July 19, 2024

Cam Newton says Lamar Jackson is best dual-threat QB in NFL history: Who is the greatest in both eras?


Cam Newton is considered one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in NFL history, maybe even the best. If pressed, Newton says he isn’t the GOAT of the dual-threat quarterbacks. 

Newton deferred to Lamar Jackson as the greatest dual-threat quarterback, citing a different style of play than the quarterback who has the most rushing touchdowns for a player at his position (75) than any in NFL history. 

“Lamar’s style is different than mine,” Newton said on the 4th-and-1 podcast. “He’s got big plays any play. He’s got speed that I never had. And he’s just a legend. I played the game more powerful. I can run, but I’m going to probably get caught. Vick, Lamar, they ain’t getting caught.”

Who is the greatest dual-threat quarterback in NFL history? That’s a long debate, considering how much the game has changed and running quarterbacks are more prevalent than ever. This list will be divided into two parts: quarterbacks who mostly scrambled to get yards (pre-2000) and the hybrid era of quarterbacks the game has now (post-2000). 

Scrambling era (pre-2000)

1. Steve Young

Young wasn’t just a good running quarterback, he was excellent. When Young retired, he was second all time among quarterbacks in rushing yards (4,239) and rushing touchdowns (43) — while carrying a 5.9 yards-per-carry average. 

Where Young separates himself from the rest is his excellence as a passer as well. Young led the NFL in completion percentage five times, passing touchdowns four times, yards per attempt five times, and passer rating six times. He was a two-time MVP and First Team All-Pro three consecutive years. 

Young led the NFL in passer rating four straight years (1991-1994), completion percentage four straight years (1994-1997), yards per attempt four straight years (1991-1994), and passing touchdowns three straight years (1992-1994). He threw for 33,124 yards and 232 touchdowns with a passer rating of 96.8 — first in NFL history at the time of his retirement. 

Young was a master in throwing and running, and a first-ballot Hall of Famer to boot. 

2. Fran Tarkenton

Rewriting the record books for scrambling quarterbacks in his era, Tarkenton had 3,674 rushing yards at the time of his retirement — the most by a quarterback in NFL history. He was fifth in rushing touchdowns (32) by a quarterback at the time of his retirement as well. 

Tarkenton was also the all-time leader in passing yards (47,003) and passing touchdowns (342) at the time of his retirement, the first player in NFL history to have 45,000 passing yards and 300 touchdowns. He also won one NFL MVP award, made eight Pro Bowls, and led the league in passing yards and passing touchdowns in his final season. 

Despite not winning a Super Bowl, the Hall of Famer is one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history. 

3. Randall Cunningham

Dubbed “The Ultimate Weapon,” Cunningham was ahead of his time. He rewrote the record books for quarterbacks, having an NFL-record 4,928 rushing yards for his position by the time he retired in 2002. Cunningham led the NFL in yards per carry twice (1989, 1990) and had 500+ rushing yards in six out of seven seasons (1986-1990, 1992). 

When Cunningham retired, he had six seasons of 500+ rushing yards, triple the amount of the next highest quarterback. He also threw for 29,979 yards and 207 touchdowns, leading the league in passer rating and yards per attempt once (1998, when Cunningham was an All-Pro).

Cunningham set the standard for the dual-threat era that was to come in the next century. 

4. John Elway

One of the best scrambling quarterbacks of his era, Elway was fourth in NFL history in quarterback rushing yards (3,407) and tied for seventh in rushing touchdowns (33). He was a nine-time Pro Bowler and the 1987 NFL MVP, leading the league in passing yards in 1993. 

Elway was second all time in passing yards (51,475) and third in passing touchdowns by the time of his retirement, also earning two Super Bowls in his final two years. He was also tied for second in NFL history in fourth-quarter comebacks (31). 

While Elway was known for his scrambling ability, he’s more known for his ability to carry many average Denver Broncos teams over the years. He was one of the most-clutch quarterbacks of his era, as his scrambling ability played a massive role in that aspect of his game. 

5. Tobin Rote

The first of the scrambling quarterbacks, Rote was the first quarterback to amass 3,000 rushing yards (had 3,128 at the time of his retirement in 1966). His 37 rushing touchdowns were fourth in NFL history as well. 

Rote led the NFL in passing touchdowns twice, passing yards once, and passing touchdowns once. He also led the AFL in passer rating once in 1963, the year he was an All-Pro. The two time Pro Bowler also won an NFL and AFL championship with the Green Pay Packers and San Diego Chargers, respectively. 

