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

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

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) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 343 502 68.3 4,643 45 6 122.5
Projected 453 663 68.3 6,132 59 8 122.5

 

Drew Brees (2011)

Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 468 657 71.2 5,476 46 14 110.6
Projected 472 663 71.2 5,526 46 14 110.6

 

Tom Brady  (2011) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 401 611 65.6 5,235 39 12 105.6
Projected 435 663 65.6 5,681 42 13 105.6

 

Matthew Stafford (2011) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 421 663 63.5 5,038 41 16 97.2
Projected 421 663 63.5 5,038 41 16 97.2

 

Drew Brees (2008) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 413 635 65.0 5,069 34 17 96.2
Projected 431 663 65.0 5,293 35 18 96.2

 

Tom Brady (2007) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 398 578 68.9 4,806 50 8 117.2
Projected 457 663 68.9 5,513 57 9 117.2

 

Peyton Manning (2004) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 336 497 67.6 4,557 49 10 121.1
Projected 448 663 67.6 6,079 65 13 121.1

 

Kurt Warner (1999) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 325 499 65.1 4,353 41 13 109.2
Projected 432 663 65.1 5,784 54 17 109.2

 

Dan Marino (1986) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 378 623 60.7 4,746 44 23 92.5
Projected 402 663 60.7 5,051 47 24 92.5

 

Dan Marino (1984) Completions Attempts % Passing Yards Touchdown Passes Interceptions Passer Rating
Actual 362 564 64.2 5,084 48 17 108.9
Projected 426 663 64.2 5,976 56 20 108.9

 

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) 

1st Drew Brees 2011 472
2nd Tom Brady 2007 457
3rd Aaron Rodgers 2011 453
4th Peyton Manning 2004 448
5th Tom Brady 2011 435
6th Kurt Warner 1999 432
7th Drew Brees 2008 431
8th Dan Marino 1984 426
9th Matthew Stafford 2011 421
10th Dan Marino 1986 402

 

Completion Percentage (Ranking, Player, Season, Percentage)

1st Drew Brees 2011 71.2
2nd Tom Brady 2007 68.9
3rd Aaron Rodgers 2011 68.3
4th Peyton Manning 2004 67.6
5th Tom Brady 2011 65.6
6th Kurt Warner 1999 65.1
7th Drew Brees 2008 65.0
8th Dan Marino 1984 64.2
9th Matthew Stafford 2011 63.5
10th Dan Marino 1986 60.7

 

 

Passing Yards (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals) 

1st Aaron Rodgers 2011 6,132
2nd Peyton Manning 2004 6,079
3rd Dan Marino 1984 5,976
4th Kurt Warner 1999 5,784
5th Tom Brady 2011 5,681
6th Drew Brees 2011 5,526
7th Tom Brady 2007 5,513
8th Drew Brees 2008 5,293
9th Dan Marino 1986 5,051
10th Matthew Stafford 2011 5,038

 

Touchdown Passes (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals) 

1st Peyton Manning 2004 65
2nd Aaron Rodgers 2011 59
3rd Tom Brady 2007 57
4th Dan Marino 1984 56
5th Kurt Warner 1999 54
6th Dan Marino 1986 47
7th Drew Brees 2011 46
8th Tom Brady 2011 42
9th Matthew Stafford 2011 41
10th Drew Brees 2008 35

 

 

Interceptions (Ranking, Player, Season, Totals)

1st Aaron Rodgers 2011 8
2nd Tom Brady 2007 9
3rd Tom Brady 2011 13
4th Peyton Manning 2004 13
5th Drew Brees 2011 14
6th Matthew Stafford 2011 16
7th Kurt Warner 1999 17
8th Drew Brees 2008 18
9th Dan Marino 1984 20
10th Dan Marino 1986 24

 

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

1st Aaron Rodgers 2011 122.5
2nd Peyton Manning 2004 121.1
3rd Tom Brady 2007 117.2
4th Drew Brees 2011 110.6
5th Kurt Warner 1999 109.2
6th Dan Marino 1984 108.9
7th Tom Brady 2011 105.6
8th Matthew Stafford 2011 97.2
9th Drew Brees 2008 96.2
10th Dan Marino 1986 92.5

 

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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