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Largest increase in pass completions

And then John said to Peyton, 'Tim Tebow.'

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Unlike most sports writers, I don’t know a lot about what will happen this season. But there’s one thing I do know: the Denver Broncos aren’t going to rank 32nd again in pass attempts again. The Tebow Broncos, an offense with an inexperienced quarterback and a confused offensive coordinator, completed just 217 passes last season. That was the lowest in the league, and the lowest since the ’09 Jets, a team that boasted the number one rushing attack and defense in the league — and Mark Sanchez.

Setting aside those years where the league scheduled more games in the following season, the table below shows the teams with the largest increase in completions from one year (that’s the year listed in the table) to the next:

YearTmCmp NCmp N+1DifferenceQB Year NQB Year N+1HC Year NHC Year N+1
1978SFO190361171Steve DeBergSteve DeBergPete McCulley1Bill Walsh
2000TAM237362125Shaun KingBrad JohnsonTony DungyTony Dungy
2004ARI299419120Josh McCownKurt WarnerDennis GreenDennis Green
1998CHI284404120Erik KramerShane MatthewsDave WannstedtDick Jauron
1993NWE289405116Drew BledsoeDrew BledsoeBill ParcellsBill Parcells
2000CIN207322115Akili SmithJon KitnaDick LeBeau2Dick LeBeau
1957PHI99214115Bobby ThomasonNorm Van BrocklinHugh DevoreBuck Shaw
2006ATL222336114Michael VickJoey HarringtonJim MoraBobby Petrino
1983MIA254367113Dan MarinoDan MarinoDon ShulaDon Shula
1994DET250362112Dave KriegScott MitchellWayne FontesWayne Fontes
1978BAL202313111Bill TroupGreg LandryTed MarchibrodaTed Marchibroda
2008MIN267377110Gus FrerotteBrett FavreBrad ChildressBrad Childress
2008SEA262372110Seneca WallaceMatt HasselbeckMike HolmgrenJim Mora
1989HOU295399104Warren MoonWarren MoonJerry GlanvilleJack Pardee
2001SEA258361103Matt HasselbeckMatt HasselbeckMike HolmgrenMike Holmgren
1988NWE199302103Doug FlutieSteve GroganRaymond BerryRaymond Berry
1979HOU195296101Dan PastoriniKen StablerBum PhillipsBum Phillips
1996SEA26135998Rick MirerWarren MoonDennis EricksonDennis Erickson
1999PHI23533196Doug PedersonDonovan McNabbAndy ReidAndy Reid
1993MIN31540994Jim McMahonWarren MoonDennis GreenDennis Green
1985CLE22231593Bernie KosarBernie KosarMarty SchottenheimerMarty Schottenheimer
1993NOR27436692Wade WilsonJim EverettJim MoraJim Mora
1992DEN25835092John ElwayJohn ElwayDan ReevesWade Phillips
1972PHI18427591John ReavesRoman GabrielEd KhayatMike McCormack
1950GNB14023191Tobin RoteBobby ThomasonGene RonzaniGene Ronzani
2011DEN217Tim TebowPeyton ManningJohn FoxJohn Fox

The 1978 49ers ranked 24th out of 28 teams in completions; the next year, they led the league. As discussed in this post on expansion teams, Walsh spent eight years in Cincinnati as one of the game’s brightest offensive minds, but was snubbed for the head coaching job with the Bengals. He spent a year as the offensive coordinator in San Diego and two as the head coach of Stanford before returning to the NFL with the 49ers in 1979. Walsh didn’t waste any time in getting his West Coast offense implemented: in addition to overseeing the team that led the league in completions, his second draft pick with the team was Joe Montana. After turning the team over to Montana in 1980, the 49ers led the league in completion percentage in ’80 and ’81, winning the Super Bowl in Walsh’s third season in San Francisco.

The Broncos will need 389 completions this season to break the record. Assuming good health, that’s not an unattainable goal. Manning has topped that number three times all by himself, including in 2009 and 2010. There are few ways to improve your passing quality and quantity like going from Pete McCulley and Fred O’Connor to Bill Walsh, but I think going from Tim Tebow to (a healthy) Peyton Manning may be one of them.

  1. In 1978, the 49ers fired McCulley after 9 games and Fred O'Connor coached the rest of the season. []
  2. In 2000, Bruce Coslet was the Bengals coach to start the season, but he resigned after three straight blowouts to begin the year. []
  • Richie

    I like that Bobby Thomason was the “solution” in 1951, but he was the “problem” in 1957.

    • Danish

      Haha well spottet.

      What in the world happened in 1993 with Drew Bledsoe and Bill Parcells. All of a sudden they decided to pass?

  • Chase Stuart

    The Broncos are on pace for 402 completions this year, which would set the record.

  • Chase Stuart

    The Broncos have 377 completions after 16 weeks, meaning Peyton Manning and the Broncos need just 12 completions in week 17 to set the record.

  • Nick

    And with 400 even, he sets the mark: 181.