At Hall of Fame, questions about 18-game season’s effect on records

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.

32 responses to “At Hall of Fame, questions about 18-game season’s effect on records

  1. LKF (Little Known Fact)
    Dick “Night Train” Lane was one of the major reasons for the implementation of the facemasking penalty.

    He would just matter of factly make tackles by yanking on the facemasks of offensive players whenever he could …. which was a lot.

  2. maybe the record book should be recategorized to have records for 12-game season, 14-game season, 16-game seasons, and 18-game seasons

    That way we can really see which records are really the best.

    Jerry Rice played in the 16-game era but Ray Berry played in the 12/14 game era, so IMO Berry’s records are more impressive, especially since his was not a passing era

  3. The number of games have changed before… so have the number of teams and roster sizes, etc.

    Just use a common denominator for the records… how many X per game.

    So how many yards per game on average is Peyton throw last year? You can compare that to any QB.

  4. How about changing the records to per game averages. That would solve the problem comparing. Peyton might throw for more total yards in an 18 game season than Marino, but did he do it on a per game average? Same for rushing or any other stat really. How much or many per game(not played but in the season).

  5. The actions by the owners are going to ruin the game. It is that simple. The dilution of talent and meaningless games coupled with eventual MLB and NBA style bouncing from team to te4am by … everyone, will turn this once great sport into just another MTV-like disaster.

  6. I’m so glad the league has never increased the number of games…

    I’m not saying I support the 18 game season, but records should never be a justification to not go to 18 games. Records will be broken and often are broken by silly changes in the rules (like changes in what pass interference is right before Dan Marino broke the yardage and TD record…)

  7. Why should it have a big effect on the records, when any fan that is interested in the history of the NFL and its records would know the context of when the record was set.

    I think the people that are most concerned about the effects are those that hold the records and those that want to break them.

  8. just keep it at 16 games, and we don’t have this discussion, gaddaffhi goodell wants change everything, the guy tries too hard to be a dictator, gaddaffhi goodell needs to worry about labour peace and trying to make games end faster.

  9. The number of games in a NFL season has changed several times throughout history. From 10 games to 12, from 12 games to 14, from 14 games to the current 16.

    These idiots act like it the first time they’ve seen it, and the sky is falling.

    “OMG, what do we do now???”

  10. @thereisalwaysnextyear

    But what if Drew Brees (hypothetically, if there will be 18 games) hits 5085 yards in the first 16 games, but doesn’t reach 5720 over 18 games? Wouldn’t he be punished by the decision to go to 18 games. It’s easier to maintain 317.75 pass ypg over 16 games than it is over 18. It’s easier to score Paul Hornung’s 176 points over 12 games than it is to score 264 points over 18 games. Can you imagine a player scoring 44 non-throwing TD passes in an 18 game season? He would have to also be the kicker. He could kick for 132 pts. and rush/receive/return 22 TDs, but how likely would that be? It’s hard to imagine Reggie Bush (if he fulfilled his potential) being the starting kicker.

  11. Statistics are only useful for within era comparisons. As an astute commenter noted above, Lane played at a time when defensive players were allowed to be much more physical. It doesn’t take away from his accomplishments but it makes it difficult to compare him apples to apples with a Revis or Bailey or whomever.

  12. I think the asterisk route, like Maris/Ruth, would make sense.

    Anyone know if any back has ever rush for more yards in the first twelve games of the season than Jim Brown (1527) in 1958, or more in the first 14 games than Brown (1863) did in 1963?

    I think if there were to be a fair record to recognize for single-season purposes, it’d have to be yards per game in the season–not how many the player plays, but the number of games the team played, as injuries/suspensions should not help a player.

  13. Don’t change a thing! I love everything the way it is…

    It would ruin the Record Book.

    Besides, we already have to hear some of these pansy players whine about what they have to do for their millions of dollars, we don’t need their mouths yapping for any longer.

  14. I am totally opposed to an 18 game season for a lot of reasons. But to make the records more equitable going back to even the 12 game seasons… keep the records as “average per game” instead of “total for season.”

    We’d see how many old names we’d see back in the record books. As it should be.

    It wouldn’t affect records like Brett’s consecutive starts, but it would certainly change where Marino stands with Unitas, for example…

  15. “It wouldn’t affect records like Brett’s consecutive starts”

    thats right, brett would still be at 1 start per game played…as is everyone else…just being a dick lol.

  16. If they go to avg per game records, there would have to be a reasonable number of games that would need to be reached to be deemed eligible. (i.e. like baseball has with batting titles, etc.). Since the earlier records were based on a 12 game season, then that could be the minimum. However, that would mean that a current player could potentially dominate for only 2/3 of the season, tear an ACL, and still get an all-time record. I’m not sure that that’s fair either.

