NFL owners want to expand the regular season to 18 games, while players are virtually unanimous in their opposition. The Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn’t take sides in such issues, but one question is being asked in Canton: What will happen to the record book if we add two more games to the regular season?
Pete Fierle, who has spent two decades working in the Hall of Fame’s archives, writes on the Hall’s web site, “as a football historian, I have mixed emotions about what an 18-game schedule would do to the NFL’s record book.”
It’s easy to see how an 18-game season would cause the record book to be re-written. Philip Rivers and Peyton Manning each reached 4,700 passing yards in 2010, and it’s likely that they both would have topped Dan Marino’s record of 5,084 yards if they had had two more games. Chris Johnson ran for 2,006 yards in 16 games in 2009, and he probably would have broken Eric Dickerson’s record of 2,105 yards if he had had two more games. And so on.
Of course, Marino and Dickerson entered the league just five years after the league expanded from 14 to 16 games, and the players of the early 1980s largely re-wrote the record book, breaking records that had been set in shorter seasons in the 1960s and 1970s.
So, as Fierle notes, the most impressive records in NFL history may be the ones that still remain from the days of 12-game seasons. So here’s to Dick “Night Train” Lane, who set the NFL record with 14 interceptions in 1952, a mark in a 12-game season that still hasn’t been equaled.