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Drew Brees and the Evolution of the NFL Quarterback

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints stands on the field during the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on January 1, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Matt SteinCorrespondent IIDecember 8, 2014

When Drew Brees threw for his 5,085th yard in Week 16, people everywhere went crazy. While their reaction to a record being broken that has stood since 1984 is understood, it really shouldn't be that surprising.

You see, the position of quarterback in the NFL is evolving. With defensive players becoming stronger, faster and more athletic, quarterbacks have been forced to improve and evolve.

Just look at the chart below to see my point:

  Year               Top Passer           Yards           4,000-Yard Passers

1990 Warren Moon   4,689        1
1991 Warren Moon   4,690      1
1992 Dan Marino   4,116      1
1993 John Elway   4,030      2
1994 Drew Bledsoe   4,555      3
1995 Brett Favre   4,413      4
1996 Mark Brunell   4,367      3
1997 Jeff George   3,917      0    
1998 Brett Favre   4,212      2
1999 Steve Beuerlein   4,436      5
2000 Peyton Manning   4,413      3
2001 Kurt Warner   4,830      2
2002 Rich Gannon   4,689      4
2003 Peyton Manning   4,267


2004 Daunte Culpepper   4,717      5
2005 Tom Brady   4,110      2
2006 Drew Brees   4,418      5
2007 Tom Brady   4,803      7
2008 Drew Brees   5,069      6
2009  Matt Schaub   4,770     10
2010 Philip Rivers   4,710      5
2011 Drew Brees   5,476     10


As you can see from the information above, where 4,000 passing yards used to be a rare feat before 2005, it has now basically become the norm.

In fact, from 1990 to 2005, there were only 40 4,000-yard passing seasons. When you compare that to 2006-11, there were 43 4,000-yard passing seasons, with four 5,000-yard passing seasons.

That isn't to say that throwing for 4,000 yards in a season isn't impressive, it just isn't as impressive. Before 2006, Dan Marino's 5,084-yards seemed untouchable. However, with the league becoming more of a passer-friendly league, it became more and more apparent that Marino's record would finally be broken.

This year, it was Brees who broke it. Next year, it might be Matthew Stafford, Aaron Rodgers or Brees again who breaks the new record of 5,476 passing yards.

With the evolution of the quarterback, no NFL record is safe, and we shouldn't be surprised when they start falling more frequently.

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