Every week, it seems we hear about how passing numbers around the NFL are at an all-time high. For the past couple of years, we’ve heard coaches, front-office personnel and media experts talk about how it’s now a "quarterback-driven league."
The numbers support the theory in most ways. But I’m starting to wonder if throwing the ball all over the field every week really is a good thing.
I’m looking at the three quarterbacks with the highest passing totals in Week 9. Philip Rivers threw for 385 yards. Tom Brady had 342. Carson Palmer threw for 332 yards in just his second game with the Raiders.
Guess what? Rivers, Brady and Palmer all lost Sunday.
They all threw at least 35 times, with Brady attempting 49 passes. They combined for nine touchdown passes, but also combined for eight interceptions. Rivers and Palmer each threw three interceptions.
All this leads me to believe it’s not so much about quantity but quality when it comes to quarterback play.
Yes, there’s no doubt you have to throw the ball to win in the modern NFL. But there’s some sort of fine line out there. If you cross it, you’re asking for trouble. When you’re throwing too many times, you’re opening yourself up to too many mistakes.
You’re also making your team one-dimensional, and that’s never a good thing. Balance on offense is a wonderful thing.
So where is the line between enough passing and too much?
Their numbers were a little bit less than what Rivers, Brady and Palmer turned in. But here’s the crucial difference -- Romo and Brees won.
Romo attempted 31 passes and completed 19 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Brees completed 27 of 36 attempts for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.
There’s a very common thread here. Unlike Rivers, Brady and Palmer, Romo and Brees had plenty of help. It came from their running games.
Take the New Orleans model back another week. In Week 8, Brees attempted 44 passes and had 269 yards. In that game, the Saints had virtually no running game. They lost to the previously winless St. Louis Rams and came home intent on putting more balance in their offense.
Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing. Yes, it is a quarterback-driven league. But the Week 9 statistics show us that you should keep a quarterback’s throws somewhere between 31 and 36, and you need to be able to run the ball (and maybe play a little defense).
If the quarterback is driving the car all by himself, the team is not going anywhere.