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Single-Season Passing Records in Jeopardy

With one game remaining, the NFL is having yet another record-breaking season through the air. Teams are averaging over 259 gross passing yards per game, which would break the record of 252, set last year. Teams are completing 63.1% of passes this year, which would break the record of 62.6%, also set in 2014. And teams are averaging 1.7 passing touchdowns per game, the first time in NFL history (it was 1.6 each of the last two years, and also in 1965).

As a result, a number of single-season franchise records are in jeopardy of falling this year, too, depending on what happens today. Let’s go through the list.

Passing Yards

No quarterback has broken any franchise marks yet, but five are in realistic jeopardy:

  • Carson Palmer (4,542) is just 72 yards away from tying the Cardinals franchise passing record, currently held by Neil Lomax (4,614), set in 1984.
  • Kirk Cousins (4,109) is 120 yards away from setting the Washington franchise record.  Perhaps the most surprising part? It was set by Jay Schroeder (4,109) in 1986.
  • Russell Wilson (3,827) may be the first quarterback in Seahawks history to throw for 4,000 yards in a season.  Matt Hasselbeck is the team’s single-season leader in passing yards, with 3,966 in 2007.
  • Philip Rivers has set a career high with 4,564 passing yards in what has surely been the least enjoyable year of his career. One silver lining? He is 238 passing yards away from 4,802 passing yards, the amount Dan Fouts threw for in 1981.
  • Who would have guessed five months ago that Ryan Fitzpatrick could wind up setting the Jets single-season passing yards mark?  The Harvard graduate has 3,724 passing yards, putting him 283 yards away from the 4,007 Joe Namath threw for in a 14-game season in 1967.

Finally, two real longshots are worth mentioning. Jay Cutler needs 424 passing yards to break the Bears record of 3838, set by Erik Kramer in 1995.  And Matt Ryan needs 462 yards to get to 4,719, which would tie his own mark set in 2012.  Normally, those odds would be low, but he is getting to face the Saints terrible pass defense.

Passing Touchdowns

Bortles has thrown 35 touchdowns this year, demolishing the Jaguars previous single-season mark of 23, set by David Garrard in 2010.  And, with season record-holder for passing touchdowns in Cardinals history, surpassing the 30 thrown by Kurt Warner in 2008.

Ryan Fitzpatrick already has 29 passing touchdowns, which ties the single-season Jets mark, set by Vinny Testaverde in 1998.  So with one more on Sunday, Fitz will become the first Jet to throw for 30 touchdowns in a season.  Also with records in shouting distance on Sunday…

  • Russell Wilson has 31 touchdown throws, putting him one shy of the 32 thrown by Dave Krieg in 1984.
  • In 1963, Y.A. Tittle threw 36 touchdown passes for the New York Giants.  That set an NFL record, and while that mark has obviously been surpassed, it remains a Giants single-season record. Well, Eli Manning now has 33 touchdown passes, so three more would tie the mark, and four would set the record.

Oh, and with five or seven touchdown throws, Kirk Cousins (26) and Philip Rivers (27) would tie their teams’ franchise marks, currently held by Sonny Jurgensen (31, 1967) and Rivers (34, 2008), respectively.

Completion Percentage

There are also five players who, if the season ended today, would set their franchise’s record for completion percentage:

  • Matthew Stafford has completed 66.9% of his passes this year; the single-season record is 63.5%, set by… Stafford in 2011.
  • Russell Wilson has completed 68.1% of his passes; the Seahawks franchise record is 65.6%, set by Dave Krieg in 1991.
  • Joe Flacco will break the Ravens single-season completion percentage mark.  He set that by completing 63.1% of his passes in 2009, but completed 64.4% in this injury-plagued season.
  • Ben Roethlisberger completed 67.1% of his passes just last year, which set the Steelers franchise mark. This year? He’s at 68.1%.
  • Like Roethlisberger, Eli Manning set his team’s franchise record in this category last year, at 63.1%.  That’s where he is right now, too, but last year it was 63.06%, and this year it’s 63.13%.

Now, time for the best stat of the day.  The current record-holder for completion percentage in a single season by a Philadelphia Eagle is… wait for it… Mark Sanchez! Yes, ladies and gentleman, last year, Sanchez completed 64.1% of his 309 pass attempts.  Currently, Sam Bradford is at 64.0%, so he may pass Sanchez by the end of the year.  Not that that is much of an improvement for Eagles fans.

Trent Green set the Kansas City Chiefs mark in 2004 by completing 66.4% of his passes.  With one game to play, Alex Smith is at 65.7%.  He would need a good day — a 20 for 25 would do it, but 19 for 25 would not — so this is likely a long shot.