  17. This is a KEY reason I am opposed to 18 game seasons….skewed records for literally no reason except to make the league the owners more money.

    Sorry, the integrity of its history is too important to me.

    No Roger, I don’t want an 18 game season, leave me out of your excuses.

    Also, the injury problems would really hurt the quality of the games late.

    Lastly, what happens when your team starts out 0-6, 0-7, etc…yay, 11 more meaningless games to wade through.

    How about cut off two preseason games, or not charge full price for preseason games. Problem solved, everyone happy.

  18. Even though they were good for their time, None of those players would have made an actual NFL team today. Hence their records really don’t mean squat. You think dude would have 1 interception against the NFL’s worse QB’s of today, let alone 14? I don’t think so. Shoot, the worse qb’s of today would be gods if they were to play in 1960 and before. Consequently, about the bottom 30% of players today would probably not make any NFL team in the late 70’s to late 80’s because there were actual athletes starting to evolve in the 70’s and 80’s. The NFL has so many teams and players that after the first 1,200 players there is a big drop off in the quality of play. With that said I do not want 18 games because it will water down the teams even more, more star players will get injured and not play in the playoffs, and all the actual records of players from the past 20 to 30 years will be broken by many players and some of witch will never make the hall of fame, let alone be recognized as a top player long after they retire.

  19. Actually the effect will be the opposite of breaking records. NFL football is incredibly physical, a 16 game schedule is enough. With an added two games people will not stand a chance to make it through an entire season. Records will never be broken and players will have shortened careers. NHL hockey likes to think it’s as physical as NFL football but that’s a joke. Hockey is physical but they play an 82 game schedule and then a death march of a playoff system (which is why their ratings are non-existent). Do you think NFL football will ever be able to match 1/4 of that schedule-not a chance, again football is simply to physical and each game takes tremendous preparation-there are no “pickup games”. I think an 18 game schedule is ridiculous. I got into many arguments with my baseball freinds who are jealous of the popularity of football over baseball about how they think NFL football should move to an 18 game schedule. Only someone who is truly “NOT” an NFL fan would agree with an 18 game schedule.

  20. What happened when they went from 14 to 16 games ?
    Who cares?
    Personal records are meaning less and less.
    It’s about who wins the most rings or who is the highest paid.
    There you go.
    Problem solved.

  21. They should probably think about re-leveling by listing stats per game instead of per season.
    Then it doesn’t matter how many games they play.

  22. mad55555, the players weren’t as finely tuned as today’s players are, but you’re forgetting the fact that if they were playing today, they’d have grown up and played in the same context as today’s players, so yes, they would’ve been competitive.

    Imagine putting Peyton Manning in the days before the forward pass was prevalent. He wouldn’t have been much of a QB.

  23. There’s no chance this 18 game season happens, so worrying about this stuff is pointless. The players are vehemently opposed to it and most importantly the fans clearly don’t want it. That doesn’t give Goodell and the owners much leverage on the issue.

  24. @mad55555. i understand your logic, but i’d like to argue it. i think that the players of yesteryears would fit in fine with today’s players. keep in miind that they would also be juicing through high school and ncaa (as you cant tell me human evolution over 30 years is the reason for size discrepancy). The former players would also have the benefit of work out programs like athletes have today as well as technology and body sciences that exist today. just my 2 cents.

  25. nps6724 says:
    Mar 11, 2011 12:49 PM
    Damn, Drew Brees would’ve CRUSHED Marino’s record in 2008 with 2 extra games.


    Galldurnit, Marino would have SMOKED anything Brees could do if HE had 2 extra games.

  26. Are we talking about records or who are we talking about who makes the hall of fame list ?

    An 18 game season shouldn’t have any impact on hall of fame players….

  27. That’s fine if you think that the old players would make the NFL if they grew up in todays system but they certainly would not have any of those outrageous ridiculous #’s that they had in 12 games. I don’t want to hear that they did twice as better as the players do today with 16 games. That is a SHAM. Nobody really knew what the hell they were doing out there on the field back then. For the few that did, they are the ones that hold those unrecognizable records. Vince Lombardi would not have won however many titles as he did if he coached today. EVERYONE HAD A REAL WORLD JOB BACK THEN. NFL was their second jobs.

  28. Lets just hope there is a season first! Other than owners, is anyone really wanting to mess with near perfection and expand the season? Records will break regardless, but the Hall of Fame, will usually keep it in perspective. There has always been a history of that in major sports. Now lets look at Jerry Kramer (who can’t be measured by stats) who was #3 and should be (and might be) #1 at Let’s get the right guys in, regardless of records and stats.

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