Point, counterpoint: Are running quarterbacks the wave of the future?


Packers.com Staff Writer Mike Spofford says yes.

I know there's greater injury risk with a running quarterback, and we saw (if we dared to look) what happened to Robert Griffin III on Sunday when he pushed his beat-up body too far.

But I still see these types of QBs as a significant future trend in the NFL for two main reasons – they're easier to find, and they have a better chance of immediate success.

Quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers don't come around all the time, and for every Andrew Luck that does, there are far more top-10 draft picks at the position that don't pan out.

It's incredibly difficult to neutralize that advantage a team has with an elite passing QB. You have to find the right guy, have the patience to develop him and keep a core of veterans in place to help bring him along.

Pure pocket passers are fewer and farther between in the college ranks now, which makes step one above – finding the right guy – a tough enough task. Then it's even tougher for that player to have a realistic chance to win early.

The Vikings spent the 12th overall pick in 2011 on Christian Ponder, and if he hadn't finally put it together in the final month of his second season, the Vikings would have been playoff-less for two straight years having made a major draft investment in a franchise QB. Ponder was the fourth QB taken in that draft and the only one to lead his team to a playoff berth thus far.

That's where the running QBs come in. Maybe the Panthers aren't letting Cam Newton, the No. 1 pick in the '11 draft, run enough. Look at the immediate success RGIII, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick have enjoyed upon getting their chance. Those zone-read option plays give the defense more to think about, and that in effect simplifies the passing playbook because there are only so many exotic defenses a team can throw at a young QB and stay sound against that college-style stuff.

If the complex NFL game is simplified a bit, it gives a young QB a better chance.

Now, will NFL defensive coordinators get a better handle on these running QBs? Of course they will, and they'll do so soon. That's what offseasons are for. Look how long it took the top defensive minds to bring the Packers' record-setting offense back down to earth – one offseason.

They'll figure it out, and these running QBs will take even more hits and be even more susceptible to injury, but that's not going to stop teams from trying to level the playing field against the elite passing QBs by designing offenses around different styles of signal callers.

They'll just stock up, because there are more of them than the QBs they're trying to beat.

Packers.com Editor Vic Ketchman says no.

Just wait a little bit. The running quarterback fad will go the way of the wildcat formation.

You don't agree? OK, quickly, name the running quarterbacks who've had long and productive NFL careers.

Time's up.

If you slowed down after Michael Vick and Steve Young, you weren't alone.

This isn't new stuff. You can go all the way back to a quarterback from Boston College named Jack Concannon. He was a rollout, running quarterback who was the first pick of the 1964 AFL draft, but signed with the Eagles of the NFL as a second-round pick. He put up some decent rushing numbers, but was injured in the fourth year of his career and that was the end of his running days. He spent some time then as a backup quarterback and ended his career with the Packers.

Pro football has long been enamored with running quarterbacks. Pro football has always tried to find a place in the game for a guy that can run as well as pass. Does Bobby Douglass come to mind?

I covered a guy in Jacksonville, Mark Brunell, who put on a scrambling exhibition in 1995 and '96 the likes of which I had never seen, but then came the knee injury and Brunell's scrambling days were over. Fortunately, Brunell was able to transition to a pocket passer.

Eventually, it happens to all of them. Whether it's while running with the ball or while in the pocket, they get hurt and lose their legs. It even happened to Randall Cunningham, who blew out his ACL in the 1991 season opener against the Packers when he was tackled by Bryce Paup. Cunningham had some good years after that, but his running skills quickly left him.

RG3 and Russell Wilson had great rookie seasons in 2012. They dazzled us with their mobility and improvisational skills. So, who do you think will enjoy the longest and most productive career: RG3, Wilson or Andrew Luck? I'll take Luck.

The good thing about pocket passers is that when they get hurt, they usually don't lose their game, because the strength of their game is their arm, not their legs. The really bad thing about a running quarterback is that when he gets hurt and loses his ability to run, you got lot of dead money on your salary cap.

The fad will fade, just as it has with Tim Tebow.

In college football, the quarterback is a runner. In pro football, he's a passer. He's a guy who stands in the pocket that is being provided by the men who are paid to do so, and he distributes the ball to men who are paid to run with it.

Cast your vote in the poll on the right, please.

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