Finally, one other franchise marks is worth mentioning.  Sammy Baugh completed 70.3% of his passes in 1945, while Kirk Cousins is currently at 69.5%.  Cousins won’t break that mark, but any time you can mention a Sammy Baugh stat, it’s worth doing.

  • Update:

    Passing Yards

    Cousins with 176 passing yards, became the Washington franchise record-holder for passing yards in a season. Bortles, with 239 yards, did the same for the Jaguars.

    Fitzpatrick and Cutler fell short of their marks, while Palmer, Wilson, Rivers, and Ryan are playing in the late games.

    Passing Touchdowns

    Fitzpatrick threw one touchdown, setting a new Jets single-season mark. Manning threw 2, so he fell one short. Wilson and Carr were in the late games.

    Completion Percentage

    Stafford completed 71% of his passes today, so he upped his mark. Roethlisberger hit two-thirds of his passes, but didn’t throw enough to lose the lead: he re-set the Steelers single-season mark. Eli completed only 55.8% of his passes, so he fell short. Bradford went 30/38, so he was able to knock Mark Sanchez out of the Philadelphia record book.

    • Adam

      This proves that era adjustments are absolutely mandatory for all QB stats.

      • Josh Sanford

        Yes! Because when Blake Bortles looks better than Steve Young, you’ve either injured your head or you are in need of an era adjustment. (Or you could just be looking too closely at Steve’s new hairdo?)

        • Chaz

          How does breaking a Jaguars record make someone look better than Steve Young? That makes no sense.

          • Josh Sanford

            Steve Young never in his career passed for as many yards in a season as did Bortles this season; in addition, Bortles essentially tied Young’s best effort for TDs.

            • Chaz

              But he did it with Jaguars, a team that relied heavily on him, and that no defensive coordinator took seriously. Steve Young did that while every defense in the league saw him and his offense as a major priority. There’s no comparison.

  • Adam

    Crazy that a 4,000 yard passing season is now the league average. Also unbelievable that the league TD:INT ratio has broken the 2:1 barrier. I wonder how much more the INT rate can fall? I can’t see it ever going below 2%.

    The most fascinating part of this passing rampage is how little scoring has increased as a result. Especially considering that field goal accuracy is also an at all time high, I’d expect scoring to skyrocket. But it seems as though 23 PPG is pretty much the limit for league wide scoring.

  • Richie

    I am shocked that Mark Brunell never had more than 20 passing TD’s for Jacksonville.

    Turns out he’s one of 6 players to ever throw for 4,000+ yards in one season without throwing more than 20 TD’s.

    And I can rig the numbers to say he’s the only QB to ever throw for over 4,300 yards and *under* 20 TD’s.

  • Will Durham

    No mention of Brees, who continues in machine-like fashion to be the second best QB of his generation, behind only Brady. He just doesn’t get the publicity of some others. Has the most 300 yard games, highest percentage over the last few years, etc. Given the ongoing state of NO, I’d rather see him traded to a solid team in need of a difference maker over the next few years-the Jets for example.

    • Richie

      Did Brees set any franchise records, or have a chance to set any prior to yesterday’s game?

  • Richie

    Ha! Flacco finished with exactly 12 interceptions again. He has thrown exactly 12 interceptions in 5 of his 8 seasons.

  • Richie

    “Sammy Baugh completed 70.3% of his passes in 1945”

    That’s insanity. 70% in 1945!?!? It looks like only 15 QB’s completed at least 60% of their passes in a season, before the merger. Second-best was Otto Graham’s 64.7% in 1953.

  • eag97a

    Looks like we need another iteration of Chase Stuarts’ all time crowd favorite GQBOAT series. Looking forward to it.

    • Adam

      If Chase lets me, I’d like to run that again this year. Probably shake up the format a bit to get a different perspective from voters.

  • Tim Truemper

    Interesting how many team yardage and TD records still exist going back to the 1960’s. Tittle, Jurgensenn Namath and Lamonica holding season records still based on 14 games. Amazing. And kudos to Lomax and Fouts for still being team season leaders for yardage.

    • Richie

      Fouts is especially impressive considering Philip Rivers attempts at that record for so many years.

  • Tim Truemper

    Comment below mentioned Sammy Baugh hitting 70% completion and that Otto Graham was the only other time to exceed 60 %.before the merger in 1966. But YA Tittle did it twice in 1957 and 1963.

    • Richie

      I said only 15 QB’s exceeded 60% before the merger.

      • Tim Truemper

        Sorry Ritchie! You are right.