Randall Cunningham – More than Just a Running Quarterback

Posted: October 10, 2011 by hofworthy in Hall of Fame, NFL, Randall Cunningham

Yesterday Michael Vick broke Randall Cunningham’s career rushing record for a quarterback on a 53-yard sprint. I had mixed feelings about this to say the least. I’m not known to be a dog lover per se and I hold no grudges toward Michael Vick based upon his chronicled criminal past. However, the rushing record came in a game where Vick threw 4 interceptions en route to the Eagles’ fourth straight loss of what is already becoming an almost forgettable season for the birds.

For some, it will be easy now to say that Vick compares to or is better than Cunningham based on the rushing record alone. Consider the fact that Cunningham took 161 career games to amass 4,928 yards rushing while Vick has 20 more yards in just 103 career games. Vick is consistently and perhaps appropriately lauded for his athleticism on the field. Recently on a “Game Break” detailing a Michael Vick sack evasion that was then thrown for a touchdown, Shannon Sharpe said something to the effect of “No one in the history of the NFL could have made that play.” (Really, Shannon- is all it takes to be an NFL talking head a nice suit mixed with loads of hyperbole?) And who can forget John Madden’s perpetual man crush on Michael Vick? (Not as obvious, perhaps, as his love affair with Brett Favre…)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that Vick’s praise is unwarranted. But let’s consider other statistics that make a quarterback great. How about the ability to get the ball down field through the air? For his career, Vick has thrown for 15,945 yards; Cunningham has thrown for almost double that: 29,979 yards. Randall was the complete quarterback. Vick’s statistically best year is arguably 2006 when he rushed for over a 1,000 yards (becoming the first QB to do so) and threw for 2,474 yards. Cunningham’s best statistical year was perhaps 1990, when he rushed for 942 yards. But get this: he also passed for an impressive 3,466 yards! If one looks at most of Vick’s and Cunningham’s passing statistics it would be easy to surmise that Michael Vick will never be the passer that Randall Cunningham was.

But the last thing that must be considered is the fact that Randall Cunningham paved the road for not just Michael Vick, but all of the “Michael Vicks” –or more appropriately-the “Randall Cunninghams” of the NFL. Randall defined the running quarterback in a time when it was undervalued and unappreciated. Since Randall’s time, coaches have begun to understand the double threat of the running quarterback and it has become an asset that teams plan for. Randall was the pioneer.  He was the original.  Perhaps more players than just Michael Vick owe a debt of gratitude to Randall Cunningham. Think of the early careers of Steve McNair, Kordell Stewart, Daunte Culpepper, Donovan McNabb, and now the emergence of Tim Tebow. Are Michael Vick and the rest worthy of eternal enshrinement in Canton? Time will tell. But one thing is for sure, Randall Cunningham is.

  1. Josh says:

    If Randall had a ring there would be no debating this, however, because he lacks that I think he will always have his detractors. Cunningham was amazing but we most often measure greatness by championships, which he has none. I believe he will eventually make the HOF but not until years from now as part of an attempt to do what you have suggested, that he was a pioneer of a new age of QBs.

    • hofworthy says:

      I guess that’s the real debate. Is the HOF truly about greatness as measured by individual accomplishments, feats, statistics, or is it measured more by championships which is ultimately a team accomplishment. It’s hard to separate the two, but we’re simply pointing out that comparing the statistics to other HOF qbs, Randall is worthy. I agree though, the one area that he is lacking is the championship ring, which is really a team accomplishment.

  2. Josh says:

    Also, perhaps this site should be renamed cunninghammanlove.com

  3. J_Hermy says:

    Josh-I do think you are correct about the rings but as Phil points out-championships are not won by individuals. Perhaps an individual provides the “missing piece” to make a team championship caliber but even Michael Jordan couldn’t have got it done without Scottie Pippen, Bill Cartwright, Horace Grant, and others. But-do teams make the hall of fame? No. Not the Pro Football Hall of Fame anyway. Would Michael have made the BB Hall without all his rings? He should have. Anyone who saw him play knew that.

    And look-Dan Marino has no rings. Now, I won’t say that Cunningham was as good statistically as Marino, apart from total yardage and TD’s he isn’t that far off. (Stats such as TD:int, yards/attempt, so forth) And consider the teams that Marino got to play for. Offensive juggernauts-Duper, Clayton, etc. All were excellent receivers. Look what Randall did for the ’98 Vikings. He finally gets a fearsome combination of receivers and an offensive scheme (period) and he’s electrifying. Imagine what would have been had Randall had that surrounding him his whole career?

    Alas, individuals don’t go to the HOF based on what could’ve been. However, Randall’s stats (and his abilities in Super Techmo Bowl as QB12) stand alone as making him hofworthy.

  4. jbrode says:

    Ya, hello. When is this thing gunna start talkin’ ’bout Kordell Stuarts shot at gettin’ in at Haul? i mean shoot he done signal handly lead the Stillers ta dem playoffs time after time after time after time in the ’90’s. If he had a decent D-FENSE behind ‘im ‘e wooda brought at least six more titles home. Cowher Pauer!

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