Sam Farmer / ON THE NFL

Quarterbacks get a rush out of great running backs

Or, in the case of John Riggins, some diesels. Thirty years ago with the Washington Redskins, Joe Theismann was handing off to Riggins and marveled at the sight of the future Hall of Fame bruiser.

"We have the best seat in the house," Theismann said of quarterbacks. "John hit [cornerback] Luther Bradley of the Detroit Lions on a goal-line play. I saw the pile, and all I saw was Luther's helmet pop up in the air like a pop-a-shot. I watched the helmet roll in slow motion along the ground and thought, 'My god, he's killed him. He's knocked his head off.'

"That's the power of some of these guys."

NFL quarterbacks say that unless you've been in that chaos, heard and felt those collisions, seen those holes open and close as fast as a camera shutter, it's impossible to fully appreciate how difficult the job of a ballcarrier can be.

"I wish people had the view that I had when I handed the ball off, what it looked like and what it sounded like," said former NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, now with CBS. "And how many people would have a much greater respect for just how physical and nasty it really is when you're running with the football.

"When you're taking it out of the I-formation, and you have all 11 guys on a defense coming at you, and they're all hitting you at different angles in different places, on the back of your thighs, around the shoulders, in the head, around the ankles, twisting your ankles at the bottom of piles, you understand that they're the most underappreciated and underpaid players in the NFL."

Being able to throw the ball is important, that's undeniable. But nothing on the field says physical domination as much as an ability to run the ball.

"What's better in life than being a bully on the field?" said CBS's Phil Simms, former New York Giants quarterback. "The running back and the offensive line get in that state of mind where they're bullies and they're beating the other guy up. Hell, I was a quarterback and I got involved in it. I'd be talking crap in the huddle. I wanted to walk up to defensive linemen and go, 'Man, we are kicking your butt!'

"Now, of course, I had nothing to do with it except maybe calling the play correctly and giving words of encouragement. But it really did empower everybody. Running did it."

That's something any quarterback could understand.

"If you could get into our eyes, you could look at very similar shots of very different backs — Adrian Peterson, John Riggins, [Washington's] Alfred Morris, [Seattle's] Marshawn Lynch — and you'd see some of the same things," Theismann said. "You'd see that same type of power, speed, determination, coming from the great running backs. It doesn't change.

"And as a quarterback, all you're doing is sitting there going, 'Thank you, Lord, for putting him on my team!'"

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer

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