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Franchises Nemeses: Passing Stats

Let’s start with a bit of trivia. Do you know which quarterback has thrown for the most passing yards against any one opponent?

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What about the most passing touchdowns?

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Last year, on the Wednesday through Friday of Fourth of July, I posted a list of franchise leaders in passing stats, rushing stats, and receiving stats. This year, I’ll be doing the reverse, looking at the biggest nemeses for each franchise. We’ll start with the passing stats today.

The table below shows for each NFL team the quarterback to whom they have allowed the most passing yards since 1960.

TeamOpposing QBPass YdsGms
DETBrett Favre895435
NYJDan Marino865130
CHIBrett Favre860636
BUFDan Marino755330
INDDan Marino753733
NWEDan Marino738230
MINBrett Favre737931
SEAJohn Elway701330
KANJohn Elway660629
SDGJohn Elway654831
OAKJohn Elway585128
STLJoe Montana580723
DENDan Fouts561222
HOUPeyton Manning545219
MIADrew Bledsoe539722
JAXPeyton Manning524319
TAMBrett Favre512523
GNBFran Tarkenton497828
CINWarren Moon490220
ATLJoe Montana480520
DALPhil Simms480423
TENKen Anderson464624
PITWarren Moon460421
PHIJim Hart458026
WASJim Hart455926
CLEKen Anderson438324
ARITroy Aikman426020
NYGTroy Aikman416422
SFOJohnny Unitas409619
CARDrew Brees404714
NORJoe Montana401918
BALCarson Palmer357014

The Jets, Bills, Colts, and Patriots all were torched by their AFC East nemesis, Dan Marino. Similarly, John Elway is the leader in passing yards against for the Seahawks, Chiefs, Chargers, and Raiders, as is Brett Favre for the Lions, Bears, Vikings, and Bucs. Peyton Manning has the Jaguars and Texans, but Ken Anderson threw for more yards against the Titans/Oilers franchise than Manning. However, Anderson’s lead has shrunk to fewer than 100 yards, and with the Titans traveling to Denver on December 8th, that record is on its last legs. Joe Montana, not known for lofty regular season counting stats, threw for more yards against his NFC West rivals — at the time, the Rams, Falcons, and Saints — than any other passer.

49ers killer, Johnny U

49ers killer, Johnny U.

Those are interesting, but not too surprising. But how many guesses would it have taken you to pick Carson Palmer against the Ravens? Or Johnny Unitas against the 49ers? As part of the AAFC realignment, the NFL’s East and West divisions had to split up the dominant Cleveland Browns, the very good San Francisco 49ers, and the lame duck Baltimore Colts.

The Browns went to the East, the 49ers to the West, and for whatever reason, they threw the Colts along with the fledgling New York Yanks franchise into the West (and moved the Chicago Cardinals from the West to the East). The Colts folded after a year, evening out the divisions. The New York Yanks were done after the 1951 season, and in ’52, the Dallas Texans replaced them in the West (then known as the National) Division. But the Texans didn’t last, and were sold back to the NFL after just one season. The NFL flipped the team to Carroll Rosenbloom, who brought football back to Baltimore and also used the Colts name (but he kept the Texans’ team colors of blue and white). That how Unitas’ Colts ended up in the West division, and how he ended up playing 19 games against the 49ers.1 You can read more about the history of those olds Colts/Yanks/Texans/Colts teams here.

What if we do the same for passing touchdowns? I’ll note that I broke ties here based on passing yards, so this table might omit some players tied for the lead.

TeamOpposing QBPass TDsGms
NYJDan Marino7230
CHIBrett Favre6036
DETBrett Favre5835
INDDan Marino5433
MINBrett Favre5431
BUFTom Brady5122
SEAJohn Elway4430
HOUPeyton Manning4419
DENJohn Hadl4323
NWEDan Marino4230
MIATom Brady3922
SDGJohn Elway3831
JAXPeyton Manning3819
ATLJoe Montana3820
STLJoe Montana3723
TAMBrett Favre3723
CINWarren Moon3720
OAKDan Fouts3624
DALJim Hart3524
PHIEli Manning3418
GNBFran Tarkenton3328
CLETerry Bradshaw3322
NORJoe Montana3318
TENKen Anderson3224
ARIJoe Theismann3117
SFOJohnny Unitas3019
KANJohn Elway2829
NYGSonny Jurgensen2822
WASJim Hart2726
PITSonny Jurgensen2616
CARDrew Brees2414
BALBen Roethlisberger1812

Alot of the same info here, but we do spot some differences. Marino doesn’t own the mark against the Bills; that goes to Tom Brady. Elway doesn’t own the top spot against the Raiders, Dan Fouts does. Favre and Montana double down by throwing for the most yards and the most touchdowns against their division rivals. Unitas is still number one against the 49ers, too.

