NFL Quarterbacks Who Can Set Records This Year

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IJune 2, 2013

NFL Quarterbacks Who Can Set Records This Year

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    The NFL has certainly become a pass-happy league.

    And all of that passing has certainly made fans happy.

    We won’t debate the merits of the current game and whether some teams’ wide-open style is conducive to winning a championship…at least not in this piece.

    The focus here is records and the assorted league marks and club records that can be set in 2013.

    In some instances, we’ll be talking milestones and not necessarily records. UPDATE: This is not a serious of predictions regarding quarterbacks capable of setting new NFL passing records in 2013. These are milestones and marks that players are within range of this upcoming season.

    As previously mentioned, we’re very cognizant of the fact that the NFL is more of a passing league these days. However, the numbers are what they are.

    Keep in mind that the history of a franchise, be it style and/or tradition, plays a part as well in some of these passing marks. That and the fact that some of these clubs have been around longer than some others.

    So if you like numbers, we got ‘em. And we hope you won’t take a pass on this look around the league.

    A special thanks to Pro-Football Reference and the Pro Football Hall of Fame website for making things a bit easier.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots

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    Actually, Tom, it's six.

    As in six games to tie the NFL record for most consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass, currently held by New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (54).

    Enter New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who has thrown for at least one score in 48 straight contests entering the 2013 season. Brady’s streak is the second-longest in league annals.

    So isn’t it interesting that the Patriots will be hosting the Saints this season in Week 6. If Brady does throw a touchdown pass in each of his first five games, he’ll have the chance to tie Brees’ record with Brees in attendance.

    That should make for an interesting October afternoon in Foxborough.

    Even more interesting is the fact that we’re talking about this record for the second straight year. It wasn’t long ago that Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas held the mark by throwing a touchdown pass in 47 straight games. The feat was achieved from 1956 to 1960 with the Baltimore Colts and was one of the longer-standing records in league history.

    Times do indeed change.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    When it comes to winning Super Bowls, the Pittsburgh Steelers have cornered the market.

    No team has been to more Super Bowls (eight, tied with the Dallas Cowboys) and no franchise has won more Lombardi Trophies (six).

    The hallmark of the team for the last 40-plus years has been defense. But the Steelers did have a Hall of Fame quarterback in Terry Bradshaw, who slowly but surely developed into a great big-game performer.

    Bradshaw played 14 seasons in a different era for the most part. But it should also be noted that when the NFL made massive rules changes in 1978, Pittsburgh won those first two Super Bowls of this new era (XIII and XIV).

    Bradshaw threw a franchise-record 212 touchdown passes with the Steelers. Now two-time Super Bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger enters 2013 with 191 scores through the air.

    That means “Big Ben,” entering his 10th NFL campaign and already the Steelers’ all-time leader in passing yards (29,844), needs 21 aerial scores to tie Bradshaw’s team mark.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

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    Talk about being on a roll.

    Yes, the New Orleans Saints fell short of the playoffs in 2012 for a lot of different reasons. But quarterback Drew Brees remained extremely productive despite the circumstances.

    Last season, the prolific passer threw for 5,177 yards and 43 scores, both league highs. Unfortunately, he also tied for the NFL high with 19 interceptions in 2012.

    As many know, there have been six occasions in which a player has thrown for 5,000 or more yards in a season, and Brees owns three of those performances, all in the last five years.

    What some may not know is that only seven players have thrown at least 40 touchdown passes in a season, with Brees and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino the lone quarterbacks to do it twice. Brees has accomplished the feat each of the last two seasons while Marino threw for 48 scores in 1984 and 44 in 1986.

    Still, no player has managed this accomplishment three times. And Brees has put himself in position to do just that either in 2013 or beyond.

Eli Manning, New York Giants

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    The New York Giants’ success in the Super Bowl era has come with three different starting quarterbacks at the helm. Kerry Collins did lead New York to Super Bowl XXXV but ran into one of the great defenses of all time in the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

    Phil Simms put on a dazzling passing display in Super Bowl XXI (22-of-25), and unheralded Jeff Hostetler led the G-Men to a surprise victory in Super Bowl XXV over the Buffalo Bills.

    Then there’s Eli Manning. A pair of NFL titles and a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards to go with them. And Manning shows no signs of slowing down entering Year 10 of his NFL career.

    A season ago, Manning (211) surpassed Simms (199) in terms of most touchdown passes in Giants history. In 2013, as Eli gets ready for his 10th professional campaign, the two-time Super Bowl MVP has thrown for 31,527 yards during his career. The franchise record for career passing yards is still held by Simms (33,462).

    That means a quick few clicks of the calculator shows that Manning needs 1,935 yards to tie Simms' record.

Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears

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    Once again, here’s a case of very different eras. And in the case of the Chicago Bears, it’s a matter of extremely different.

    Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Sid Luckman owns the franchise records for career passing yards (14,686) and touchdown passes (137). Luckman played a dozen seasons for the Bears from 1939 to 1950 and was the league’s Most Valuable Player in 1943.

