Perhaps the most amazing thing about Dan Marino’s record for passing yards in a season is that it has lasted this long.
But the 27-year-old record isn’t going to make it to 28. Eleven games into the season, two quarterbacks are on pace to shatter Marino’s record, and a third is just behind them.
The fact New Orleans’ Drew Brees and New England’s Tom Brady are putting up yards at a faster clip than Marino, and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers is almost with them makes what the former Miami quarterback did in 1984 that much more impressive.
In just his second NFL season, Marino threw for 5,084 yards. He led the Dolphins to a 14-2 record and they lost to Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl.
Marino’s record has stood as the Holy Grail of quarterback numbers for nearly three decades, but it would be only fitting if three guys pass it this season. The league has changed dramatically since early in Marino’s career.
The changes have become even more obvious in recent years as rules have been adjusted to make life easier on quarterbacks. They’re more protected due to rules installed for their safety, and their receivers have advantages the guys in Marino’s era didn’t. Defenses can’t guard receivers aggressively, and passing numbers around the league have increased, especially in the past few years.
Yet only Brees has come close to Marino. Brees threw for 5,069 yards in 2008, when the Saints were just mediocre.
This time around, the Saints are much better than mediocre. They’re 8-3 and atop the NFC South. Brady’s Patriots have the same record and lead the AFC East. Rodgers and the Packers are the only undefeated team in the league.
The next five weeks are going to be way better than the Mark McGwire/Sammy Sosa home-run derby. This is going to be like a pennant race and a chase for one of the game’s most glamorous records all rolled into one.
The talk of Marino’s record falling has really just started. Brees has admitted he’d like to break the record.
“Absolutely," Brees said. “But only in the framework of winning."
The framework is going up in New Orleans, New England and Green Bay.
Brees currently has the lead. Through 11 games, he’s on pace for 5,366 yards. Brady is on pace for 5,276 yards. Rodgers is only another big game away from getting on pace to break Marino’s record. At the moment, he’s on pace for 5,055 yards.
There’s no doubt Marino played by different rules, and that makes his record all the more impressive. As Brees, Brady and Rodgers move closer to the record, there will be some talk about them playing in a “juiced-ball" era.
The rules changes give some credence to that. But if all three quarterbacks pass Marino’s record, the quarterback-friendly rules aren’t going to diminish the milestone.
If Brees, Rodgers and Brady all pass Marino’s number, it will come within “the framework of winning." We won’t be talking about the chase for the record. We’ll be talking about the chase for the Super Bowl.