When Cam Newton rushed for a 16-yard touchdown in the third quarter of the Panthers' 33-20 victory over the Redskins on Sunday, he tied a record for most rushing scores by a rookie quarterback since the merger.
He tied the marks established by Eric Hipple (1981) and Vince Young (2006), and is three shy of Billy Kilmer's all-time rookie record of 10 set in 1961.
With nine games left in Carolina's season, and no signs of Newton slowing down, Kilmer's mark seems destined to not only go down but get shattered. Ditto for Steve Grogan's record for most rushing touchdowns in a single season by any quarterback (12 in 1976).
To put what Newton has done so far this season into perspective, he has either surpassed, tied or is closing in on the high-water marks for some of the greatest dual-threat quarterbacks in the history of the game -- not the likes of Tim Tebow or Bobby Douglass, who are/were essentially run-first quarterbacks, but rather guys who were equal threats as passers and runners.
Newton's success this season got us to thinking about the top dual-threat quarterbacks in modern NFL history (listed in order of most rushing touchdowns each had in a single season):
Daunte Culpepper (10)
Culpepper had an 11-year career in the NFL but it was really an incredible five-year stretch with the Vikings that defined it. In those five seasons, Culpepper averaged more than 3,700 passing yards, 465 rushing yards and almost six rushing TDs. He had a high of 10 rushing scores in 2002. Of all the quarterbacks on this list, Culpepper most closely resembles the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Newton, both in his style of play and size (he is an inch shorter than Newton and played at around the same weight before putting on a few pounds at the end of his career).
Michael Vick (9)
Vick wouldn't have been on this list if his career was judged on his days in Atlanta alone. He could run the hell out of the ball and had one of the strongest arms in the league, but his accuracy as a passer was underwhelming. That changed under the tutelage of Andy Reid in Philadelphia and now defenses have to account for him at all times, in and out of the pocket. Ironically, his season-best for rushing touchdowns came last season when he found the end zone 10 times, while passing for more than 3,000 yards. In 2006, he became the first quarterback in NFL history to rush for more then 1,000 yards. In many ways, he is the antithesis of Newton; he's much smaller (6-0, 215) and he's a slasher, not a physical runner like the Carolina QB.
Steve McNair (8)
He didn't become starter until his third season, but when he did, McNair hit the ground running. He rushed for 20 touchdowns in his first three seasons as a starter, including eight in both 1997 and '99, and went six straight seasons with at least 70 rushing attempts -- making him a "workhorse" quarterback. His 674 rushing yards in '97 was at the time the third-highest total for a quarterback in NFL history (Vick has eclipsed that mark three times since). Much like Vick, McNair greatly improved his accuracy as his career progressed. He went from a 52 percent passer in his first season as a starter to 65 percent in his 13th and final NFL season.
Steve Young (7)
Young is a lot closer to Vick than he is to Newton, both in style and size. If you had to rank the all-time greatest dual threats, Young would be vying for the top. He passed for more than 33,000 yards in his career and added 4,239 more on the ground, with 43 rushing touchdowns -- an NFL record for quarterbacks. His accuracy as a passer over the span of his career separates him from this group; in fact, in 1994, he completed 70.3 percent of his passes, the third-highest single-season mark in NFL history.
Randall Cunningham (6)
Cunningham threw one of the prettiest deep balls of any quarterback in NFL history. He wasn't always the most accurate (although that improved as the years went by), but teams certainly respected his ability to throw the ball. His legs, though, made him a true all-around threat. He never rushed for more than six touchdowns in a season, but from 1986-'92 he accumulated 28 rushing touchdowns. He had the height of Newton (6-4) but was a lanky 215, with a rushing style which resembled a gazelle rather than a charging bull.