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There have been 35 quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for at least 30,000 yards. Given enough time, you could probably guess that Drew Bledsoe, Jim Kelly, and Steve McNair are three of them. All three have something else in common: they were all born on February 14th.

If we drop the cut-off to 16,000 yards, we jump to 125 quarterbacks but get to include David Garrard, another Valentine’s Day baby. With 366 possible birthdays, it’s pretty incredible that four out of a random group of 125 people would have the same birthday. Consider that no one born on any the following seven days — January 30th, March 4th and 30th, April 9th and 13th, and June 12th and 21st — has ever gained a single passing yard in NFL history.1

But wait, there’s more: If we drop the threshold to 3,500 passing yards, we get to include Patrick Ramsey and Anthony Wright. Those guys may not impress you, but consider that only 310 players have thrown for 3,500 yards. That means dozens of days have zero quarterbacks with 3,500 yards, so slotting in Ramsey and Wright as QB5 and QB6 on your birthday dream team is pretty damn good. February 13th, for example, has Jim Youel as its top passer, and he only collected 849 yards. Yesterday’s number two slot goes to the greatest receiver of all-time to ever play with Aaron Brooks (106 yards), outpacing Drew Henson and his 98 career yards. Clearly, passing yardage is for lovers.2

Want more proof? In terms of total career passing yards through the entire history of the league, today has an enormous lead on the second-best birthday. This table shows all passing yards from 1932 to 2012 based on player birthday; the last column shows all quarterbacks born on that day with at least 1,000 passing yards:

DatePass YardsQuarterbacks
02-14137342Drew Bledsoe; Jim Kelly; Steve McNair; David Garrard; Patrick Ramsey; Anthony Wright
03-2486205Peyton Manning; Aaron Brooks; Scott Brunner
??-??85155John Hadl; Ken Anderson; Marc Wilson; David Archer
05-0779071Johnny Unitas; Babe Parilli; Alex Smith; Drew Stanton
12-0877738Philip Rivers; Jeff George; Frank Tripucka; Steve Dils; Steve Tensi
10-1076977Brett Favre; Glenn Foley; Frankie Sinkwich
06-2875082John Elway; Jay Schroeder; Matt Robinson
02-0374453Fran Tarkenton; Bob Griese; Dave Ryan
07-3168935Norm Snead; Gus Frerotte; Tim Couch; Chris Weinke; Andre Ware
05-1768269Earl Morrall; Matt Ryan; Matt Cassel; Craig Erickson; Ace Parker; Irv Comp
01-0366364Jim Everett; Eli Manning
09-1563013Dan Marino; Bob Davis
11-2560610Donovan McNabb; Bernie Kosar
09-1759260Mark Brunell; George Blanda
04-2958685Jim Hart; Jay Cutler; Browning Nagle
03-0757040Tommy Kramer; Steve Beuerlein; Pete Beathard
12-1956399Jake Plummer; Bobby Layne
10-2056301Dave Krieg; Zeke Bratkowski; Don Trull; Joe Geri; Keith Molesworth
02-0555100Craig Morton; Roger Staubach; Gary Wood
11-2152873Troy Aikman; Sid Luckman; Danny Kanell
01-1550380Drew Brees; Turk Schonert

If you’re still not convinced that today is for passing lovers, consider that February 14th has spawned some other men with quarterback connections:

Eli  Manning was born on February 14th by osmosis.

Eli Manning was born on February 14th by osmosis.

Back to the above table. The third-best passing birthdate has been blanked out, as you can see. Up until the end of 2012 — as Peyton Manning continued to rack up the passing yards for March 24th — that mystery date was the second-best passing day. That day is tomorrow, February 15th, the birthdays of Hall of Very Good members John Hadl and Ken Anderson. That means 14% of all the NFL’s 31,000-yard passers were born in a two-day span that accounts for only 0.6% of the days of the year. Marc Wilson ranks 138th in career passing yards, so six of the 138 leading men in passing yardage history were born today or tomorrow.

I think you know where I’m going with this. Yeah, tonight might be fun, but tell your significant other that May 14th and 15th are the dates you need to circle on your calendar if your goal is to sire an NFL quarterback. As such, I’ve appropriated tagged this post.

  1. Even February 29th has a couple of representatives, led by Dick Wood and his 7,153 passing yards. []
  2. Long-time readers will recognize that this post is a blatant ripoff of Doug’s classic Passing Yardage is for Lovers, published five years ago to the day. []
  • Chase, do you think there’s something going on here akin to what Malcolm Gladwell showed regarding hockey players and birth within the US school calendar? Of course, every state handles that differently, so that would have to be considered…

    • Danish

      Are you talking about kids born early in the year always being the oldest on their teams (and therefor strongest/fastest/most intelligent) throughout the youth system? I’ve heard that theory before.

