The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports Columns

January 9, 2013

Rueda: Running QBs are exciting, but at what cost?

— Was lured into  discussion about Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder the other day and somehow it morphed into: Who will be the better quarterback — Andrew Luck of Indianapolis or Robert Griffin III of Washington.

Keep in mind this was before RG3’s devastating knee injury that will undoubtedly have an impact on what type of season he has next year, assuming he plays at all. It’s an interesting discussion because they are two very different quarterbacks.

RG3 loves to run and creates many of his passing opportunities with his legs. Luck is more of the classic, drop back, stay-in-the-pocket type passer.

When the discussion began I remember thinking Luck is likely to have the more productive career simply because RG3 will probably miss more games due to injury. It is very difficult for running quarterbacks to stay healthy in today’s NFL because the linemen and linebackers are so much bigger and faster than they used to be.

Griffin may have found that out the hard way the last two weeks. It’s probably safe to say that if he wants to have a long and effective career he’s going to have to ease up on the running and doing a little more passing.

A glance at some of the top quarterbacks in the league over the last 5-10 years bears that out. Guys like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger are considered pocket passers and have been able to stay in the league awhile because of it.

It can be argued that some of those guys are, indeed, good runners. Rodgers, for example, runs extremely well (56 attempts, 271 yards, 2 TDs in 2012).

But the Packers are smart enough to keep him out of those situations as much as possible. Outside of a quarterback sneak, you’ll rarely see a designed running play involving Rodgers.

The young guys who like to run — RG3, Russell Wilson, Ponder, Andy Dalton, Colin Kapernick — are learning, or will soon learn, that it’s smarter to use your legs simply to buy time instead of to gain yardage.

Granted, the QB’s who run are fun to watch. RG3 may have been the most exciting player in the NFL this year. Now some would ask: At what cost?

It’s a sure bet the Vikings would like to get Ponder proficient enough in the passing game to decrease his rushing attempts. To try to do otherwise does not lend itself to a lengthy NFL career at quarterback.

Jim Rueda is the Free Press sports editor. To contact him, call 344-6381 or e-mail him at jrueda@mankatofreepress.com.

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