Over the course of NFL history, the passing game has evolved from longer, higher-risk passes to shorter, more accurate passes, and as a result the quarterbacks who averaged the greatest yards per pass in the 1950s haven’t seen their records threatened by modern quarterbacks. Until now.
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is, through five games, averaging an astonishing 10.4 yards per pass this season. That’s a rate we haven’t seen in the NFL in more than half a century.
No quarterback has averaged 10 yards a pass in a season since Norm Van Brocklin averaged 10.1 yards a pass with the 1954 Los Angeles Rams. Kurt Warner threatened to reach double-digits in yards per pass in 2000, when he averaged 9.9 yards a pass for the season with the St. Louis Rams, but since then the closest anyone has come was Aaron Rodgers, who averaged 9.2 yards a pass with the 2011 Packers.
Whether Ryan can continue at this rate remains to be seen, but at the moment he’s gaining yardage at a rate far ahead of any other quarterback. Ryan leads the league with 1,740 passing yards, and his average of 10.4 yards a pass is almost two full yards ahead of Philip Rivers, who is second among quarterbacks with at least 50 passes, at 8.5 yards a pass.
After three straight disappointing seasons in Atlanta, the Falcons are in first place in the NFC South, and Ryan is off to by far the best season of his career.