Skip to main content

The Golden Age of QBs and 5,000-yard seasons

We're back, baby!

After a short rest, Going Deep is back for the preseason. Like a student loan officer or a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth, you can't get rid of us. We'll be back again throughout the 2014 season offering all sorts of analytical goodness to help you to a fantasy football championship. Because sorta like an unneccessary Shia LeBeouf sequel, fantasy never sleeps.

Remember that time Peyton Manning went out and threw for a billion yards, half a million touchdowns and led countless fantasy football owners to championships? Of course you do since it happened just last year and you either drafted Manning or you were torched by him.

A year later, many of those same fantasy owners are filling out their draft boards and wondering when would be a good time to pull the trigger on Denver's trigger man. After all, many of the losses the Broncos suffered on the offensive side of the ball have been mitigated (and in some cases upgraded) by the players stepping in as replacements. It's earned Wes Welker's seal of approval, so it has to be good, right?


Before you talk yourself into bucking trends and spending the fourth overall pick in your league on Manning, have a seat and let Going Deep school you on quarterbacks who've had gonzo seasons and what they've done as an encore.

The first thing to note is that in the illustrious history of the National Football League, there have been just eight (!!!) seasons in which a player has thrown for 5,000-plus yards. Four of them were posted by the same player -- Drew Brees -- and seven of them have come since 2008. Before that, the idea of a quarterback tossing for 5k in a season was even more rare than finding the Ethel Merman Disco Album on vinyl.

It probably will come as little surprise that Dan Marino posted the first 5,000-yard season in NFL history way back in the 1984 slate that saw the Dolphins reach the Super Bowl -- that might as well be the Stone Ages in NFL years. In just his second season in the league, the young man from Pitt with the cannon arm showed that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with for years. And he was ... except he never really got close to the magical 5,000-yard mark ever again. The next season, Marino tallied 4,137 yards -- nearly 300 more yards than the next closest quarterback (John Elway), but quite a long way from his astronomical heights of the previous year.

We'd have to wait 24 years for anyone to turn the trick again, when Drew Brees cracked the ceiling with 5,069 yards. The next season, however, saw Brees take a sizable step backwards when he threw for "only" 4,388 yards. Then again, the Saints won the Super Bowl that season, so I doubt you'll hear Brees complain about his totals.

Fast forward to 2011, which one day we might look back upon and consider the start of the Golden Age of Quarterbacks. In the previous 90 years of NFL football, the 5,000-yard barrier had been broken just twice ... it was done three times in 2011 alone.

Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford all entered the quarterback stratosphere that season, buoyed in large part by offenses that frequently put the game on their arms. The trio averaged better than 643 passing attempts that season.

(As an aside, of the eight 5,000-yard seasons in NFL history only one -- Marino in 1984 -- was accomplished by a quarterback with fewer than 600 passing attempts. Marino had just 564 throws that season.)

True to form, all three of those players saw declines the following season. But a funny thing happened on the way to lower totals -- they weren't quite a low as previous 5k encores. In fact, Brees would throw for 5,000 yards again in 2012 ... and 2013.

So what does this all mean for Peyton Manning (and Brees, for that matter) in 2014? Generally speaking, there has been nearly an eight percent drop year-over-year for quarterbacks who throw for 5,000 or more yards. However, in our newly minted "Golden Age", that decline has shrunk to less than four percent. If that trend continues, Manning could be in line for a campaign in the range of 5,200 yards. The run of 5,000-yard seasons could be over for Brees -- but who would really complain about 4,900 yards?

And just in case you were curious ... there have been five instances of an NFL quarterback throwing for 5,000-plus yards and 40-plus touchdowns in a season. Only Drew Brees has doubled down on the deed, doing it in 2011 and 2012. No one else has come close.

There you have it. Manning and Brees should both be in line for another pair of monster seasons. Still, it might be best to avoid drafting either in the first round. Then again, as Shia LaBeouf once said -- if it weren't for people who took risks, where would we be in this world?

Marcas Grant is a fantasy editor for and a man who honestly doesn't understand what Hollywood sees in Shia LaBeouf. You can try to make him see the light -- or ask him fantasy football questions -- on Twitter @MarcasG.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.