Normally, when an NFL quarterback gets close to breaking a record, fans get excited and local media jumps all over it. If the record is both old and important enough, like the one New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees recently broke, national media eats it up for weeks in anticipation of its falling.
There are records, however, that most don’t know about—those that sit unnoticed until a player enters their historic territory. That is where Arizona Cardinals QB John Skelton is this week as his team travels to face the ball-hawking Atlanta Falcons defense.
Skelton has thrown an interception in 12 consecutive games entering play Sunday, one shy of tying former No. 2 overall pick Ryan Leaf for most in modern NFL history.
His picks have come in all forms and manners, ranging from overthrown passes to those underthrown, and from tipped passes to those he’s tried to throw away and did not get far enough out of bounds.
As this record nears, one must wonder if Skelton’s career will end up as Leaf’s did (Leaf is among those considered the biggest draft busts in NFL history). If you have thought that, no one can blame you. It is a murky record of which no NFL quarterback wants to be part.
In honor of this looming record, I took a peek at how some quarterbacks of note performed over the period of each respective career-high streak. Here is what I found:
As you can see, some of the best-known names from football’s past and present have endured a similar streak to Skelton’s, including five current Hall of Famers—Johnny Unitas, George Blanda, Fran Tarkenton, John Elway, Dan Marino—and at least three who eventually will be forever immortalized with a bronze bust in Canton—Brees, Brett Favre, Peyton Manning.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If we were to look deeper into it, there are sure to be more names of note with similar streaks. (If you would like a player’s streak added, leave me his name in the comments section and I will look it up for you.)
What, then, does this streak mean for Skelton? Of the quarterbacks listed with 12-game streaks, only Brees and the Saints won more games than have Skelton and the Cardinals.
Will Skelton survive in Arizona if he ties and passes Leaf? Other quarterbacks have withstood longer streaks and even multiple long streaks of games with an interception without getting the axe—hello, George Blanda.
Other quarterbacks, however, have not had starting-caliber players behind them on the depth chart, as Skelton does.
Kevin Kolb, currently working his way back after having three ribs detach from his rib cage in October, is still owed a large sum of money, and in the six games in which he has played this season, he has yet to throw an interception in consecutive games (though he did have his own six-game streak in 2011).
There is reportedly still no timetable for his return. But if he is healthy enough to play again in 2012 and Skelton is still mounting games on top of this current streak, one has to believe coach Ken Whisenhunt would at least consider making the switch.
It may be too early to say for certain that would happen, because there’s always the chance Skelton breaks the record but starts throwing more touchdowns, leading to victories. If that happens, God only knows what would happen when Kolb returns.
As it is, Skelton’s streak is at a dozen games, and he has thrown seven more interceptions than touchdowns in that time. And if you didn’t notice, just four times of the 13 occurrences did a quarterback throw more touchdowns than interceptions over his respective streak.
There is one thing Skelton has done that none of the quarterbacks on this list—or any list you can think of—have accomplished. It comes to us by way of Scott Kacsmar, part-time Bleacher Report Featured Columnist, full-time NFL stats god and creator of the fourth-quarter comeback/game-winning drive statistic we know and love:
John Skelton is the first quarterback in NFL history to have six wins decided with fourth quarter/overtime scores in their first 11 games.
Not even Sunday’s opponent, Matt Ryan—who has 11 fourth-quarter comebacks and 16 game-winning drives of his own—can say that.
Sunday’s game in Atlanta will be one to watch if for nothing else but to see if Skelton’s streak ends or is extended.