Looking at CFL vs NFL quarterback running styles

By Marshall Ferguson, CFL.CA, @TSN_MARSH

CFL-NFL comparisons are often pointless.

I don’t have to explain to the already educated why the parallels are few and far between, but the reality is we find much more value in appreciating each style of football for their own pros and cons than trying to seamlessly weave the games together and form a brash opinion on how statistics and eras compare.

With that in mind, last week I was scrolling through twitter when I saw the following graphic from a Buffalo Bills analytics account.

QB Rushing as Percent of Team Offence

It caught my eye for two reasons. The first being that I love even the simplest of data visuals to help understand how players stack up against each other. The other being that I have been a lifelong Buffalo Bills apologist and for the first time in two decades, Tom Brady won’t be lingering over the AFC much in the same way the CFL’s East had to collectively exhale when Anthony Calvillo was no longer a Montreal Alouette.

I have written previously this season on projecting the 2020 CFL quarterback running game using last years results and an understanding of how the coaching carousel should affect Canadian passers using their legs, but this is different.

Inspired by the Bills graphic above, I wondered what CFL quarterbacks posted similar numbers for percentage of team rushing yards and percentage of team rushing touchdowns in 2019. The results didn’t disappoint.

Quarterback rushing is often formulaic. Looking at year-over-year statistics, there are always players defined as scramblers, pocket passers, short yardage fantasy point thieves and run-first quarterbacks who use their legs to distract from limited experience working within the pocket. The contrast of 2019 NFL and CFL quarterback rushing using the same metrics followed these standard formulas and the theoretical comparisons are good for an eyebrow raise at worst and a much needed chuckle at best.

Saskatchewan Roughriders QB Cody Fajardo = Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson

Jackson revolutionized the Ravens offence last year as their schemes experienced a forced revolution to fit his skill set. Much of the same can be said for the sudden change of Zach Collaros to Fajardo in 2019. Then offensive coordinator Stephen McAdoo applied a variety of quarterback run based options into the Riders attack that saw Fajardo rise far above the CFL pack in yards, just like Jackson.

BC Lions QB Mike Reilly = Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Veteran, bearded quarterback with a young family, quick wit and a gun slinger mentality? I’ll be honest this one made me laugh due to the sheer randomness of Fitzpatrick and Reilly getting paired in rushing metrics from 2019 while having so many similar traits on and off the field. One would hope Reilly wouldn’t need to run around so much in 2020 if given the proper protection. That was a task tackled in free agency when the Lions scored Ryker Mathews from Hamilton.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats QB Jeremiah Masoli = New York Jets QB Sam Darnold

Masoli’s rushing numbers are unfair to compare by any metric after missing the season following Week 7, but I found it interesting that Darnold, who missed chunks of 2019, posted a similar QB rushing profile last season while both men use their legs as an off kilter threat rather than a primary source of production.

Montreal Alouettes QB Vernon Adams Jr. = Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson

Shifty, deceptive in the open field and surprisingly strong on contact, Vernon Adams Jr. and Deshaun Watson have both shown the ability to play from behind with confidence and make a game breaking play with their legs on a called run or a scramble.

Hamilton Tiger-Cats QB Dane Evans = Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky

Both Trubisky and Evans find themselves looking for a promised opportunity to start in 2020 and both will have a training camp battle on their hands for the starting job this year. Last year both passers matched up with just over 20 percent of team rushing touchdowns and just under 15 percent of team rushing yards.

Calgary Stampeders QB Nick Arbuckle = Cincinnati Bengals QB Andy Dalton

Both Arbuckle and Dalton have found new teams for 2020 in Ottawa and Dallas respectively but the comparison to 2019 is undeniable as both qualified for a match with under 10 percent of team rushing yards but more than 40 percent of team rushing touchdowns.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers QB Chris Streveler = Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen

I’m not sure when we’ll ever see something like Chris Streveler again. He somehow carried a running attack that featured one of the best Canadian running backs we’ve ever seen in a Grey Cup Championship season while hitting pay dirt more than any other CFL quarterback. The physical comparisons to Allen are undeniable as both feature a strong, explosive lower body with some work to be done to become a well rounded passing threat.

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