    In four seasons in the Windy City (a total of 56 games), quarterback Jay Cutler has thrown for 12,292 yards and 82 scores. While the touchdown-pass mark is certainly within range over the course of the next two seasons, the strong-armed signal-caller is 2,394 yards away from tying the Bears’ passing-yardage record owned by Luckman.

    And if Cutler can stay upright this season under the guidance of new head coach Marc Trestman, it will be interesting to see what he can accomplish.

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons

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    Watching the evolution of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan over the years has been fascinating.

    The third overall pick in 2008 may have his detractors for his and the team’s postseason issues the last five seasons, but it hasn’t been for a lack of trying.

    The Falcons have enjoyed five straight winning campaigns, four of those resulting in playoff appearances, and have been the top seed in the NFC two of the last three years. These are unprecedented marks for the franchise.

    Speaking of marks, the Falcons’ team records for passing yards and touchdown passes are owned by Steve Bartkowski. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1975 NFL draft, Bartkowski threw for 23,470 and 154 scores in 11 seasons with the team.

    After five years in Atlanta, Ryan has thrown for 18,957 yards and 127 touchdowns. While he needs 4,513 yards this season to match Bartkowski’s record (Ryan threw for 4,719 yards in 2012), the touchdown mark should be a snap.

    Why? Because Ryan has thrown more touchdown passes in each season he’s been in the NFL. From 16 scores as a rookie in 2008, to 22 (2009), 28 (2010), 29 (2011) and last year’s career high of 32 touchdown passes.

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    While the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have had some great players and did win a Super Bowl in 2002 (XXXVII), this has been a team attached to some great stories (see original head coach John McKay) and not a storied franchise.

    Case in point is current starting quarterback Josh Freeman, who in four NFL seasons has already set the Buccaneers' team record for career touchdown passes with 78. That’s one better than Vinny Testaverde, who threw for 77 scores in his six seasons with the club.

    To put that in perspective, both New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (89) and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (84) have both thrown more touchdown passes the last two seasons.

    Still, the numbers are what they are. Freeman has thrown for 12,963 yards in four years in Tampa. Testaverde also owns the franchise record for career passing yards with 14,820. That means Freeman needs less than 2,000 yards to surpass that mark.

    Of course, rookie quarterback Mike Glennon may have something to say about that matter as well.

Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos

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    While Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is still some distance from Brett Favre in terms of the major all-time passing marks, he is getting closer.

    Already in second place behind Favre (508) in terms of touchdown passes (436), Manning is also second in pass completions (5,082) behind Brett (6,300) as well.

    But Peyton can move into second place, ahead of Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino, in the other two key categories.

    Manning (59,487) needs 1,874 yards to tie Marino (61,361) in terms of passing yards. And with 565 pass attempts, Peyton (7,793) will tie Marino (8,358) for second place in that department as well.

    What are the chances for Manning? He’s attempted at least 565 passes in six different seasons (throwing a career-high 679 passes in 2012) and thrown for at least 3,700-plus yards every year he’s taken the field.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers

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    The NFL record for consecutive regular-season starts by a quarterback may forever be owned by Brett Favre, who opened behind center in 297 straight games for the Green Bay Packers, New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings from 1992 to 2010.

    While with the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning started 208 straight games from 1998 to 2010 before sitting out the 2011 season.

    And Manning’s younger brother Eli, of the New York Giants, has started 135 straight games, the longest active streak amongst quarterbacks and the third-longest stretch all time.

    Enter Philip Rivers, who entered the NFL in 2004 as the fourth overall pick by those Giants. New York and the San Diego Chargers orchestrated a draft-day trade for the rights to one another, hence Manning with the Giants and Rivers with the Bolts.

    After sitting behind Drew Brees for two seasons and throwing a total of 30 passes over that stretch, Rivers became the Chargers starter in 2006 and hasn’t missed a game since. His 112 consecutive starts ranks fifth in league annals in terms of quarterbacks. Fourth on the list is Ron Jaworski, who made 116 straight starts for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1977 to 84.

    If Rivers stays healthy, he’ll be right behind Eli Manning on the all-time list in October. Now he hopes to lead his team to Super Bowl glory, as has been the case with his 2004 trade “partner.” 

Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (and More)

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    In the 93-year history of the National Football League, there have been 33 quarterbacks that have thrown at least 200 touchdown passes.

    The leaders in this category include Brett Favre (508), Peyton Manning (436) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino (420)—the only three players to total at least 400 scores.

    In 2013, it’s very conceivable that five more quarterbacks could join the 200-touchdown pass club.

    Pittsburgh Steelers signal-caller Ben Roethlisberger (191) needs nine more touchdown passes to hit the mark. Both current Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer and San Diego Chargers field general Philip Rivers have 189 career scores through the air.

    Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (177) and Green Bay Packers leader Aaron Rodgers (171) are both less than 30 scores shy of 200.

    With the exception of 2010 when he missed the final 10 games of the season, Romo has thrown for at least 26 scores every season since becoming the opening-day starter in 2007. And since Rodgers became the Packers starter in 2008, he’s averaged exactly 34 touchdown passes a season the last five years.