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Who Will Lead the NFL in Passing Yards from 2013 to 2022?

Most of you know that counting stats mean little for quarerbacks, but most of you also know that nothing beats meaningless trivia. Last July, I wondered who would lead the NFL in rushing yards from 2012 to 2021? It took a year, but now the natural follow-up question: Who will lead the NFL in passing yards over the next ten seasons?

Did you know that Joe Montana passed for the most yards in the ’80s? Or that Y.A. Tittle passed for the most yards from ’48 to ’57 (AAFC included) and then ’53 to ’62? The table below shows each leader in passing yards for every ten-year period, along with their age and NFL experience during their first season of that decade.

Years
Pass Yds
Quarterback
Beg Age
Beg Exp.
1932--19416749Arnie Herber223
1933--19426625Sammy Baugh19--
1934--19438379Sammy Baugh20--
1935--19449228Sammy Baugh21--
1936--194510897Sammy Baugh22--
1937--194612060Sammy Baugh231
1938--194713871Sammy Baugh242
1939--194815617Sammy Baugh253
1940--194917002Sammy Baugh264
1941--195016765Sammy Baugh275
1942--195116633Sammy Baugh286
1943--195217049Otto Graham22--
1944--195319771Otto Graham23--
1945--195421863Otto Graham24--
1946--195523584Otto Graham251
1947--195621750Otto Graham262
1948--195719139Y.A. Tittle221
1949--195819845Bobby Layne232
1950--195920539Norm Van Brocklin242
1951--196020949Norm Van Brocklin253
1952--196119224Norm Van Brocklin264
1953--196219297Y.A. Tittle276
1954--196321491Johnny Unitas21--
1955--196424315Johnny Unitas22--
1956--196526845Johnny Unitas231
1957--196628095Johnny Unitas242
1958--196728973Johnny Unitas253
1959--196827105Johnny Unitas264
1960--196926548Johnny Unitas275
1961--197028090Sonny Jurgensen275
1962--197126487Fran Tarkenton222
1963--197226543Fran Tarkenton233
1964--197326812John Hadl243
1965--197426437Fran Tarkenton255
1966--197526822Fran Tarkenton266
1967--197627222Fran Tarkenton277
1968--197725868Fran Tarkenton288
1969--197826781Fran Tarkenton299
1970--197923863Fran Tarkenton3010
1971--198023397Jim Hart276
1972--198124785Ken Anderson232
1973--198227139Dan Fouts221
1974--198328988Dan Fouts232
1975--198430996Dan Fouts243
1976--198533238Dan Fouts254
1977--198633734Dan Fouts265
1978--198735382Dan Fouts276
1979--198832383Dan Fouts287
1980--198930958Joe Montana242
1981--199033107Joe Montana253
1982--199135386Dan Marino21--
1983--199239502Dan Marino221
1984--199338510Dan Marino232
1985--199437879Dan Marino243
1986--199537410Dan Marino254
1987--199635459Dan Marino265
1988--199735994Dan Marino276
1989--199835057Dan Marino287
1990--199933508Dan Marino298
1991--200034706Brett Favre221
1992--200138627Brett Favre232
1993--200239058Brett Favre243
1994--200339116Brett Favre254
1995--200439322Brett Favre265
1996--200538790Brett Favre276
1997--200638776Brett Favre287
1998--200741626Peyton Manning221
1999--200841889Peyton Manning232
2000--200942254Peyton Manning243
2001--201042541Peyton Manning254
2002--201140521Drew Brees232
2003--201242414Drew Brees243

If you asked this question 80 years ago, Sammy Baugh — who didn’t even enter the NFL until 1937 — would have been the correct answer, as he led the league in passing yards from ’33 to ’42. Otto Graham, Johnny Unitas, and Dan Marino also led the league during ten-year periods that began before they were playing professional football. A few non-Hall of Famers show up on the list, with John Hadl, Jim Hart, and Ken Anderson interrupting long periods of Fran Tarkenton-led dominance.

