Prior to the 2012 NFL season, the injury risks that quarterbacks incur when they take off and run wasn’t as lamented upon or dissected as it is nowadays. Earlier that year Heisman winning quarterback Robert Griffin III was taken with the second overall pick in the draft out of Baylor University.
Griffin was taking the league by storm his with his tremendous dual-threat ability that the league had not seen since the Michael Vick experience that graced the gridiron in the 2000s. He was running wild and carving up defenses with deadly play action, but his slender frame would not hold up the entire season.
His tendency to try to get as much yardage as he could on nearly every run and rarely getting out of bounds would cost him all the momentum that he had garnered in his early career and establish a new stereotype that would follow him and every other dual-threat quarterback that would come in the league.
The hit that he took from former Ravens’ and now Eagles’ defensive tackle Haloti Ngata week 14 when he was diving for extra yard did not cause Griffin’s initial injury that would result in a torn ACL and LCL in a 24-14 wild-card round loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs.
His story now serves as a cautionary tale for all mobile quarterbacks that have entered the league and that are being looked at as potential draft prospects. The overemphasized and quite frankly overexaggerated notion that mobile quarterbacks are more susceptible to injury than their more stationary counterparts has been a black cloud hovering over and watering the seeds of doubt and skepticism on the careers as well as longevity of the dual-threat quarterbacks that are currently in or aspire to be in the league.
History suggests that the recent magnified attention being placed on these concerns are a bit skewed and one-sided and it actually proves that the contrary is truer. Outside of Griffin’s injury, those doubters like to cite two of the more recent injuries that happened to popular franchise quarterbacks that happened while they were on the run.
After leading the eventual 2017 Superbowl champion Philadelphia Eagles to a 11-2 start, the top seed in the NFC and the best record in the league in just his second season, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz tore his ACL after he got hit simultaneously by two defenders as he dove into the endzone for a score in a week 14 matchup with the Los Angeles Rams, ending his season.
Last year 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who had just signed a record-breaking deal worth 137.5 million last offseason tore his ACL just three weeks into the season in the team’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Garoppolo was running down the sideline when he tried to stop on a dime to make a defender miss but his cleat dug into the turf and his knee buckled, tearing his anterior cruciate ligament and ending his season.
While Garoppolo is not known for his mobility as much as Wentz, in both instances each of them chose to put themselves harms way by doing more than they had to. Jimmy had already picked up the first down and was trying to cut back into the field of play instead of getting out of bounds and Carson could slide and lived to play another day.
These two examples pale in comparison to the multitude of injuries that other franchise quarterbacks have incurred when they chose to stand tall and remain in the pocket.
CBS star analyst and former Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo suffered nearly all of the injuries that hobbled him, cost him his starting job and ultimately his career all came while he was either in the pocket or trying to extend the play behind the line of scrimmage.
As much scrutiny as Ravens’ Lamar Jackson has been under for utilizing his legs, the quarterback in Baltimore that proceeded him, Joe Flacco, who the team recently agreed to trade to the Denver Broncos tore his ACL in week 11 of the 2015 season when one of his own offensive linemen was bull rushed into his knee and ended his consecutive games started streak at 122.
The past two seasons the Green Bay Packers have missed the playoffs in large part because their franchise quarterback and two-time league MVP Aaron Rodgers has been hobbled with a rash of injuries to his hamstring, collarbone, and groin. Only on one occasion did one of them occur when he was on the run and pulled up lame, the others all occurred when he was sacked inside the pocket or was taken down in the backfield.
The most gruesome injury to happen to a quarterback in recent memory happened occurred last season when Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith suffered a broken leg in week 11 against the Houston Texans. On the play, the Texans sent cornerback Kareem Jackson on a blitz and as he wrapped Smith up for a sack, defensive end JJ Watt jumped on top of him, resulting in his leg to break in two places and ending his season.
It was a tragic irony that Smith suffered the injury on the 33rd anniversary of Redskins legendary quarterback Joe Theismann’s career-ending injury that he suffered while in the pocket on a flea flicker play that Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor blew up. Smith now faces a lengthy recovery of which some doubt that he will be able to return to form.
There are countless more example of starting quarterbacks that had their seasons and even careers derailed or ended by injuries that they suffered while in the pocket or behind the line of scrimmage.
When a quarterback decides to take off and run they often have the option to protect themselves by sliding or getting out of bounds and the injuries that they typically suffer from aren’t of the season-ending variety if they are smart and show some special as well as situational awareness.