Where Does Lamar Jackson's 2019 Season Rank on Best QB Years Ever?

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistDecember 19, 2019

Where Does Lamar Jackson's 2019 Season Rank on Best QB Years Ever?

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    NFL fans only need to glance at the Baltimore Ravens this year to know quarterback Lamar Jackson is in the middle of a special season. 

    But where would his campaign rank among the greats? 

    It almost sounds hyperbolic to ask so soon, yet Jackson is the next in a generation of passers changing the NFL as we know it. Patrick Mahomes did it a season ago, and now Jackson has taken up the mantle and reached new heights. 

    Below, we'll take a look at some of the best post-merger seasons by quarterbacks based on their statistics and lasting impact, slotting in Jackson where appropriate to provide historical context as to just how special this season has become. 


    Adam Lefkoe and Brian Westbrook are joined by their producer David Ingber to discuss everything from where Drew Brees ranks in the all-time QB discussion to the last thing that made them cry. And if you've never heard Brian Westbrook do his impression of Kermit the Frog (and you definitely haven't, because this was CLEARLY his first attempt at it), then you're really going to want to stick around to hear that gem. Latest episode of The Lefkoe Show is available here

10. Brett Favre, 1996

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Brett Favre was known for his grit slightly more than being a statistical powerhouse. 

    But that 1996 season was something special. 

    The Hall of Famer threw for 3,899 yards and completed 59.9 percent of his passes, which didn't register as career highs. But those 39 touchdowns did, which was impressive because he only threw 13 interceptions while taking a career-high 40 sacks. His touchdown percentage settled at 7.2 percent, the highest mark of his illustrious career. 

    It doesn't hurt to add that Favre's Green Bay Packers went 13-3 that year before winning it all. While his numbers were impressive for that era, they only look better when adjusted for now and make that campaign one of the most memorable seasons from a passer since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. 

9. Drew Brees, 2011

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It shouldn't surprise anyone to see Drew Brees on a list chronicling some incredible statistical feats by passers. 

    A purveyor of gaudy stats, Brees threw for a career-high 5,476 yards in 2011. After setting the completion percentage record two years prior, he bested his own record by completing 71.2 percent of his throws—a number he wouldn't surpass again until 2017. 

    Brees has had some massive seasons since, but this felt like a trendsetting performance. Keep in mind he also threw a career-high 46 touchdown passes against just 14 interceptions for a touchdown percentage of 7.0. He gained 8.3 yards per passing attempt, then a career high. 

    While his enduring stay at the top of the record books is praiseworthy, 2011 felt like the Big Bang of modern quarterbacking. 

8. Peyton Manning, 2013

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Peyton Manning shouldn't register as much of a shocker either. 

    He appears twice on this list, but first up is his march to the Super Bowl with the Denver Broncos in 2013, a season that seems to go underrated in his historic career. 

    That year, Manning threw a record single-season high 55 touchdowns...with just 10 interceptions. There have only been 13 seasons in which a quarterback has passed for 40 or more touchdowns, and two of those belong to Manning.

    The future Hall of Famer also completed 68.3 percent of his passes and averaged 8.3 yards per attempt with an 8.3 touchdown percentage. Don't forget his career-high 5,477 yards (most ever in a single season). 

    Manning also broke Dan Marino's 1984 passing record of most four-touchdown games in a season, tied Marino's record of 15 two-score games, tied Marino's record with four 400-yard games and had 15 games with a 90-plus passer rating, tying his previous mark set in 2004.  

7. Kurt Warner, 1999

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    28 Nov 1999: Kurt Warner #13 of the St. Louis Rams runs to pass the ball during a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Trans World Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. The Rams defeated the Saints 43-12. Mandatory Credit: Elsa Hasch  /Allsport
    Elsa/Getty Images

    Kurt Warner's MVP and Super Bowl-winning season 1999 stands tall against the rest of his Hall of Fame career.

    In 1999, Warner led the then-St. Louis Rams to 30 or more points 12 times, completing 65.1 percent of his passes with 41 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. His 4,353 yards weren't a career high. But his turnover ratio was its lowest over his legendary three-season stretch, and his touchdown percentage of 8.2 was a career high, and he averaged 8.7 yards per attempt.

    Context plays a big role here. The Rams left Warner unprotected in the 1999 expansion draft. He was a forgotten backup before a preseason injury to Trent Green thrust him into the starting role. He's the only QB to throw at least three touchdowns in each of his three starts.

6. Lamar Jackson, 2019

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    The NFL hasn't seen anyone like Lamar Jackson. 

    The second-year player sailed past Michael Vick's single-season record for a quarterback in just 14 games with 1,103 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. He leads the league with 6.9 yards per attempt and has ripped off 20-plus-yard gains 11 times (tied for first leaguewide).

