Before 2011, only two quarterbacks in NFL history had passed for 5,000 yards in a season. In 2011, three quarterbacks hit 5,000 yards. So how far are we from a 6,000-yard passing season?
Vic Ketchman of Packers.com thinks we’re not far at all, and that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a good bet to do it.
“I not only think it’s attainable, I think it’s predictable,” Ketchman writes. “Aaron Rodgers threw for 4,643 yards last season. Had he played in the finale against the Lions, he would’ve blown past the 5,000-yard mark. If the Packers play in more shootout type games, as the Lions game was, I think Rodgers would be a strong candidate to crack the 6,000-yard mark. He clearly can play that kind of game.”
A 6,000-yard season may happen in the NFL eventually, but I think 6,000 yards is a lot further away than Vic Ketchman seems to believe. First of all, it’s possible that 2011 was an outlier in terms of passing numbers, and not the start of a trend toward 5,000-yard seasons becoming commonplace. Maybe defenses were behind the game last year after the lockout, and maybe this year we’ll start to see some defensive adjustments that rein in some of the league’s best passers.
And even if last year’s passing numbers are the new normal, there’s still a lot of distance between Drew Brees’s new record of 5,476 yards and Rodgers (or anyone) reaching 6,000 yards. Asking a quarterback to produce a 10 percent increase on Brees’s spectacular season is a tall order. To reach 6,000 yards, a quarterback would need to average 375 yards a game. A 375-yard game is still relatively rare, and a quarterback averaging 375 yards a game, every game, for a 16-game season, is extremely difficult.
After Dan Marino set a record with 5,084 yards in 1984, it took 27 seasons for Brees to break that record. It could easily be another quarter century or more before anyone tops Brees’s record. A 6,000-yard season is probably a long way off.