      • That’s the idea, yes.

    • Chase Stuart

      This is on the (real) to-do list for the off-season.

    • Neil

      I wouldn’t be surprised; that effect was found not just for hockey (more January birthdays), but also baseball (more August birthdays), courtesy of our old friend Greg Spira:


      So when is the cutoff for youth football?

      • Richie

        I don’t know what percentage of youth leagues are part of the Pop Warner system (it’s the most famous), but their cutoff is July 31: http://www.popwarner.com/football/footballstructure.htm

        I think that school district cutoffs might be more relevant for football. In Canadian youth hockey, I am under the impression that the best kids are pulled aside at a young age and put on traveling teams. But I think there are a lot of kids who never play contact football until high school (and pretty much nobody skips high school football). So the cutoff for admitting kids to kindergarten has a lot to do with their age in high school, where the most development is happening. In my local district, the cutoff is October 1. Not sure if that’s typical. ” In order to enroll in kindergarten for the 2013/2014 school year, a child must be 5 years old by October 1, 2013.”

        Also, I’m not sure that total passing yards is really the best way to determine if QB’s are more likely to be born on Feb 14. It’s a fun list, but a couple of examples:
        – Ken Anderson helped get Feb 15 to #3 on the list, but we know that Ken Anderson’s passing yards came in a tougher environment than Peyton Manning’s.
        – Jim Kelly played his first couple seasons in the USFL, so his total yards are slightly depressed, having nothing to do with his birth date.

        • Neil

          Fwiw, here’s what we get when we look at eYAR (which is era-adjusted) by birth month for every QB who debuted in 1970 or later:

          | birth_month  | eYAR     |
          | January      | 45226.4  |
          | February     | 48324.1  |
          | March        | 43903.2  |
          | April        | 27512.8  |
          | May          | 11558.4  |
          | June         | 56549.2  |
          | July         | 12286.5  |
          | August       | 30394.6  |
          | September    | 54299.1  |
          | October      | 50693.9  |
          | November     | 51740.3  |
          | December     | 51672.2  |
          • Richie

            June (thanks to Elway) is quite an outlier. Otherwise, it looks like this trends towards birthdays in the fall (generally the cutoff for schools) leads to better NFL QBs.

            How easy would it be to calculate something like eYAR/attempt? Total eYAR is also biased by length of career. I would doubt there is anything magical about Fran Tarkenton being born in February that made him play a long time.

  • JeremyDe

    Any reason the 3rd date on the chart has ??-?? instead of Feb-15?

    • Chase Stuart

      Because it was a spoiler!!

      • JeremyDe

        Doh! I should have read the whole article first before posting.

  • This post reminded me of a Numberphile video about the probability that 2 of the 23 players on a soccer pitch (22 players and a referee) share a birthday. Turns out it’s suprisingly likely.


    • Richie

      Yeah, this is a pretty standard “game” played in introductory stats classes – to show that usually there is at least one matching birthday in a pretty small sample of people.

      • Chase Stuart

        Right. It’s pretty easy to see in Excel.

        Just set up a middle column with 22 rows of 365; on the left, start at 364 and subtract 1 for the next 22 rows. Then in the right column, divide column a by column b. This tells you the odds of a person *not* having a birthday on a specific day (person 1). The second row is for *not* having a birthday on either of two specific days (person 1 and row 1), etc.

        Then put in =product(c1:c22) in cell c23, which multiplies all the probabilities, since they are conditional. It comes out to below 50%.

        364	365	99.7%
        363	365	99.5%
        362	365	99.2%
        361	365	98.9%
        360	365	98.6%
        359	365	98.4%
        358	365	98.1%
        357	365	97.8%
        356	365	97.5%
        355	365	97.3%
        354	365	97.0%
        353	365	96.7%
        352	365	96.4%
        351	365	96.2%
        350	365	95.9%
        349	365	95.6%
        348	365	95.3%
        347	365	95.1%
        346	365	94.8%
        345	365	94.5%
        344	365	94.2%
        343	365	94.0%
        • Richie

          I never knew about the =PRODUCT function before. That one might come in handy!

  • Seth Hartman

    I find it funny that John Elway and Jay Shroeder were born the same day, when I was young I always thought of them as arch nemesis mortal enemies in the likes of superman and lex luther… oh yeah and today is my birthday actually, ummmm i underachieved…

    • Chase Stuart

      Granted it was before my time so presumably it was widely known in the ’70s, but I find it pretty funny that Craig Morton and Roger Staubach share a birthday, with Roger being exactly one year older.