The moment we’ve all been waiting for has happened. Drew Brees has surpassed Dan Marino to become the new single-season passing yards leader.

What’s that? You weren’t waiting for that moment? Come to think of it, neither was I. ESPN did a damn good job of making it feel special, though, so I suppose I got caught up in the pageantry surrounding the moment in which Brees hit Darren Sproles for a late touchdown to leap past Marino’s mark of 5,084.

But when you really think about it, the moment was far from special. Here’s why:

1. It was inevitable on a micro scale. Brees had an entire game left over. It was obvious he was probably going to break the record weeks ago. While this doesn’t make it meaningless, it certainly voided us of the drama usually associated with the breaking of a record. It’ll be interesting to see how many yards Brees winds up with. We won’t remember 5,087, because he’s about to pile on against the Panthers in Week 17. (I will give the moment credit for happening in prime time — that certainly bolsters the “where were you when” element of it.)

2. It was inevitable on a macro scale. It was only a matter of time before someone broke the record. Brees himself came only 15 yards short of the mark in 2008, and prior to this year, 29 of the top 50 single-season passing yardage totals had been achieved in the last decade.

3. There’s a chance another player breaks Marino’s mark in five days. With 4,897 yards through 15 games, Tom Brady has already had the fourth most prolific passing season in NFL history. Brady needs just 188 yards in the season finale against Buffalo to hit 5,085. Considering how bad the Bills are and that the Patriots still aren’t playing for nothing, it’s probably safe to predict he’ll do that. Brady, who’s averaged 317 yards over his last eight games, is now only 190 yards back of Brees. After all of the celebration that occurred Monday night when Brees broke the record, imagine how awkward it would be if Brady were to have a huge game and pass Brees to set the new record?

4. The game has changed too dramatically. It’s simply amazing that Marino held the record for 27 years, because the game has become significantly more pass-oriented and point-oriented in recent years.

When Marino passed for 5,084 yards in 1984, he accounted for 3.0 percent of the passing yards in the league that year*. Brees, by comparison, has accounted for 3.1 percent of the passing yards in the league this season. ESPN used a number similar to that one during Monday night’s broadcast to give Brees’ feat more gravity.

But prior to 1985, passers were only able to hit the 4,000-yard mark on a total of 10 occasions. There’s a very good chance that 10 reach that markĀ this seasonĀ (seven have already done so, and three are well on pace).

So while even after taking an increase in overall passing yardage into consideration Brees is technically accounting for more yardage than Marino was, it seems as though changes to the game have allowed groups of elite quarterbacks to pull away from the pack. The emphasis on passing has also given us starters like Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder, Tim Tebow, Curtis Painter and Colt McCoy, all of whom bring down those league-wide yardage numbers. In ’84, those guys might not have been starters and their teams might have simply focused on the run instead of forcing it.

In 1973, Roman Gabriel led the league in passing with just 3,219 yards. But what’s amazing is that Gabriel was head and shoulders up on his fellow “elite” passers. That year, he had 33 percent more passing yards than the average total of the pivots who ranked second through fifth in the league in said category.

When Marino broke Dan Fouts’ mark in ’84, he had 22 percent more passing yards than the guys ranked second through fifth.

And as of this morning, Brees’ 5,087-yard total is only nine percent up on the quarterbacks in the two, three, four and five spots (Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford).

In fact, if you’re using that metric to assess how dominant a quarterback has been in comparison to his superstar peers in the yardage category, Brees fared much better in 2008, when he recorded 5,069 yards. That year, he had 18 percent more yards than the average of those next four signal callers on the list. That’s not far off of Marino’s edge from ’84.

The top years based on that criteria:
1. Roman Gabriel (33 percent in 1973)
2. Dan Fouts (25 percent in 1981)
3. Dan Fouts (25 percent in 1980)
4. Warren Moon (25 percent in 1991)
5. Warren Moon (25 percent in 1990)
6. Kurt Warner (23 percent in 2001)
7. Darn Marino (22 percent in 1986)
8. Dan Marino (22 percent in 1984)

You’ll notice that none took place in the last 10 seasons, and only one in the last 20.

* Prorated to account for the addition of four franchises since that year.