    The silly whispers about his struggles as a passer fell flat. Jackson has completed 66.2 percent of his throws for 33 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He is averaging 7.8 yards per attempt with an almost-silly touchdown percentage of 8.9 (the highest mark for a QB since Aaron Rodgers in 2011). 

    That has all come for a 12-2 team. NFL defenses will undoubtedly adapt—they always do, and Jackson will eventually regress—but the magic of this season should never go understated. 

5. Patrick Mahomes, 2018

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    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Even a quarterback guru like Andy Reid has to admit he couldn't predict the stunning success of Patrick Mahomes. 

    Mahomes won the MVP award in his first season as starter for the Kansas City Chiefs, drumming up a 50-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He did so while completing 66 percent of his 580 passing attempts for 5,097 yards (eighth all-time) with a touchdown percentage of 8.6.

    Mahomes is one of seven players to have 5,000 passing yards in a single season and, alongside Manning, is one of two to hit 5,000 and 50 in a single season. He had more passing yards and touchdowns over his first 10 games than any player since 1950

    Impressively, Mahomes' production hasn't taken much of a hit in 2019 (3,606 yards, 23 touchdowns, four interceptions over 12 games), though an injury skewed things. It offers a belief that his MVP season is only the beginning, not an anomaly.

    And unlike Jackson, who the NFL might eventually counter, there doesn't see to be any way to slow down some of the scheme-shattering plays Mahomes seems singularly capable of, such as his no-look passes.

4. Dan Marino, 1984

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    George Gojkovich/Getty Images

    Dan Marino's Miami Dolphins lost the Super Bowl in the quarterback's lone appearance in the big game, but it was still a season for the ages. 

    In only his second campaign as a starter, Marino set records that lasted at least 20 years apiece. He threw for 5,084 yards (most in a season until 2011) and 48 touchdowns (most in a season until 2004), staggering feats given the less important nature of the position during that era. 

    But why stop there? Marino completed 64.2 percent of his passes, had an 8.5 touchdown percentage, averaged a staggering 9.0 yards per attempt, averaged over 300 yards per game for the only time during his career and had a career-high 108.9 passer rating. 

    This season was the apex for Marino, but the rarity of it shouldn't undersell the rest of his career or his status as one of the best ever. 

3. Aaron Rodgers, 2011

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Aaron Rodgers hoisted a Lombardi Trophy and had one of the most prolific postseason runs in history in 2010; apparently, that was only the appetizer. 

    The main course was the 2011 season in which Rodgers completed 68.3 percent of his passes with 45 touchdowns and just six interceptions. He had a touchdown percentage of 9.0 alongside 4,643 yards on 502 passing attempts.

    That last point is rather silly—he nearly averaged a first down per attempt. His 122.5 passer rating is the still the single-season record, by the way. Also by the way, he sat out the season finale, which likely would've put him over 5,000 yards (backup Matt Flynn torched Detroit for 480 yards and six scores). 

2. Tom Brady, 2007

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    Gary Landers/Associated Press

    Tom Brady's 2007 season had the look of an unmatchable feat. 

    He threw for 50 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, which at the time was unheard of on more than 550 attempts. He threw for 4,806 yards with an 8.7 touchdown percentage, averaging 8.3 yards per attempt. 

    While Brady has gone on to surpass some of these numbers, it's impossible to ignore the context of the 16-0 season. And he's never surpassed the 40-touchdown mark again, nor has he reached the same heights in adjusted yards per attempt (9.4), rating (117.2), touchdown percentage (8.7) or completion percentage (68.9).

    Incredible feats and touchdowns-to-interception ratios (36-4, 36-7, 28-2, etc.) have helped define the career of the six-time Super Bowl champion, but the sheer efficiency, volume and the undefeated season help this campaign stand out.

1. Peyton Manning, 2004

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    DARRON CUMMINGS/Associated Press

    Gaudy numbers might be a staple of passing attacks these days as the game evolves, but Peyton Manning's 2004 season remains unmatched for a few reasons. 

    Put simply, Manning threw a then-record of 49 scores with only 10 interceptions on 497 attempts. He put up a staggering 9.9 touchdown percentage. That's sixth all-time, and he's the only quarterback in the top 10 post-merger. He threw for 9.2 yards per attempt (10.2 adjusted) and 13.6 yards per completion. 

    His rating of 121.1 was a record at the time (surpassed by Rodgers in 2011), and it dwarfed the next-best mark by more than eight points. Keep in mind, he was flanked by a bottom-five defense that coughed up 370.6 yards per game. 

    Understandably, Manning did not go on to match many of these numbers, a story that holds true for most in NFL history, even as the league continues to shift toward more pass-happy ways and rising stars like Mahomes and Jackson. 


    Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference