed, and the quarterback position is changing. We are beginning to see more teams running option and/or spread offenses, led by quarterbacks who more resemble sprinters than your typical passer of days gone by.
Let’s not forget, however, that there have always been quarterbacks who could run the ball if they needed to. Former Eagles QB Randall Cunnigham is a name that springs to mind, along with others such as Steve Young, Donavan McNabb, and more recently, Michael Vick. But none of those players begin to approach the level of athleticism that we have seen from quarterbacks in the last few years.
What teams are looking for are athletes who can run the ball, but can also throw the ball like an NFL quarterback. That’s why Tim Tebow has never, and will never be an effective starting QB. He might have the requisite skills on the ground, but he throws the ball about as well as I do.
Look at Seattle Seahawks rookie, Russell Wilson. He is pretty much the typical pocket passer, but possesses very quick feet and an ability to gain yards on the ground when it looked like the play was dead. For me, that’s why Wilson looks set to have a great career in this league. In years to come, when his legs are giving up and he no longer poses the same threat on the ground, his arm will still be able to get the job done.
Right now, the same cannot be said for Colin Kaepernick. Although he has a cannon for an arm, he has some accuracy issues, and is not as polished as Wilson when it comes to throwing the ball. But there is no doubting his skill and turning a blown play into a first down or even a touchdown. He has a long stride and is a big strong player, making it difficult for defenders to bring him down.
Of course, there is more risk facing quarterbacks who frequently take off running. As we saw with Robert Griffin III this year, the chance of injury is greatly increased, especially for smaller players such as Griffin and Wilson. Perhaps this is where someone like Kaepernick with his larger frame is at a bit of an advantage. He can hit as hard as the players trying to hit him.
We have seen trends come and go in the NFL, but I think the emergence of more mobile quarterbacks who can also throw the ball well is just the tip of the iceberg. Having such a player really give your team a dual threat that other teams have to take into account. If teams put an extra man on Kapernick to eliminate him rushing the ball, it’s going to leave someone in one on one coverage. It’s a win-win, all round.
Carolina Panthers quarterback, Cam Newton burst onto the scene with his ability to make plays on the ground as well through the air. Now players such as Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson look set to take it to the nest level. Teams will always want QBs who can throw the ball. That has to be the priority. But if they can also run the ball as well as some running backs, then that’s a bonus they’ll snatch with both hands.