Fan Take: Drew Brees’ Passing Record is Impressive in Any Era

by on November 3rd, 2010
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Drew Brees holds the NFL record for most passing yards in one season, and it is a record that should be glorified and not dismissed.

Brees broke the record in the New Orleans Saints’ 45-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football on Dec. 26, simultaneously throwing a 9-yard touchdown pass to Darren Sproles and breaking the 27-year mark held by former Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino.

Brees was not the only quarterback to break Marino’s long-standing record, however, as perennial Pro Bowler Tom Brady also surpassed Marino. Brady finished with 5,235 passing yards during the 2011 season.

An unlikely player to reach 5,000 yards passing was Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions, finishing with 5,038 yards in what was a remarkable season for the young man.

Brees fell short of Marino’s mark in 2008, but he has been on fire this season. The Super Bowl-winning quarterback has thrown for 300 passing yards or more an NFL-record 13 times in 2011, leading an offense that is as explosive as any we have ever seen in professional football.

But in an era where defenses are more limited in terms of contact and rules going against them, as opposed to players like Lawrence Taylor and Ronnie Lott attacking Marino in the 1980s, it is the right proposition to wonder whether inflated passing numbers in a league predicated on passing the football makes Brees’ accomplishment any less exceptional.

My response would be that Brees, Brady and all the other quarterbacks are just playing with the hands they are dealt. If anything, blame the NFL for imposing more rules that defenses have to abide on every snap.

I dislike when people throw out hypothetical scenarios associated with sports, like, What if Wilt Chamberlain played against Shaq? or Would Jerry Rice have been as good without Joe Montana and Steve Young throwing to him? Those kinds of statements are quite arbitrary, but they are also fun to think about — especially in regards to sports. The questions are semi-rhetorical as well because nobody knows what would happen if two forces collided from different decades at different times, so we have to enjoy each era as its own.

So, whether Brees would be tossing the pigskin with relative ease in the 1970s is a debate that will end in arguing and no resolution. The guy makes all the throws he needs to win games, and that is hard enough when a plethora of beefed-up defenders are trying to tear your limbs off. Being a quarterback in the NFL is not what it used to be decades ago, but it’s also not as comfortable as people like to make it out to be these days.

Just ask Peyton Manning, whose neck has been realigned more times than the wheels on my 1988 Thunderbird.

To go out and throw for 300 yards 13 times in a 16-game schedule is the definition of consistency, and to do it while winning games and carrying a team on your back is just a testament to how far Brees has come as an NFL quarterback.

Putting an asterisk on Brees and Brady’s passing marks is somewhat insulting when other things in sports are treated like asterisks (like Barry Bonds’ home run record), and it really does devalue the solid play of Brees and Brady.

And if Marino himself congratulated Brees on his mark (which he did), then everyone else should do the same.


Washington Post

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