Even though Michael Vick holds the records for the most single-season rushing yards by a quarterback and the most rushing yards by a QB, well, ever, over nine NFL seasons and 92 starts he has 33 scores on the ground. That’s a pretty moderate total considering his 5,219 career rushing yards at the age of 32, with at least a handful of prime years left.
After just one NFL season (one), Cam Newton already has almost half of that total after he set the record for the most single-season rushing TDs by a quarterback with 14.
That means it’s time to take a deep, longing gaze into our plastic fortune ball (hey, this blog is still in its infancy, and crystal is expensive) and ponder a question that you’re probably trying to avoid if you’ve either selected Newton with an early pick, our if you intend to do that really soon.
Are those rushing touchdown numbers repeatable?
Welp, we can only look at history in an attempt to forecast that answer. With the records he’s set as just a rookie, Newton is already a historically good quarterback. Like scary good, since his 14 rushing TDs during just his first season as a quarterback equal to the most that Walter Payton had in a single season throughout his career…as a running back. Yes, Newton sure seems to know how to run really fast with a football and use his brutish size on those newfangled (note: they’re not newfangled) designed QB runs near the end zone.
But history isn’t on his side this year.
Steve Grogan was the previous record holder with 12, a record the Patriots QB set in 1976. He then started 114 more games throughout the rest of his career, and had only 20 rushing TDs, with five his highest single-season total following his record-setting year.
So there’s strike one against Newton. As eras come and go, so do offensive and defensive trends as the game evolves. But there’s a very simple principle that remains: defenses and defensive coordinators make adjustments, and after one year a quarterback’s rushing schtick isn’t new or novel anymore, and neither are those QB draws and option plays near the goal-line.
That’s what happened to Kordell Stewart too. Slash is third on the all-time list with his 11 rushing TDs in 1997, his first year as a starter. He didn’t hit double-digit TDs again throughout the rest of his career that included 83 more starts, averaging 2.6 rushing scores per year.
Then our time travel takes us all the way back to 1956, when the first episode of As The World Turns aired, the great Rocky Marciano hung up his cement boxing mitts, and Bob Barker made his TV debut. But the real news that year was Tobin Rote’s 11 rushing touchdowns during the Packers’ 4-8 season. How many rushing TDs did he have over the remaining five years of his career? Eight.
These are, of course, historical observations, and not historical conclusions. Newton could indeed continue to be a historical quarterback, and shatter the perception supported by the very history he set that his scoring on the ground isn’t repeatable, and therefore his fantasy production will take at least a slight tumble.
But when you’re drafting and likely spending a second-round pick on a quarterback who earned 15 percent of his 411 fantasy points last year through rushing touchdowns, be very aware that the history he’s battling is a mighty foe.