What about Sonny Jurgensen against the Steelers? He actually threw one pre-1960 touchdown against Pittsburgh, too, but he’s one of the more surprising names on the list. It’s hard to think of Jurgensen’s Eagles and Redskins teams as rivals with Pittsburgh, but they were together in the old NFL East (remember, the Steelers moved with the Colts and Browns to the AFC as part of the NFL-AFL merger). Of course, those Steelers teams were terrible back then.

Warren Moon, Frank Ryan, and Brian Sipe are all at 25 touchdowns against the Steelers, with Norm Snead (24), Steve McNair (21), and Carson Palmer (20) also reaching twenty touchdown passes. Joe Flacco has a long way to go, with only 11 in 10 regular season games so far.

Another interesting fact: four different names come up for the old NFC East teams. For the Cardinals, it’s Joe Theismann. For the Eagles, it’s Eli Manning. For the Giants, it’s Sonny Jurgensen, while Jim Hart is #1 for both the Cowboys and Redskins.

What stands out to you?

  1. And remember, our individual games database only goes back to 1960; Unitas played in several more games against the 49ers in the ’50s. []
  • Nit: The first answer disagrees with the first table, so one of them is wrong.

    The biggest surprise to me on the yardage list was Aikman leading against the Cardinals and Giants. If I were guessing on either of those, it would take a while before I got to him.

    • Chase Stuart

      Heh, I blame that one on my lack of sleep. It’s fixed now. Agreed that Aikman is a pretty big surprise.

  • sunrise089

    Cool post Chase, but I think the first trivia answer is wrong, at least according to the chart that follows.

    • Chase Stuart

      Whoops, thanks. It’s fixed now.

  • Tim Truemper

    That Tarkenton was # 1 against the Packers. His first 6 seasons were against the Lombardi Pakcers (1961-66) with two games a year against them. Without checking the game logs I figured that against that defense (esp their pas defense) this would diminish the #’s some, even if he had several seasons in the 70’s when he returned to Minnesota. Who was # 2 in yards and TD’s against the Packers? I’ll go out on a limb and guess Greg Landry because of the potential volume of games he started in the division vs. GB from 197o onward.

    • Chase Stuart

      Testaverde (wow!) was #2 in yards against GB with 3299…Daunte Culpepper was 2nd in passing TDs with 23. Unitas was 3rd in both, Tommy Kramer tied for 3rd in TDs and 4th in yards.

      • I was really hoping that Vinny Testaverde would be the leader against someone. He was just too well-traveled. His highest yardage total with any team was with Tampa Bay, though, so it makes some sense that where he would rank highest is against Green Bay.

        This is only somewhat related. I also just checked because I was pretty certain I remembered him having a big day against them when he was with the Panthers (Yeah, I know, only a weird Vinny Testaverde fan–is there another kind of Vinny Testaverde fan?–would remember anything about when he was with the Panthers.), and it turns out he did have a fairly big one in garbage time, with 258 yards and a pair of touchdowns: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/200711180gnb.htm

  • mrh

    Two nemeses eventually played for the team they tormented. One is obvious, the other not.

    • JeremyDe

      Favre & the Vikings is the obvious one. Is the not obvious one Jim Hart and the Redskins? I know he was here briefly in the mid 80s, but I don’t know if he played while being here.

  • Tim Truemper

    For Shattenjager- I don’t think Testaverde gets enough credit as a QB. He was not always great, but he was often pretty good- and he kept himself in remarkable condition to extend his career. Coaches saw him as a real pro.

    • I agree. He also played with some extraordinarily untalented teams that significantly affected his numbers through a lot of his career. He’s definitely one of the most interesting players in NFL history.

  • Richie

    For the first question I guessed either Marino against the Jets or Favre against the Lions.

    Then, when I saw the second question, I figured “OK, I’ll just take Marino against the Jets for that one”.