The 20 Best Single-Season Offensive Performances in NFL History
The 2012 NFL season has been one of the most exciting seasons to date. It’s pretty crazy to think that we have seen many records drop already, with the potential to see even more fall in Week 17. We have already witnessed Calvin Johnson break the record for receiving yards in a season, and we might see Adrian Peterson break the single-season rushing record as well. The fact that one – if not both – of these records are broken got me to thinking: what is the best offensive season of all-time?
Of all lists I’ve done in the past year, this was easily the most difficult one to make. The fact I didn’t include such greats like Emmitt Smith, Joe Montana, and Walter Payton kind of upset me. To think that these hall of famers didn’t have one of the twenty greatest offensive seasons is quite perplexing. Also, you will not be seeing Eric Dickerson on this list, because he fumbled 14 times in 1984. Although they weren’t included in my list, I certainly would not object to including them, or players like Priest Holmes and Issac Bruce on the honorable mention list, which is kind of what I’m doing here.
Nevertheless, here are the 20 greatest offensive seasons in NFL history. I tried to spread it out equally between quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers, which is also why some of the ones who didn’t make the list got cut.
Feel free to add any others I didn’t mention. But if I forgot to include your favorite team’s player, it’s nothing personal. I promise.
Drew Brees (2011)
2011: 16 games, 468 completions, 5,476 yards, 46 touchdowns, 110.6 rating
I almost left this off the list, seeing as the Saints constantly ran up the score in 2011, but I couldn't do it. Running it up or not, nearly 5,500 yards is just crazy talk.
Shaun Alexander (2005)
2005: 16 games, 370 carries, 1,880 yards, 78 receiving yards, 28 total touchdowns
It kind of stinks that Alexander only had the total touchdowns record for one year. Poor guy.
Terrell Davis (1998)
1998: 16 games, 392 carries, 2,008 yards, 217 receiving yards, 23 total touchdowns
There was a reason why John Elway finally won a Super Bowl ring, and that reason was Terrell Davis. It's a shame that Davis was never the same after this season. He only had 1,194 yards and four touchdowns in the following three seasons combined.
Steve Young (1994)
1994: 16 games, 324 completions, 3,969 35 touchdowns, 112.8 rating
Although Joe Montana might be the greatest QB of all-time when we included postseason numbers, Steve Young had the best season in 49ers QB history. Historically speaking, I feel Young is really overlooked.
Rob Gronkowski (2011)
2011: 16 games, 90 catches, 1,327 yards, 18 total touchdowns
I felt obliged to put at least one tight end on this list, and who better than Gronk?
Barry Sanders (1997)
1997: 16 games, 335 carries, 2,053 yards, 305 receiving yards, 14 total touchdowns
Before there were Peyton/Brady or Kobe/LeBron, there was Barry/Emmitt debates that ruled the sporting world; although, I don't think it's really a debate.
OJ Simpson (1975)
1975: 14 games: 329 carries, 1,817 yards, 426 receiving yards, 25 total touchdowns
Before OJ was doing, well, ya know, he was a really awesome football player. In fact, OJ had two ridiculously good seasons. Although Simpson ran for 2,000 yards in 1973, I feel he was even better in 1975.
Marvin Harrison (2002)
2002: 16 games, 143 catches, 1,722 yards, 11 touchdowns
The car wash king of the world was probably one of the best possession receivers of all-time. Harrison's 2002 campaign was the peak of his career, setting the record for receptions in a single-season.
Peyton Manning (2004)
2004: 16 games, 336 completions, 4,557 yards, 49 touchdowns, 121.1 rating
Living in the Indianapolis area for five years, and not being a Colts fan, has skewed my opinion on Manning. With all my personal hating aside, however, he is one of the greatest players to ever play the game. His 2004 season is the cherry on top of a career-long sundae.
Gale Sayers (1965)
1965: 14 games, 166 carries, 867 yards, 507 receiving yards, 20 total touchdowns
While those statistics are impressive, what makes Sayers' 1965 season legendary is his 898 return yards and two touchdowns on special teams.
Otto Graham (1947)
1947: 14 games, 163 completions, 2,753 yards, 25 touchdowns, 109.2 rating
Football was an entirely different game during this time period, which makes Graham's season impressive. The second place guy in terms of quarterback rating rocked a 74.3, proving Graham was in a league of his own.
Aaron Rodgers (2011)
2011: 15 games, 343 completions, 4,653 yards, 45 touchdowns, 122.5 rating
The fact that Aaron Rodgers shattered the QB rating record, and didn't lead the league in any statistical categories, goes to show how crazy 2011 really was.
Don Hutson (1942)
1942: 11 games, 74 catches, 1,211 yards, 17 touchdowns
Although Hutson's season kind of sounds pedestrian compared to the rest of these guys, we have to put his season in perspective. Here are the stats of the player who finished second to Hutson in yardage: 19 catches, 571 yards, 8 touchdowns. As you can see, Hutson basically doubled the second place guy.
Randy Moss (2007)
2007: 16 games, 98 catches, 1,493 yards, 23 touchdowns
Randy Moss is one of the greatest wide receivers in the history of the NFL, no matter how you slice and dice it. Even before his record-breaking season in 2007, Moss probably had a Hall of Fame career. But after he set the record for touchdown receptions in a single-season, he left no debate on whether he belongs in Canton or not.
Tom Brady (2007)
2007: 16 games, 398 completions, 4,806 yards, 50 touchdowns, 117.2 rating
Even if you hated the Patriots in 2007, your eyes were glued to the TV when they were chasing down an undefeated record. Tom Brady's 2007 campaign may not be the best season for a QB ever, but it was by far the most exciting one to watch.
Jerry Rice (1995)
1995: 16 games, 122 catches, 1,848 yards, 15 touchdowns
In my opinion, Jerry Rice is one of the greatest athletes of all-time. To do what he did on a consistent basis is pretty extraordinary, even with two Hall of Fame QBs tossing the pigskin to him. Although Calvin Johnson broke his record, Rice's season is much, much better, seeing as he had 15 scores.
LaDainian Tomlinson (2006)
2006: 16 games, 348 carries, 1,815 yards, 508 receiving yards, 31 total touchdowns
It seems like only yesterday we saw LT go crazy on a weekly basis with the San Diego Chargers. It's really hard to believe this record-setting season was six years ago. What makes this season all the more impressive is that LT only fumbled twice all season.
Dan Marino (1984)
1984: 16 games, 362 completions, 5,084 yards, 48 touchdowns, 108.9 rating
Although every one of these records were broken by guys we have already seen, I feel Dan Marino had the greatest single-season in QB history. I can't even imagine what Marino could have done in a leaguer where there was an illegal contact penalty.
Marshall Faulk (2000)
2000: 14 games, 253 carries, 1,359 yards, 830 receiving yards, 26 total touchdowns
While it's impressive enough to do what Faulk did in 14 games, he did all of this without losing one fumble. What a weapon he was.
Jim Brown (1963)
1963: 14 games, 291 carries, 1,863 yards, 269 receiving yards, 15 total touchdowns
Alas, the greatest offensive season of all-time. What makes Brown so ridiculous is that a debate could be made about what truly is his best season. He has three other seasons that rival his 1963 campaign, but 1,863 yards in 14 games is pretty mind-blowing.