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Passing By Uniform Number

Namath BearMost people know about quarterbacks and the number 12. Even if you didn’t know where it started — Al Dorow of the New York Titans made the Pro Bowl in ’61 wearing number 12, while Charley Johnson of the St. Louis Cardinals was the first #12 to throw for 3,000 yards, doing so in 1963 and 1964 — you can probably recite most of the history from there. John Brodie, who entered the NFL in 1957, was the first great #12, while Joe Namath took the number to iconic status in the late ’60s. It was popularized by Roger Staubach (who also wore 12 at Navy in the early ’60s), Bob Griese, Terry Bradshaw, and Ken Stabler in the ’70s.1 That means the Super Bowl winning quarterback wore #12 for nine straight years, beginning with Super Bowl VI. Doug Williams even wore it in Tampa Bay, although punter Steve Cox forced Williams to don #17 when in Washington.

Lynn Dickey wore it for the Packers in the early ’80s, while Randall Cunningham and Jim Kelly repped #12 later in the decade. Stan Humphries made it to the Super Bowl wearing #12 with the Chargers, while Erik Kramer set the still-standing franchise records for passing yards and passing touchdowns in a season while wearing #12 for the Bears in 1995. The only time a Ravens quarterback threw for 4,000 yards or 30 touchdowns was when Vinny Testaverde wore #12 in 1996. Chris Chandler took the Falcons to the Super Bowl in 1998 wearing #12, while Rich Gannon became the second great Raiders quarterback to wear twelve a year later.

And since then, three guys you might have heard of have worn #12: Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Andrew Luck.

Since 1950, players wearing #12 have thrown for 675,044 yards. No other number has yet to hit the 500,000-yard mark. But that brings us to today’s trivia: Which number has produced the second most passing yards since 1950?

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The table below shows all passing yards by uniform number since 1950:

RkPYDUni #
167504412
24935697
342096911
440030610
538896714
637177817
73611479
833626916
93144328
1023923415
1120922418
121734685
1316500213
1414521819
151428423
161385614
17838026
18787382
19768031
203512621
212673322
221622542
23491425
24476763
25446932
26414860
27327633
28296638
29242820
30225161
31211528
32204230
33194544
34191435
35142462
36133952
37118534
38112823
39102940
40101349
4191624
4280964
4379868
4472786
4568388
4668239
4765626
4863483
4953941
5053082
5150880
5244247
5342148
5441084
5539836
5638081
5737129
5836337
5935577
6031087
6128589
6227346
6323227
6418985
6515331
668445
676443
683174
692476
701955
701956
72953
73359
7400
74050
74051
74054
74057
74058
74065
74066
74067
74069
74070
74071
74072
74073
74075
74078
74079

Two more notes:

  • Punter/receiver/defensive end Horace Gillom was a good player with the Browns for nine years. And in 1950, Gillom, who wore #59, completed a 3-yard pass.
  • The largest number to gain any passing yards in the NFL is number 89. It was worn most prominently by Frank Wycheck, who threw for 148 yards in his career, even if his most famous pass never gained any passing yards.

And no, there has yet to be a player wearing a number in the 90s who has thrown for any passing yards. You’re up, J.J. Watt.

  1. And, sadly, not popularized by Greg Cook. []
  • Nuclear Badger

    It looks like Favre has more than half of the #4 yardage…

    • That it does!

      • And just 2 players account for more than 75% of #19 😉

        • And add about another 5K for Montana 🙂

        • Warren Moon has 64% of #1 yardage, while Cam Newton has another 19%. That’s about 5/6 of that yardage by just two guys 🙂

    • Warren Moon has 64% of #1 yardage, while Cam Newton has another 19%. That’s about 5/6 of that yardage by just two guys.

  • Most importantly, John Hadl wore #12 for a few games, at least until he was able to trade a six pack for his #21:

    http://journaltimes.com/sports/focus-on-football-john-hadl-trade-was-one-of-dubious/article_ae9313da-15c4-5e63-989e-4f153ae8874d.html

  • sacramento gold miners

    It’s a shame what happened to Greg Cook, he was such a special talent, Ken Anderson may have been a career backup in Cincinnati. Hometown hero, had both the physical tools and intangibles during his rookie season of 1969. A healthy Cook may have changed the course of both the Bengals and 49ers, reversing the mistake of Cincinnati not hiring Bill Walsh to replace Paul Brown in 1976.

    Treating shoulder injuries have come a long way since 1969, Drew Brees would have been finished after his San Diego injury in another era. Sadly, Cook passed away a few years ago, and never did have a successful post-football transition. NFL Films did a piece on Cook with Ron Jaworski breaking down the film the way he does for ESPN on today’s QBs, and this is a case of the memories being right on the money.

  • malus rex

    But what’s the most worn number for QBs? The passing yards stat for #12 might not be so great a feat if 12 is the most worn jersey number by far. On the contrary, placing 2nd or 3rd among jerseys worn, would be extremely impressive. However and more importantly, which jersey number has won the most Super Bowls?

    • Mark Growcott

      11 different QBs have worn #12 in the SB easily the highest and 7 of those won the SB. #7 is next highest with 7 different QBs having worn that # and 3 of those won the SB.

      • rex

        Then the fact that 12 is most worn jersey number completely diminishes the passing yards stat.