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Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and the Most Productive Passing Seasons in NFL History

Ryan MichaelSenior Writer IIIOctober 9, 2016

With the conclusion of the 2011 NFL regular season, we have officially seen the end of one of the most productive passing seasons in NFL history.

Both Drew Brees and Tom Brady eclipsed Dan Marino's passing mark of 5,084 yards established in 1984. Brady threw for an astonishing 5,235 yards, as Brees piled up a staggering 5,476 yards!

Cam Newton surpassed Peyton Manning's rookie passing mark of 3,739 yards by totaling 4,051 yards through the air.

Drew Brees' 468 completions bettered Peyton Manning's record of 450 set in 2010; and his 71.2 completion-percentage broke his own record of 70.6 set in 2009.

Though sitting out the final game of the season may warrant an asterisk in the record-book, Aaron Rodgers broke Peyton Manning's single-season passer-rating record of 121.1 (set in 2004) by posting a 122.5 passer-rating in 2011.

The combination of Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn surpassed the 50 touchdown pass mark set by Tom Brady and the 2007 New England Patriots; going on to tie the 2004 Indianapolis Colts for the most single-season touchdown passes in NFL history with 51.

With so many recording being broken, many have began to wonder just how good this year's batch of quarterbacks have been. Are the plateaus being reached a result of rule changes, offensive philosophy, or expert quarterback play? Could it be a little bit of each?

It's subjective of course, but there has to be some starting-ground.

For instance, only two quarterbacks had ever eclipsed the 5,000-yard passing mark in a single season prior to 2011 (Dan Marino and Drew Brees). We've now seen three separate quarterbacks do it in the same season: Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford.

Prior to 2011, only four quarterbacks had ever surpassed the 40 touchdown pass mark (Dan Marino, Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady). We've now seen three quarterbacks accomplish that feat in the same season: Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Matthew Stafford.

Production and efficiency are two different things.

Quarterbacks paired with a poor running-game and terrible defensive backing might be in a better position to produce passing yards and touchdown passes (due to an increase in passing attempts); but they would not be in a better position to post a higher completion-percentage or quarterback passer-rating.

Some have managed to set highs in both respects.

To qualify for the following production list, a quarterback had to throw for 5,000+ yards, 40+ touchdowns, or both in a single season.

In the 92-year history of the league, there have been only been ten such seasons that would qualify (three of them coming from 2011 alone).

Raw production can be misleading.

Both Drew Brees and Tom Brady eclipsed Dan Marino's 1984 passing mark, but both quarterbacks had attempted more passes.

Peyton Manning's 9.9 'percentage of touchdowns' average in 2004 was by far the most productive in NFL history; even though Tom Brady bettered his single-season record by tossing one more touchdown pass in 81 additional passing attempts (what would amount to 2-3 full games of action).

Out of the ten seasons to qualify, Matthew Stafford's 663 passing attempts in 2011 ranked as the highest figure amongst the group.

Since comparing a 9.9 'percentage of touchdowns' rate and a 8.7 'percentage of touchdowns' rate might prove to be indistinguishable to the average fan, I averaged the potential production of each passing season had each quarterback continued to perform at their respective statistical-rate for a full 663 passing attempts.

The results may surprise some people.

 

Aaron Rodgers (2011)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual34350268.34,643456122.5
Projected45366368.36,132598122.5

 

Drew Brees (2011)

CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual46865771.25,4764614110.6
Projected47266371.25,5264614110.6

 

Tom Brady  (2011)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual40161165.65,2353912105.6
Projected43566365.65,6814213105.6

 

Matthew Stafford (2011)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual42166363.55,038411697.2
Projected42166363.55,038411697.2

 

Drew Brees (2008)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual41363565.05,069341796.2
Projected43166365.05,293351896.2

 

Tom Brady (2007)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual39857868.94,806508117.2
Projected45766368.95,513579117.2

 

Peyton Manning (2004)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual33649767.64,5574910121.1
Projected44866367.66,0796513121.1

 

Kurt Warner (1999)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual32549965.14,3534113109.2
Projected43266365.15,7845417109.2

 

Dan Marino (1986)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual37862360.74,746442392.5
Projected40266360.75,051472492.5

 

Dan Marino (1984)CompletionsAttempts%Passing YardsTouchdown PassesInterceptionsPasser Rating
Actual36256464.25,0844817108.9
Projected42666364.25,9765620108.9

 

Of course one has to account for generational-differences, rule changes, offensive philosophy, strength of schedule, strength of opposing defenses, quality of pass-protection, rushing-support, and defensive backing.

There is much to consider, but taking a look at the rate-of-production and potential production helps to give us a clearer understanding of just how dominating each player was in all ten of the aforementioned seasons.

The ranked totals are provided below:

 

 

Completions (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals) 

1stDrew Brees2011472
2ndTom Brady2007457
3rdAaron Rodgers2011453
4thPeyton Manning2004448
5thTom Brady2011435
6thKurt Warner1999432
7thDrew Brees2008431
8thDan Marino1984426
9thMatthew Stafford2011421
10thDan Marino1986402

 

Completion Percentage (Ranking, Player, Season, Percentage)

1stDrew Brees201171.2
2ndTom Brady200768.9
3rdAaron Rodgers201168.3
4thPeyton Manning200467.6
5thTom Brady201165.6
6thKurt Warner199965.1
7thDrew Brees200865.0
8thDan Marino198464.2
9thMatthew Stafford201163.5
10thDan Marino198660.7

 

 

Passing Yards (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals) 

1stAaron Rodgers20116,132
2ndPeyton Manning20046,079
3rdDan Marino19845,976
4thKurt Warner19995,784
5thTom Brady20115,681
6thDrew Brees20115,526
7thTom Brady20075,513
8thDrew Brees20085,293
9thDan Marino19865,051
10thMatthew Stafford20115,038

 

Touchdown Passes (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals) 

1stPeyton Manning200465
2ndAaron Rodgers201159
3rdTom Brady200757
4thDan Marino198456
5thKurt Warner199954
6thDan Marino198647
7thDrew Brees201146
8thTom Brady201142
9thMatthew Stafford201141
10thDrew Brees200835

 

 

Interceptions (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals)

1stAaron Rodgers20118
2ndTom Brady20079
3rdTom Brady201113
4thPeyton Manning200413
5thDrew Brees201114
6thMatthew Stafford201116
7thKurt Warner199917
8thDrew Brees200818
9thDan Marino198420
10thDan Marino198624

 

Quarterback Passer Rating (Ranking, Player, Season, Rating)

1stAaron Rodgers2011122.5
2ndPeyton Manning2004121.1
3rdTom Brady2007117.2
4thDrew Brees2011110.6
5thKurt Warner1999109.2
6thDan Marino1984108.9
7thTom Brady2011105.6
8thMatthew Stafford201197.2
9thDrew Brees200896.2
10thDan Marino198692.5

 

So who has recorded the greatest productive season in NFL history?

The above is merely a start; but you be the judge.

 

Ryan Michael is a Senior Writer for Bleacher Report.

Professional inquiries can be directed to his email: bleacherreporter@yahoo.com

Follow him on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/#!/theryanmichael

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