John Steigerwald: Misconceptions exist about running QBs in NFL |
John Steigerwald, Columnist

John Steigerwald: Misconceptions exist about running QBs in NFL

John Steigerwald
Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson leaps over Packers cornerback Jaire Alexander during the first half of their preseason game Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019, in Baltimore. The play was called back on a penalty.

“Slide a little bit.”

That was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ advice for Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson after they played each other in a preseason game Thursday.

Rodgers also said, “I love watching you play, man. That was spectacular.” He was talking about an 18-yard touchdown run by Jackson that had been called back.

The Ravens are building their offense around Jackson’s running, and they’re aware of the possibility he could get hurt.

Most fans and media around the NFL probably are assuming Jackson will, and if you asked a Steelers fan who will start more games this year, Jackson or Ben Roethlisberger, just about everybody would pick Roethlisberger.

Because, as everybody knows, quarterbacks who run a lot always get hurt.


Jackson ran the ball 128 times in his eight starts as a rookie and was still standing after a playoff loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Is he the exception? Nope.

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers has 929 rushing attempts for 4,808 yards in eight seasons. He has missed two games twice and one game once. Five out of eight seasons, he has started every game.

Kordell Stewart missed one game because of injury. And I don’t recall him ever sliding.

Lots of running quarterbacks have stayed healthy, and that includes a group of guys who never heard of sliding, which is a relatively new concept.

Why don’t running backs or receivers slide in the open field when tacklers show up? And why don’t they get hurt more often on open-field tackles?

Randall Cunningham is one of the best running quarterbacks of all time. In his prime, he averaged 100 runs per season and started 63 of a possible 64 games. Never slid.

Mike Vick didn’t slide and had a three-year stretch before he went to prison in which he averaged about 115 runs per season. He started 46 of 48 games.

Doug Flutie started 15 games at age 37 and ran the ball 87 times for the Buffalo Bills. Never slid.

John Elway ran it more than 700 times and never missed more than four starts in 16 years. Never slid.

Nobody left the pocket more than Fran Tarkenton. He never slid and never missed more than two starts in 16 years. Yeah, players are bigger and faster now, but modern quarterbacks also are protected like fine china.

Quarterbacks, especially ones who have the ability to make people miss, might get hurt less often if they stopped looking for a place to fall down and kept making people miss.

If the Ravens’ opponents are counting on Jackson getting hurt, there’s a good chance they’ll be disappointed. He ran 655 times for 4,132 yards with 50 touchdowns in college and never missed a start.

Your favorite stay-in-the-pocket, slide-at-the-first-sign-of-trouble quarterback is more likely to get hurt.

Still no backup QB

Neither of the Steelers backup quarterbacks played well enough Saturday night to emerge as No. 2 behind Roethlisberger. But when a team says it considered a guy they took in the third round to be a first-round talent, which the Steelers said about Mason Rudolph, it’s his job to lose.

Josh Dobbs threw an ugly interception near the end zone and, because he’s one of those running quarterbacks, maybe you’ve already dismissed him. Just keep in mind Roethlisberger threw plenty of ugly interceptions last year, including one on the goal line in Denver that cost the Steelers a win. It happens to the best of them.

John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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