Last night, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s single-season NFL passing record in a blowout win over the Atlanta Falcons. Marino set the old record of 5,084 yards with the Miami Dolphins in 1984. Brees now sits at 5,087 yards.
Perhaps the most amazing thing is that he broke this record in 15 games. The Saints still have one game left, at home against the Carolina Panthers on New Year’s Day. While he already has the NFL record, Brees still has two marks to surpass.
- Brees needs 133 more passing yards to top Jim Kelly’s single-season USFL record of 5,219 yards, which he set with the Houston Gamblers in 1984 — the same year Marino set his NFL record. (To be fair, the USFL played an 18-game season.)
- Brees needs 193 yards to become the first quarterback in pro football history to pass for three miles in a single season. THREE MILES!
Has any quarterback at any level of American football thrown for more than 3 miles in a single season? The answer is four, all in NCAA Division I Bowl Series football. B.J. Symons set the record of 5,833 passing yards in a season in 2003 at Texas Tech. Another Texas Tech QB, Graham Harrell, is second with 5,705 yards in 2007. Houston QB Case Keenum threw for 5,671 yards in 2009, and Hawaii QB Colt Brennan threw for 5,549 yards in 2006.
Those college records, however, don’t translate into pro success, largely because those teams ran the run-and-shoot offense, which fell out of favor in the NFL decades ago. Harrell, who also holds the Texas high school football single-season passing record — 4,825 yards in 2003 — is the 3rd-string quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, while Symons and Brennan are currently out of football. Keenum, who is the NCAA’s all-time leader in total passing yards, touchdowns, and completions, is finishing his senior season at Houston.
UPDATE: Just to make sure all our bases are covered here, Doug Flutie holds the Canadian Football League record for most passing yards in a single season with 6,619, set with the B.C. Lions in 1991. Also, Mark Grieb set the Arena Football League record this year with 5,310 passing yards for the San Jose SaberCats.