By: Jason “Big J” Allen
     We have gotten so excited about the new 2012 trend of the new improved model of quarterbacking, with athletic mobile runners.  Yet I have realized that the running QB is devolving instead of evolving.  I got the idea for this article from reading “QBs in 2013: To Run or Not to Run” by SportsAsToldByAGirl (remember everyone reading is fundamental and you’re not biting if you give credit)…  (Also the website is an awesome read for different perspectives).  So let’s pull out our “time-turner” from Harry Potter (I use the Delorean reference a lot so let’s change it up) and go back to 1972…  Hold on, your telling me one turn is for one hour back?  That means I would have to turn this thing 359,406 times!  Forget it bring in the Delorean.

As we land in 1972 we are looking at the Chicago Bears with coach George Halas, as he decides to go with Bobby Douglass as his starting QB.  Why is this important, well for the NFL it signifies the first legitimate running QB.  By running QB I mean that they designed plays numerous times a game for Douglass to run like the wind.  So much so that Douglass ran for 968yds and 8tds that year.  Yet the Bears finished 4-9-1.  The problem really lied in Douglass’ in ability to throw the forward pass.  So Douglass and the Bears crashed and burned with this experiment.  But now modern teams picked up the pieces and modified it.

Now a lot of football historians will cry that Fran Tarkenton was probably the first running QB and to those people, I say yes you are partially right.  Fran never had run plays designed for him to use that ability.  Don’t forget that Vikings coach Norm Van Brocklin hated…  Yes, HATED that Tarkenton scrambled and ran like he did.  Yet in Fran Tarkenton we got a glimpse into what a mobile running QB could and should be.  Tarkenton definitely paved the way showing that you can and need to be an outstanding passer to go with your running ability.  We also had greats like Roger Staubach that pushed the plight further.  Then we had John Elway progress the cause even further. We were starting to see a new era of passing QB’s that are athletic and can run, now they were never the fastest but could get out there and gain yards.  The pinnacle or should I say “The Prototype” was Steve Young.

 

     I’m not just saying this because Young is my favorite QB of all time, but because Young over his career learned that his ability to run was an asset or rather a bigger threat if he could execute through the air.  For a three year period 1992-1994 Young probably was the most deadly QB or player on the field.  Why because he was pinpoint accurate with passes (still holds the QB rating career record) and if the play fell a part he could play sandlot football and use his legs.  After that zenith point with Young I think the plight of the mobile QB started to devolve.  A big portion of that has to do with the emergence of the Black QB.

 

     I don’t know if coaches felt that these athletes couldn’t grasp a complete passing game, or that the coaches never wanted to stifle their talent.  We start to see a ton of athletic guys playing QB, but a lot had question marks about their throwing ability.  Buddy Ryan literally made Randle Cunningham train to get faster in the off season, instead of teaching him how to become a dominant passer.  Kordell “Slash” Stewart at one point was played everywhere on offense except QB.  Then we get to Donovan McNabb who was an elite runner and inaccurate QB when he first entered the league.  As his career grew he wanted to prove the media and critics wrong and became a solid pocket passer only problem is he was so tentative to run I think it hurt his effectiveness.  Around that time we had the Daunte Culpepper, and a few others in the mix.  Until the arrival of Michael Vick, and that is where the devolving of the running QB hit lightning speed.

 

     The excitement and pure highlight reel making action of this QB, sent the league into a frenzy.  In all that excitement we failed to realize that his ability to read defenses, and know the playbook was lacking.  We didn’t care because this QB was running a 4.2 so why did it matter that he wasn’t the best passer?  Oh yeah it was his lack of receivers, but Tom Brady wins with average to no name receivers.  Every time his inability to command the forward pass was questioned it was met with an excuse.  Because of the ticket sales and excitement he generated teams went out and grabbed QB’s of similar ilk.

 

     Now here we stand in the mist of all these athletic mobile QB’s that are relying on their ability to run instead of using it as an added weapon when plays don’t turn out how they should.  Very Bobby Douglass/George Halas of us.  I’m not saying that a running Mobile QB can’t win a Super Bowl, because Steve Young and Aaron Rodgers have won, but both of them when they won were way more dynamic passers than runners at the time.  So I look at RGIII, Colin Kaepernick, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow (who is the second coming of Bobby Douglass), and Russell Wilson and think these guys are doing in the NFL what Halas tried and failed at (I left Andrew Luck off of the list because he rarely has run plays called for him).  Yes I know the names I listed are really good passers too, but why risk your franchise player, when you can allow him to execute from the pocket successfully.
     The world and media looks at these players as evolving the game, but from where I’m sitting I see it as devolution back to a formula that didn’t work.  So coaches I’m pleading with you, take away the bootlegs, stop calling read option running plays (I’m fine with the read option fake and going to the pass), stop thinking that your QB running ability is an outlet to have another running back on the field and start seeing these athletes as players that can add a dimension when the called play breaks down, not as the play to break out!
Jason "Big J" Allen  @UnsportsmenBigJ

Jason “Big J” Allen
@UnsportsmenBigJ

 

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