There was a lot of discussion leading up to Monday’s game that lauded Brees for his great performance this year in surpassing Marino and also heralding him as a viable MVP. Marino’s record was regarded by some as being unattainable. To both of those notions, I call bullshit.
First, any voter who doesn’t put Aaron Rodgers at the top of the MVP ballot should lose his/her vote for next year. There is no question who the most valuable player in the league is (NOTE: Peyton Manning proved this year why he has won so many, and Jay Cutler also proved his worth after getting injured).
Second, no record is unattainable. This does not just go for the NFL. DiMaggio is catchable. Ripken Jr. can be surpassed. Jordan, Chamberlain, Russell – all great, but all reachable. Some are less likely to be caught than others, but records are made to be broken.
This becomes especially true when we look at QBs in the NFL. The league is changing how the game is played. Subtle (and not so subtle) changes in the rules and strategy have made the NFL a QB’s league. The advent of the spread offense guaranteed that today’s QBs would have superior numbers to those of the past.
Let’s look at some statistics:
Players with: 500+ pass attempts 300+ completions 4,000+ yards
1984: 5 4 3
2011: 11 11 7
Now, consider that the 2011 stats are only through 15 games. There are 3 or 4 more players who could realistically pass those marks in Week 17 (add one to each if Big Ben plays).
This is not an indictment of Brees’ accomplishments this year. He has played phenomenally, but this is the second season in a row that he has a chance to break an “unattainable” record. Tom Brady may surpass Marino’s mark as well if he plays in Week 17 and I have considered this a relatively unremarkable year for Brady.
My point is that QBs in 2011 are throwing more because changes in the game have shifted the focus of offense. All the empirical evidence I need is that Cris Carter isn’t in the HoF because his numbers pale in comparison to today’s WRs, Ben Roethlisberger’s numbers are nearly identical to John Elway’s, and every single-season QB record that had any meaning has been broken at least once since 2007.
Cam Newton broke all kinds of rookie records this year and didn’t even make the Pro-Bowl. The two #1 seeds going into Week 17 have the two WORST defenses in the NFL (in yards-per-game-against). This is not a coincidence. It is the evolution of the game.
And just wait until they extend the season to 18 games.