5. Passing yards are overrated. This isn’t always the case, but quarterbacks usually accumulate big yardage totals when they play in one-dimensional offenses or with weak defenses. In both cases, they’re throwing a lot to stay in games. If you’re a capable quarterback on a bad team, you’re likely to compile a lot of yards while playing catchup.

Now, not all of that applies to Brees. But some of it does. The Saints are good, and they’ve led a lot this year. That said, they’ve still surrendered 22 points a game and they have just 14 takeaways this season, which ranks near the bottom of the league. Brees picked up a lot of his yardage early, when the Saints were struggling to put away teams like Green Bay, Houston, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta. The same applies to Brady, who’s had to throw a lot to compensate for a mediocre running game and a terrible defense.

Brees has completed 70.7 percent of his passes, which is 0.1 percent higher than his NFL record of 70.6, set in 2009. I’d argue that that record carries more weight than this one.

Comments (12)

  1. Bah-humbug. We have a new Ginch. You are a terrible writer –
    Oops, blogger, I mean. I can be assured you’ve never been the first to do anything, as it’s obvious talent isn’t flowing like a river in your veins – it’s not even trickling.

    • If you”re going to call someone a “a terrible writer” at least provide a competent reason as to why you believe this, as of now you just sound childish and rude. Had you provided a legitimate fallacy in his writing your comment could be taken serious. In your statement that he is a”a terrible writer” you seem to have overlooked the fallacies in your own writing. First of all, you misused hyphens (dashes) as their use is to join words, not create pauses. Also, you displayed an overuse of commas in your writing, it is unnecessary to place one after the word bloggers. I could continue to correct obvious mistakes in your three line statement, however I will allow you to gather yourself and create a response.

      • Also, good article Brad. I feel the same way, in this day, with the way the game is played it was inevitable and these records will continue to be broken for years to come. As you stated the more amazing part is that Marino’s record held for as long as it did.

  2. You gave reasons as to why Drew Brees new record means little but at the end you say not all of them apply to Brees? I thought that was the point of giving reasoning? The one reason I would have accepted is he has a great receiving core. At the end of the day, no matter the score or situation whether it be coming from behind or a game with no meaning you still have to complete the pass. Give the guy some credit.

    • I think you misconstrued that part about not everything applying to Brees. I just mean that within that specific claim that passing yards are overrated not all of the reasons apply to Brees’ situation, but some do, thus it is a contributing factor to the broad argument.

      I should clarify (and maybe I should have above): I am a huge Drew Brees fan. I think he’s a Hall of Fame passer and a great dude all around. I am pulling for him to accomplish feats like these. This wasn’t meant to be anti-Brees; it was mean to be anti-single season passing yards record.

  3. That Drew Brees TD pass to Sporles cost me the championship in my fantasy league! I had Marques Coltson and John Kasay vs Darren Sporles and was up by 2 points getting ready to pop the champagne, but NOOOOO, Brees had to find Sporles in the end zone, causing me to lose by 4. FML!!!

    • That’s one of the worst fantasy losses imaginable. If he wasn’t going for the record, that never would have happened and you’d be champion. Unbelievable. Tough luck.

  4. Simple fact: Brees played all but 1 game in a dome, Brady hasnt played in a dome all year

    The simple fact Brees has played no cold weather games makes this record completely unremarkable….if Brady played 15 games in a dome this record wouldnt get touched for another 30 years. Brees has thrown 70 more times than Brady and 100 more times than Rodgers…who both play outdoors in cold weather climates.

    • That’s a great point, Billy, and one I probably should have included in the column. Definitely a factor.

  5. I’ve been trying to find a stat to compare avg passing yards per game in a dome vs outdoor. It HAS to be higher in a dome with no wind, no sun, perfect footing conditions.

    As much as Brees has the numbers, what was amazing about Marino and the Dolphins was the long passes. He was hitting guys 40,50,60 yards downfield which is much harder to complete than 10 yard reciever screens.

    • Brees has 64 completions of 20 yards or more and 10 completions of 40 yards or more. He has attempted 622 passes. Those stats are more difficult to track down for Marino.

      Also, you can access split stats and tally Brees’ numbers indoor and outdoor (http://www.nfl.com/player/drewbrees/2504775/gamesplits) but it’s also a bit of an arduous task and, again, it’s tough to find similar numbers going back to the start of Marino’s career.

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