Drew Brees vs Dan Marino: Examining Offensive Arsenal of Each Record-Setting QB
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees completed a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles in the fourth quarter Monday night to break Dan Marino's single-season passing yards record of 5,084. Brees currently sits at 5,087.
While some are quick to put a theoretical asterisk by Brees' mark because of the new age of passing offenses—liberal rules for passing, complex formations, etc—no one ever looks at the offensive weaponry that each record-setting quarterback used.
Will it give an edge to one passer? Could the arsenal be very similar?
Let's take a quick look, with stats:
2011 Saints: Mark Ingram (122 carries, 474 yards, five touchdowns), Pierre Thomas (105 carries, 532 yards, five touchdowns; 47 catches, 389 yards, one touchdown), Darren Sproles (81 carries, 563 yards, two touchdowns; 81 receptions, 681 yards, six touchdowns), Chris Ivory (60 carries, 247 yards).
1984 Dolphins: Woody Bennett (144 carries, 606 yards, seven touchdowns), Tony Nathan (118 carries, 558 yards, one touchdown; 61 catches, 579 yards, two touchdowns), Joe Carter (100 carries, 495 yards, one touchdown), Pete Johnson (159 yards rushing, nine touchdowns).
It's striking how similar the running backs were for both quarterbacks. Each team used a stable of backs, and each had a guy that was an effective receiver out of the backfield.
2011 Saints: Marques Colston (73 catches, 998 yards, six touchdowns), Lance Moore (52 catches, 627 yards, eight touchdowns), Robert Meachem (38 catches, 590 yards, six touchdowns), Devery Henderson (30 catches, 455 yards, two touchdowns).
1984 Dolphins: Mark Clayton (73 catches, 1,389 yards, 18 touchdowns), Mark Duper (71 catches, 1,306 yards, eight touchdowns), Nat Moore (43 catches, 572 yards, six touchdowns), Jimmy Cefalo (18 catches, 185 yards, two touchdowns), Joe Rose (12 catches, 195 yards, two touchdowns), Jim Jensen (13 catches, 139 yards, two touchdowns).
Both teams spread the ball around to a variety of receivers, but the Dolphins clearly had two big-time guys in Clayton and Duper. Colston is on that same level, and his numbers would be in a similar range had he been healthy the entire season. Beyond Colston, however, the Saints have a bunch of No. 2- and 3-type receivers.
2011 Saints: Jimmy Graham (91 catches, 1,213 yards, 10 touchdowns), John Gilmore (three catches, 20 yards, one touchdown), David Thomas (five catches, 16 yards).
1984 Dolphins: Dan Johnson (34 catches, 426 yards, three touchdowns), Bruce Hardy (28 catches, 257 yards, five touchdowns).
Graham more than makes up for the Saints' lack of a second No. 1 receiver. Think of Graham as Brees' version of Mark Duper. The '84 Dolphins still got good production from the combination of their tight ends.
Judging just by the stats of the skill players from the two offenses, you'd be hard-pressed to pick which arsenal is better than the other. In the end, it's somewhat of a moot point.
But what do we know about each record-setting passing offense? You need weapons, and lots of them. It's not enough to just have one of two elite targets. They are important, of course, but you also need role players that are consistently better than the opponent's defensive counterparts.
A running game is still important, too. Each team will end up with nearly 2,000 yards rushing total. The common factor here, though, is that neither team had one dominant back. It's a stable of running backs that can help balance the load and bring different things to the table.
I'm not sure this is a "blueprint," per se, of how to put together a record-breaking offense. So many other things (offensive playcaller, playing conditions, injuries, etc.) go into the equation that it's impossible to nail down.
Regardless, there's a certain harmony between these two offenses. And it all starts at the top with each Hall of Fame (or soon to be) quarterback.
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