But now, Grogan knows his most prominent NFL record is in jeopardy. Grogan, whose 12 rushing touchdowns in 1976 were the most ever by a quarterback, has watched Panthers rookie Cam Newton close in on his 35-year-old mark.
Newton has 10 rushing touchdowns through 11 games, and he has been the focal point of Carolina’s offense. With his running ability, it seems almost inevitable that Newton will set a new record, and Grogan is perfectly at peace with that.
“I don’t know that it would bother me one way or the other,” Grogan told NESN.com. “Records are made to be broken. He’s a tremendous athlete. The game changed there for a while where quarterbacks weren’t running much, then you see a lot of these kids come out of college that have run the spread offense or are used to running the football. I think you’re going to see more and more use of the quarterbacks now, particularly in the red-zone area to put pressure on the defenses, which is how I scored most of my touchdowns. If he breaks it, he breaks it. I can’t stop him.”
Grogan is actually a little stunned that his record has stood for so many years.
“I’m surprised it has been there that long,” Grogan said. “There’s been some really good runners to come along through the years. Randall Cunningham, Kordell Stewart, Michael Vick, I thought was the guy who was going to break it. The thing that I’m most proud of was when I was not able to run anymore when my knees started going bad, I was able to adjust to become a pocket passer. I stayed in the league 16 years. It’s going to be interesting to see whether some of those names that I mentioned before weren’t able to make that adjustment once they lost their mobility. They were pretty much done. I had a good career. I did what I had to do. I had a record for a long time. That was nice to have, but when it goes, it goes.”
Grogan, who was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame in 1995, was a fan favorite who was considered by many to be the toughest player to ever wear the New England uniform. In his 16-year career (1975-90), he passed for 26,886 yards and 182 touchdowns, and he rushed for 2,176 yards and 35 touchdowns. The majority of Grogan’s rushing totals came in his first five seasons when he amassed 1,738 yards and 23 scores.
The 1976 Grogan-led Patriots advanced to the AFC Championship Game and were considered the best team in franchise history before the recent Super Bowl run. In that season, Grogan had an 11-3 record with 1,903 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, and he rushed 60 times for 397 yards (6.6 yards per carry) and the 12 scores.
Grogan also set the rushing touchdown record in a 14-game season, which might put a little extra pressure on Newton to break it in the next three games if he doesn’t want an asterisk next to his mark.
Through 11 games this season, Newton has 3,093 passing yards and 12 passing touchdowns, and he has rushed 86 times for 464 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns. Because Newton’s Panthers only have a 3-8 record, they don’t get much national appeal and Grogan hasn’t been able to keep a close eye on Newton’s game, but Grogan is certainly familiar with his work.
“He certainly has all the tools,” Grogan said. “He’s a big strong kid, great mobility and a great arm. It seems he’s picking up the professional game very quickly for a professional quarterback, so I think he’ll have a lot of success for a long time, hopefully.”
And because of that, Grogan figures it might just be a matter of time before Newton takes that top perch, and he’s OK with it.
“I don’t really think about it that much,” Grogan said. “I wasn’t the greatest quarterback to ever play in the NFL. I had a nice career. I was just happy to hang around for 16 years and get to do something I enjoyed doing. The fact that I had a record that was an NFL record, not just a Patriots record, that was nice, but I’ve kind of gotten used to having records broken as Bledsoe and Brady have come along after me. So this is nothing new.”
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