Yardage King

It’s only a matter of exactly when Drew Brees will break the NFL’s career passing yardage record this season.
illustration by Tony Healey

Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.


Drew Brees is inching toward several NFL records — including one he should capture in the early part of the 2018 season — but the Saints quarterback says he is only focused on one number: one — as in taking one week, one game and one play at a time.

Brees is 1,496 passing yards shy of the NFL’s career passing record of 71,940 yards and 51 touchdowns short of the most in NFL history. Peyton Manning currently holds both records.

An 11-time Pro Bowler, Brees has thrown for 4,000 or more yards every year that he has been with the Saints and averaged 4,905 passing yards per year over the past five seasons. So, assuming all goes as planned, the only question is how far into the season will it be before he breaks the yardage record?

The NFL is betting on the first week in October. The league has scheduled the Saints’ Week 5 game at home against the Washington Redskins for a primetime, nationally televised, Monday-night game. That means he’ll need to average 299.2 yards in each of the first five games to break the record.

Last year, with arguably the most balance between the passing and rushing game in his Saints career, Brees threw for 4,334 passing yards (270.9 per game), his lowest total since arriving in New Orleans in 2006. If those numbers hold, he’d need six games before he takes the record.

There is a chance, although minimal, that he could do it before September ends. With running back Mark Ingram’s four-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, the offense’s balance may shift toward a heavier passing attack through the first quarter of the season. Still, Brees would need to average a hefty 374 yards per game to do so.

It looks like the NFL has contingency plans should Brees reach the mark early or need a little more time than they planned for. The Saints’ fourth game at the New York Giants will be televised by CBS and start at 3:25 p.m., while game six will be at Baltimore, with a 3:05 start on Fox. The league usually has only a few teams scheduled for the late afternoon time slot, so if the record is on the line, the Saints games will likely be broadcast nationally.

Now, about the touchdown record: Brees will likely need two seasons to toss the 51 touchdowns needed to catch Manning’s record of 539 TDs. He has averaged 32.8 touchdowns per year over the past five seasons, but last year he threw for 23 touchdowns, his lowest total as a Saint. Manning threw for a single season record of 55 TDs in 2013. Brees’ best was the 46 he threw in 2011.

The greatest Saint will have competition for the career TD mark from the greatest Patriot. Brees and New England QB Tom Brady are tied with 488 career TDs. Father Time may play a role in which player can outlast the other. In March, Brees, 39, signed a two-year deal worth $50 million, and says he can play well into his 40s. Brady, 40, has two years left on his current contract, and also feels like he can play for a few more years, too.

While individual records are great accomplishments, Brees’ focus is on the team winning. The Saints were one play away from the NFC championship last year. They have seemingly improved in the offseason, and will be expected to again be one of the best teams in the league. If the Saints continue to win, Brees’ numbers will take care of themselves. Only then may he change his focus from one to two — as in his second Super Bowl championship.


By The Numbers

Chasing Records

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is expected to become the NFL’s career leader in passing yards early this season and, possibly, the career touchdowns leader next year.

 

NFL Passing Yards Career Leaders

Rank Player Yards
1 Peyton Manning 71,940
2 Brett Favre 71,838
3 Drew Brees* 70,445
4 Tom Brady* 66,159

 

NFL Passing Touchdowns Career Leaders

Rank Player TDs
1 Peyton Manning 539
2 Brett Favre 508
3 Tom Brady* 488
  Drew Brees* 488

 

*Active player


 

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