So what can we make of the results? The average running back was just a hair under 22 at the start of his ten year period, but for quarterbacks, the average age was 24.6. Nearly half of all running backs were not yet in the NFL at the start of their ten year run, while the average quarterback had 2.1 years of experience before the start of his run. The median numbers were 24 and two, respectively.

The top passers of the next decade?

The top passers of the next decade?

Over one-third of all quarterbacks were entering their second or third seasons at the start of the streak. What does that mean for the stretch from 2013 to 2022? Despite having already started four seasons, Matthew Stafford seems like the ideal candidate. I have written a lot about him lately, so I won’t turn this into another Stafford post. But it’s hard not to like his odds considering that he is just 25 years old and has thrown for over 10,000 yards the last two seasons. Matt Ryan (28 in 2013), Joe Flacco (28), and Aaron Rodgers (30) can be ruled out for age reasons, which goes double for all the star quarterbacks older than them. Josh Freeman threw for 4,000 yards last year in his age 24 season, putting him on the right side of the quarterback age curve. Robert Griffin III (23 in 2013), Cam Newton and Andrew Luck (24), Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson (25), and maybe Sam Bradford would seem like the other obvious favorites.

If forced to rank, I would go:

1. Stafford
2. Luck
3. Newton
4. Griffin
5. Wilson

Leave your top-five ranking in the comments. I’ll end today’s post with a fascinating list of all the passing leaders from 2004 to 2012, 2005 to 2012, 2006 to 2012, and so on.

Years
Pass Yds
Quarterback
Beg Age
Beg Exp.
2004--201240306Drew Brees254
2005--201237147Drew Brees265
2006--201233571Drew Brees276
2007--201229153Drew Brees287
2008--201224730Drew Brees298
2009--201219661Drew Brees309
2010--201215273Drew Brees3110
2011--201210653Drew Brees3211
2012--20125177Drew Brees3312

{ 19 comments… add one }

  • Dan August 4, 2013, 1:48 am

    1. Luck
    2. Stafford
    3. Ryan
    4. Wilson
    5. Griffin

    5 guys have done it for the decade starting at age 28, and Brees has a big lead on the pack as he vies to join them, so I wouldn’t rule out Matt Ryan. Rodgers is also in contention for ages 30-39 – I think I’d rank him 7th.

  • Topher Doll August 4, 2013, 12:47 pm

    1. Luck
    2. Stafford
    3. Ryan
    4. Newton
    5. Freeman

    I don’t think Wilson is in a system to put up huge yardage numbers and Robert Griffin doesn’t strike me as a guy with a long career or a lot of 16 game season.

  • Scott August 4, 2013, 4:11 pm

    Wilson won’t be in the top five. Players amass huge amounts of passing yards because they are usually losing the game. They have abandoned the run and are trying to catch up. Take a look at the top ten players in passing yardage from last year and have a look at their team’s W/L records. The top three passers in that category combined for a 19-29 record. Wilson won’t often be in a position where his team will be forced to pass, hence I find it pretty doubtful he will rank very high in passing yards.

    • Chase Stuart August 4, 2013, 4:37 pm

      On the other hand, Joe Montana led the league in the ’80s.

      • Gmc August 5, 2013, 1:13 am

        Also, Peyton Manning.

        Brett Favre won games too, I hear.

      • Scott August 14, 2013, 4:49 am

        Trying to use something that happened 30 years ago as a basis for an argument about the current state of the NFL is bold indeed. Favre, Manning, Montana, Marino, Elway….all great quarterbacks and none of them has success without solid defense and incredible rushing. One need only look at Elway as an example…one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play the game, but he didn’t start getting rings until Terrell Davis gave them to him. Quarterbacks don’t win championships…running and defense does.

