Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Is This Current Group of Quarterbacks The Greatest Ever In The NFL?

Brett Favre, Dan Marino, John Elway, Joe Montana, Warren Moon.

Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning.

In 15 years, which group of quarterbacks will we look upon as the greatest ever?  Are we seeing, right now in the NFL, a group of the most superior quarterback to ever play the game?

Greatest NFL Passing Season Ever

I believe we are.  Certainly the prolific passing days of the 80's and 90's were great in themselves, but the NFL has taken passing to a new high in the past few years.  Quarterbacks are routinely throwing for 4,000-yard seasons.  In 2011 alone there is already one quarterback who has broken the 5,000-yard passing barrier (Brees).  Another one should join him on Sunday (Brady).  Six quarterbacks will have passed for over 4,500 yards by the end of the regular season (Brees, Brady, Rodgers, Eli Manning, Stafford, Rivers).  Certainly if Peyton Manning had played this season, he'd be right up there.

In 2011, we've seen the greatest passing season of all-time with Drew Brees.  He broke Marino's 27-year-old record for most passing yards in a season and has thrown for 41 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.

But Brees' season is not even the best one being had in 2011.  That belongs to Rodgers.  With the Green Bay Packers 14-1 behind Rodgers' 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions, Rodgers should be the choice for MVP.

Re-writing The Record Books

By the time their careers are over, this current class of quarterbacks should all be entrenched near the top of the record books.  While none of these quarterbacks should look to play 20 years like Favre did (and, as a result, tie up these career quarterback records forever), they should play into their late 30's.

If Brady just averages 4,000 yards a season for the next five years (when he's 37-38), he'll have roughly 60,000 yards.  That's good enough for third place all-time (and definitely in range of surpassing Marino at 61,361 yards).

If Brees averages 4,500 yards a season (which is what he's done in his six years with the New Orleans Saints) for another five years, he'll have roughly 65,000 yards. That's better than Brady and Marino.

Peyton is already just under 55,000 yards for his career, but his future as a quarterback is incredibly uncertain following neck surgery this past year.  Peyton would need to play another two or three years at his usual level in order to guarantee that he'd finish his career above Brees and Brady at this point.

Eli Manning, however, might eventually catch up to big brother one day if Peyton plays no more.  Currently Eli has 27,000 yards (approximately).  The past three seasons he's averaged 4,000 yards passing.  If he plays another eight seasons and averages just 3,500 yards a season, he'll end up with 55,000 yards (good enough for fifth all-time, most likely).

Aaron Rodgers, while he got a much later start than these other guys due to having to sit on the bench behind Favre for three years, is also a contender.  In four years as a starter for the Green Bay Packers, Rodgers is averaging 4,300 yards a season.  If he simply averages 4,000 yards for another ten years, he'll end up with 57,000 yards.

So in another ten years, I'd expect the record books to look a lot different than they do now.  Ultimately, if I had to put money on which of these quarterbacks will come out on top in the record books, I'd bet on Brees.  It's primarily because he's the one guy in this group that plays in a dome at home.

In any case, enjoy these quarterbacks now. It's unlikely we'll see as large, or as good, a crop of superior quarterbacks for a long time.

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