TIM COWLISHAW | DALLAS MORNING NEWS
As if Dak Prescott needed one more hill to climb on the road to ultimate respect, the Super Bowl came along to deliver a decisive blow to one of the most popular theories about the Cowboys quarterback.
Dak needs to run more.
This is something virtually every Cowboys fan has thought and all of us in the press box have suggested at some point. In the club’s most one-sided game of the season, a 40-7 romp past Jacksonville in Week 6, Prescott ran for 82 yards. The Cowboys need more of that, we all shouted.
Not so fast.
When the Cowboys went 3-5 and had their season on the ropes, Prescott had 247 yards rushing. In the second half when Dallas went 7-1 to win the East, he ran for 58 yards.
New coordinator Kellen Moore was not a gifted runner at any level, so whether he sees more Prescott running as a necessity or even a benefit remains to be seen. With 305 yards rushing, Prescott ranked ninth among quarterbacks last season as rookies Lamar Jackson (who barely played the first half of the season) and Josh Allen led the way, topping 600 yards each.
The notion of the mobile quarterback and the edge that one provides is a popular topic. Always has been. Fifteen years ago we believed Michael Vick was going to revolutionize the game. When I was a (much) younger football writer in the ‘80s, we thought Randall Cunningham was going to revolutionize the game. Or we thought Steve Young was going to revolutionize the game.
Go back two decades before that, and plenty of folks believed Fran Tarkenton was going to revolutionize the game.
That’s not to dismiss any of these fine quarterbacks. They, along with Carolina’s Cam Newton, comprise the top five rushing quarterbacks of all time. Each made a mark on the game.
This is just a reminder that the more we think this game evolves, the more the Super Bowl reminds us that what has always won is still winning. And it’s not running quarterbacks.
Young, Tarkenton and Newton are a combined 1-4 in Super Bowls. Vick and Cunningham never made one.
In 53 years, one quarterback who rushed for more than 400 yards that season has captured a Super Bowl ring. That’s Seattle’s Russell Wilson, who ran for 539 yards in his second pro season. If you drop it down to 300 yards, only two more Super Bowl winners get added to the list.
If you guessed Young and Denver’s John Elway, congratulations, those are great guesses. But they’re wrong. They had 300-yard seasons in their career, but not when they won titles.
The Cowboys’ Roger Staubach in 1971 (343 yards) and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in 2010 (356) were the others who used their scrambling skills to keep their offenses rolling. Go on down to 250 yards and the only additions are Young and, a bit of a surprise, the more-mobile-than-we-think Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears in 1985.
That’s just five quarterbacks out of 53 who bothered to run for as much as 250 yards in their Super Bowl seasons. To add some greatness to this list, those who ran for 200 yards include Montana, Elway and Terry Bradshaw twice. Think how long ago those Hall of Famers played.
We think the game is all about mobility now? In the last 20 Super Bowls, the only winner to even run for 100 yards beyond Wilson and Rodgers was Ben Roethlisberger, lunging across that bar with 101 yards in 2008.
Super Bowls have been won by the guys who throw it, not run and throw. That may change one day, but there has been a fairly loud discussion of mobile quarterbacks and their value going on for better than 30 years. And some good runners like Newton, Donovan McNabb and Colin Kaepernick have reached Super Bowls, so the additional weapon certainly has its value. But the list of winners as seen here is preposterously short.
At 290 yards, Tom Brady is closing in on the 300 mark. Of course, that’s when you combine all six of his Super Bowl-winning seasons.
Does all of this mean that Prescott is already running plenty? I would say not necessarily. As long as he runs occasionally, the threat remains valuable and at the very least keeps one important defender away from league-leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott on read option plays. Beyond that, the Cowboys have plenty of victories to seek before reaching any Super Bowls.
Mostly these numbers tell us that experience means a lot. Quarterbacks tend to run a lot less as their careers move along when injuries and age take their toll. Moving the ball with your feet is wonderful. Throwing it on target wins you Lombardi Trophies.