    • James August 13, 2013, 11:28 am

      While that may be true now, I don’t think we can project Wilson will be on a winning team 3+ years from now any more than we can project the same for Stafford, Luck, Brees, etc.

      • Richie August 13, 2013, 4:08 pm

        I think you’ve missed the preseason hype. The Seahawks are going to be the greatest team ever for the next decade-plus.

      • Scott August 14, 2013, 4:51 am

        No one is talking about 3 years from now. We’re talking about the 2013 season

        • James August 14, 2013, 7:50 am

          The title of this post is “Who Will Lead the NFL in Passing Yards from 2013 to 2022?” As in total passing yards over all 10 years.

          • Scott August 14, 2013, 3:30 pm

            Ooooppps…..I humbly stand corrected

  • Tim Truemper August 6, 2013, 8:18 am

    Tarkenton was winnning in the 70’s too. ASnd John Unitas in the 50’s 60’s, and Tittle often in the 50’s to 60’s and so forth. No game scripts from back then but it is apparent that many teams spread out their passing to run ratio evenly and was not just an overwhelming run first mentality.

    On that note- 1) Stafford; 2) Ryan; 3) Luck; 4) Freeman; 5) Newton

  • Tim Truemper August 6, 2013, 8:20 am

    Meant to mention- really like the “rolling data” chart. Very nice to see the trend and also how frequently certain QB’s would be ahead in yards year after year. Wonder how close Sid Luckman was to Baugh back then?

    • JeremyDe August 7, 2013, 10:14 am

      33-42 Baugh 6625, Luckman 3782
      34-43 Baugh 8379, Luckman 5976
      35-44 Baugh 9228, Luckman 6994
      36-45 Baugh 10897, Luckman 8721
      37-46 Baugh 12060, Luckman 10547
      38-47 Baugh 13871, Luckman 13259
      39-48 Baugh 15617, Luckman 14306
      40-49 Baugh 17002, Luckman 14050 <-luckman only started 2 games this year
      41-50 Baugh 16765, Luckman 13109 <-luckman no starts

      Baugh led in yardage on these charts because he had 2 years on Luckman. Baugh was the 1st pick in '37, Luckman was the 2nd overall pick in '39. Baugh also stays ahead of Luckman because he retired 2 years later ('52 vs '50).

      If you compare them by age…Luckman comes out better. They both started their first season at 23. Baugh had more yards after their seasons as 23 and 25 year olds (1st and 3rd), but Luckman threw for more cumulative at every other age until they 33. Luckman started his last season at 32, and in the following 2 years, started only 2 games (played in 22 total), threw for 380 yards total and was retired after 34. Baugh after turning 32, played 6 more seasons, threw for 10,000 more yards and led the league in passing at age 33 and 34.

      • Chase Stuart August 7, 2013, 10:43 am

        Agreed. Great stuff.

  • Tim Truemper August 7, 2013, 10:38 am

    Thanks Jeremy That was very helpful. I glanced at PFR to compare but did not do the math. Very considerate of you and also illuminating.

    • JeremyDe August 8, 2013, 1:17 pm

      No worries Tim. Glad to help. The math was all courtesy of PFR and quick Excel formulas. I got curious after you asked the question. Baugh has always been one of my all-time favorite players, but I didn’t realize how good Luckman was until looking at this.

  • James August 13, 2013, 11:36 am

    1. Stafford
    2. Luck
    3. Newton
    4. Ryan
    5. Rodgers

    Luck has to take fewer hits or he’s going to be the next Roethlisberger and play only 14 games a year. For that reason I’d have Stafford as a big favorite with the other 4 close behind (and Griffin close behind them).

  • Richie August 13, 2013, 4:06 pm

    I’ll end today’s post with a fascinating list of all the passing leaders from 2004 to 2012, 2005 to 2012, 2006 to 2012, and so on. Drew Brees

    You should check your data on that. I believe he’s too short to be an NFL QB.

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