It might feel like a distant memory now, but the Week Ten New York Jets-Pittsburgh Steelers game from 2014 will go down in history for at least two reasons. First of all, the Jets won, hanging on to beat the Steelers 20-13 after recovering a late onside kick, snapping an eight loss skid for Rex Ryan’s crew. Second, and perhaps slightly more memorable in the NFL record books, was that New York’s Michael Vick became the first quarterback in league history to rush for 6,000 yards in a career.
The NFL veteran has consistently been able to move the pigskin both with his feet and his arm, averaging more than seven yards per rush whenever he carries the ball. Vick’s exploits on the ground include a 1,000-yard season with the Falcons in 2006, the first ever by a quarterback. And while the Virginia Tech product has sat alone for several years on top of the all-time “most career rushing yards by a QB” list, the recent 6,000-yard milestone seems like a good time to open up the record books and see what other big-name signal-callers from years gone by join Vick as the best rushing quarterbacks pro football has ever seen.
Here, then, are the top seven rushing quarterbacks in NFL history, based on career yardage totals.
7. John Elway
In 16 years under center with the Denver Broncos, Hall of Famer John Elway rushed for a total of 3,407 yards, even though he never had more than 304 yards in a season. Elway, who started at least 11 games in every season he played, averaged 4.4 yards per rushing attempt and scored 33 touchdowns for the Broncos. Still, his biggest plays came with his arm: Elway’s career-long run went for just 31 yards.
6. Donovan McNabb
The Eagles have been fortunate enough to employ quite a few talented runners at quarterback in recent history, including longtime star Donovan McNabb (pictured). Of McNabb’s 3,459 career rushing yards, 3,249 came in a Philadelphia uniform. McNabb retired with a career rushing average of 5.6 yards per carry and 29 rushing scores to his credit.
5. Steve McNair
Over 13 years, first with the Oilers/Titans and later with the Ravens, quarterback Steve McNair consistently made big plays on the ground to help his team win. McNair carried the ball into the end zone 37 times, including a career-long 71-yard scoring run against the Buccaneers in 1998. McNair rolled up 3,590 rushing yards over his career on an average of 5.4 yards per carry.
4. Fran Tarkenton
Fran Tarkenton played 18 NFL seasons in all during the ’60s and ’70s with the Vikings, Giants, and then Vikings again. Tarkenton amassed 3,674 rushing yards over that span, averaging 5.4 yards per rush. Perhaps more amazingly, Tarkenton reached that total without ever putting together a 400-yard season. He finished his career with 32 rushing touchdowns, in addition to 342 more through the air.
3. Steve Young
49ers legend Steve Young rushed for at least 150 yards in each of his first 14 seasons in the NFL (two with Tampa Bay, then the rest in San Francisco). The Super Bowl XXIX MVP finished his career with 722 carries and 4,239 yards on the ground, scoring 43 touchdowns in the process.
2. Randall Cunningham
Randall Cunningham (pictured above) rushed for 4,928 yards over his 16 seasons as an NFL quarterback, which stood as the all-time record until Mr. Vick came along. Cunningham averaged 6.4 yards per carry and found the end zone with his legs 35 times, 32 of those with the Eagles. Best known for his time in Philly, Cunningham finished out his career with stints in Minnesota, Baltimore, and Dallas.
1. Michael Vick
Vick rushed for 6,109 yards in his career, more than half of them with the Falcons. He also scored 36 touchdowns on the ground and has at least one run of 20 or more yards in every season he’s played, including a career-best 61-yarder in 2013 with the Eagles.
All statistics are from Pro-Football Reference