Let’s start with a bit of trivia. Do you know which quarterback has thrown for the most passing yards against any one opponent?
What about the most passing touchdowns?
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.
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.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.
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?
- And remember, our individual games database only goes back to 1960; Unitas played in several more games against the 49ers in the ’50s. [↩]