Rote wasn’t mentioned much until the dual-threat quarterbacks transformed the game, but he deserves his recognition in NFL history. 

Dual-threat era (post-2000)

1. Michael Vick

Vick changed the game for what was to come at the quarterback position. The first quarterback to rush for 1,000 yards in a season (2006), Vick set the record for rushing yards by a quarterback that season with 1,039. He led the NFL in yards per carry five times and retired as the league’s all-time leading rusher for quarterbacks with 6,109 (the first quarterback to have 6,000 career rushing yards). 

A four-time Pro Bowler, Vick leads all quarterbacks in NFL history with a 7.0 yards-per-carry average (also the first quarterback to rush for 900+ yards in a season twice). He also threw for 22,464 yards and 133 touchdowns, while being a highlight reel every week. 

The quarterback position changed because of what Vick was able to do on the ground. He set the standard.

2. Cam Newton

A former MVP, Newton played a significant role in the transformation of the modern quarterback. Among the NFL records Newton owns, he has the most rushing touchdowns ever by a quarterback (75) and the most games with a passing and rushing touchdown (32). Newton is second only to Vick (6,109) in career rushing yards by a quarterback (5,628).

Newton is the only player in NFL history with 30+ touchdown passes and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a season. He was also the first player in NFL history with 4,000+ passing yards and 10+ rushing touchdowns in a season and the first quarterback in NFL history with multiple seasons of 20+ passing touchdowns and 10+ rushing touchdowns. He also rushed for 10+ touchdowns in multiple seasons, the first in NFL history to accomplish the feat. 

The first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season, Newton threw for 32,382 yards and 194 touchdowns in his career. He also transcended the game for this current generation. 

3. Lamar Jackson

Primed to rewrite the record books in the next few years, Jackson is already one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the NFL has ever seen. Hs 5,258 rushing yards are fourth-most by a quarterback in NFL history, while his 13 100-yard rushing games and 61.8 rushing yards per game are the best for a quarterback in league history. 

Jackson recorded his third career 800-yard rushing season in 2023, breaking a tie with Vick (two) for the most such seasons by a quarterback in NFL history. He is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger to reach 700 rushing yards in five consecutive seasons (2019-2023) and is the only quarterback since the 1970 merger to reach 600 rushing yards in each of the first six years of a career (2018-2023). No other quarterback in NFL history has more than four such seasons in a career.

Jackson is one of four quarterbacks since the 1970 merger with multiple seasons posting at least 25 passing touchdowns and five rushing touchdowns in a career, joining Josh Allen (four), Deshaun Watson (two) and Steve Young (two). He has led the league in touchdown passes once and has 125 touchdown passes with a career rating of 98.6. There’s also the two NFL MVP awards. 

The records are ready to be reset with Jackson, who is just 852 yards away from passing Vick for the most rushing yards by a quarterback in NFL history. 

4. Josh Allen

Another quarterback who is rewriting the record books, Allen is becoming one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks the league has ever seen. Allen burst into second on the all-time rushing touchdown list by a quarterback (53), tying Jalen Hurts with a single-season-record 15 rushing touchdowns last season.

Allen is eighth on the all-time rushing list for quarterbacks (3,611) and is the first player in NFL history to record 40+ total touchdowns in four straight seasons. He set a single-season record for most games with a passing and rushing touchdown in a season (11) and his 221 total touchdowns are the most ever after a player’s first six seasons. 

The only player to throw 30+ passing touchdowns and 5+ rushing touchdowns in a season three times, Allen is writing his own chapter in the record books. He’s just 22 rushing touchdowns away from Newton’s all-time rushing touchdown mark. 

Wilson is third on the all-time list for rushing yards by a quarterback (5,307), which shouldn’t be surprising given his longevity at the position. The nine-time Pro Bowler led the league in yards per carry once (2014) and rushed for 500+ yards in a season five times. 

Also a prolific passer, Wilson led the league in passer rating (2015) and passing touchdowns once (2017). He’s thrown for 334 touchdowns and has a career passer rating of 100.0 (fourth all time). He’s fifth all time in yards per carry (5.4) and 10th in game-winning drives (39). 

The numbers add up for Wilson, who also has a Super Bowl title to his name. He may have a spot in the Hall of Fame when all is said and done. 





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