Brees May Hold Record, but Marino’s 1984 Season Still Best Ever

Dan Marino…Best Pure Passer…EVER.  Period.  On Monday night, Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s all time passing yardage record for a single season.  However, Marino’s 5,084 passing yards were more impressive….MUCH more impressive.  Why?  There are several reasons:

1. Dan Marino accumulated 5,084 passing yards on 58 FEWER attempts and 78 FEWER completions than Drew Brees.  So Marino got more yards with fewer passes.

2. Marino’s average yards per attempt in 1984 was 9.01 compared to Brees’ 8.18.

3. Marino also threw for 48 TDs that season compared to Brees’ 41 this season.  Yes, Brees still has one game left, but can he throw for 7 more TDs?

4. NFL Rule Changes.  This is the biggest difference in my opinion between Marino’s and Brees’ record breaking years.  Marino played in an NFL when defenders could actually hold receivers, deliver vicious hits, and do more than play patty cake with the quarterback.  Brees has had the luxury of receivers running more wide open, against coverage that is more loose.  To show you what I mean, read this article.  It’s conceivable that Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers could ALL break Marino’s record this season.  Yes, they are all Hall of Fame QBs….BUT, the current NFL rules are helping to make it MUCH easier on offenses.  So the numbers put up recently are inflated…similar to the way that home run totals in baseball are because of many changing variables (field size, juiced balls, juiced players, lower mound, etc)

This is by no means a slight at Drew Brees.  He is a tremendous quarterback who is having a phenomenal season.  BUT, it’s important to realize that just because he now owns the record, his season should be viewed through realistic goggles.   If there was ever a player that I’d like to see break Dan’s record, it’s Drew Brees.  He’s a great guy and by all accounts a role model for children everywhere.  I congratulate him on the record and hope he continues his solid play.  But just remember, 1984 was a magical season…not just because Marino was a Dolphin…But because he did something that no one had ever come close to, in a time when the rules, and the NFL as a whole, was much different.


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  • Eric

    I agree and disagree. The author says Marino did his feat with 58 fewer attempts AND 78 fewer completions… but that could be an argument in Brees’s favor. Brees had a ridiculous 70.7 completion percentage compared to Marino’s 64, which is pretty darn good as well. But like the author said, Marino had to do this without QB friendly rules. Plus Marino did this in only his 2nd NFL season. BUT… Marino never truly duplicated this performance, so I have to disagree with the comment that Marino is the best pure passer ever, with a dramatic period to finish the sentence. Marino also threw 17 interceptions compared to 13 for Brees, so it is not definitive who had the better season, especially when Brees has 1 more game to play and throws for 300 yards 3 or 4 TDs with no interceptions. And even though there are more QB friendly rules today than in 1984, the game is played twice as fast by players that have biceps… that have biceps. The moral of the story is that this is not nearly as open and shut case as the author suggests.

    • Bill Daulton

      Eric – you are right, Brees did have a higher completion percentage. BUT, Marino got more out each pass attempt he made. Marino did throw 4 more interceptions, but their QB ratings are almost identical, which speaks volumes for how much better Marino’s season was. I think comparing Brees’ season vs. Marino’s is an open and shut case. Maybe saying best pure passer ever (period) was a little too biased!

  • M Styborski

    “Marino played in an NFL when defenders could actually hold receivers, deliver vicious hits, and do more than play patty cake with the quarterback.”

    BUZZ!! Wrong. Marino took the field in 1983. The NFL instituted the pansy rules, Mel Blount Rule of defenders backing off receivers 5 yards from the LOS and In The Grasp rule in 1978 and 1979, respectively. Nice of you to degrade Drew while simultaneously kissing his… well, whatever.

    You need to find better mentors to quote than Mike Freeman.
    http://humidcity.com/2011/12/27/the-education-of-mike-freeman/

    • Bill Daulton

      M Styborski – Do you honestly think that the rules in 2011 are the same as they were in 1984? If so, I’ll stop typing now. Here’s a little education for you on how passer friendly the NFL has become. Joe Montana has a career QB rating of 92.3. And he’s considered by MANY people to be the best quarterback ever, right? What if I told you that a QB, in today’s NFL had an almost identical QB rating and his name was Matt Schaub? Yes, Matt freaking Schaub has a career QB rating of 92.2. Is Schaub HALF the QB that Montana was? Heck no, but he plays in a passer friendly NFL that Montana and Marino weren’t privy to.

      And by the way, Freeman isn’t the only one to say what he said.

  • John

    Bill, this article is bang-on.

    Don’t appologize for using strong language – Dan is simply the best passer the game has ever seen.

    When one compares Marino’s numbers to his peers of the era (Montana, Elway, Kelly – to name a few), Marino’s numbers are light years ahead. Drew Brees is not even having the best QB season this year (that honour goes to Rodgers).

    It will take nearly 6,000 yards and 55 + touchdowns (in this “current” passing era) for any QB season to amount to what Marino did in 1984.

    On a final note, if Marino played his entire career without 9 consecutive off season knee surguries, the ’93 achilles injury, the ’98 pinched nerve, and several other serious injuries, his numbers would be even greater than they are now. And that is also a reflection on how the game has changed – QBs today don’t get hit as often or as hard. Aside from Brady’s knee injury a few years back, no other “great” QB of this era has really suffered any sort of injury similar to those that Marino played with. Marino was, and is, simply the best pure passer EVER – period!!!

  • John

    Bill: this article is bang-on.

    Don’t appologize for using strong language – Dan is simply the best passer the game has ever seen.

    When one compares Marino’s numbers to his peers of the era (Montana, Elway, Kelly – to name a few), Marino’s numbers are light years ahead. Drew Brees is not even having the best QB season this year (that honour goes to Rodgers).

    It will take nearly 6,000 yards and 55 + touchdowns (in this “current” passing era) for any QB season to amount to what Marino did in 1984.

    On a final note, if Marino played his entire career without 9 consecutive off season knee surguries, the ’93 achilles injury, the ’98 pinched nerve, and several other serious injuries, his numbers would be even greater than they are now. And that is also a reflection on how the game has changed – QBs today don’t get hit as often or as hard. Aside from Brady’s knee injury a few years back, no other “great” QB of this era has really suffered any sort of injury similar to those that Marino played with. Marino was, and is, simply the best pure passer EVER – period!!!

  • King

    Rule changes have inflated passing yards an average of only 28 yards per game. Brees record-breaking year represented a greater increase over the average QB for this era (SD=2.3) than Marino’s great accomplishment releative to the average QB in 1984 (SD=2.27). Of course, Brees essentially reached this milestone twice in three years. Congratulations to both historic QBs. Brees has demonstrated a greater ability to gain passing yards than any other QB in NFL history.