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.
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)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
Drew Brees (2011)
|Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Tom Brady (2011)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Matthew Stafford (2011)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Drew Brees (2008)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Tom Brady (2007)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Peyton Manning (2004)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Kurt Warner (1999)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Dan Marino (1986)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
|Dan Marino (1984)||Completions||Attempts||%||Passing Yards||Touchdown Passes||Interceptions||Passer Rating|
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)
Completion Percentage (Ranking, Player, Season, Percentage)
Passing Yards (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals)
Touchdown Passes (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals)
Interceptions (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals)
Quarterback Passer Rating (Ranking, Player, Season, Rating)
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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