Will there be a 6,000 yard passer in 2012? Thatâ€™s been the latest question making the rounds in the NFL. Itâ€™s a misleading question based off a misleading season. The question leads NFL fans to believe that last year was an ordinary season and the increased passing stats were due to the new â€śpassing leagueâ€ť. Last year in the NFL was an anomaly.
There are several factors that led to Drew Brees breaking Dan Marinoâ€™s single season passing record and two other quarterbacks joining him in the 5,000 yard club. Nipping at the trioâ€™s heels was none other than Eli Manning who fell just 67 yards short of 5,000. Itâ€™s true that the NFL has become more of a passing league.
The receivers are allowed to get away with the most blatant of offensive pass interferences while defensive backs arenâ€™t allowed to whisper while the ball is in the air or it will draw a flag. All of that is well and good but it doesnâ€™t single handedly explain the massive increase in passing yards last season. To understand that, you have to dig a little deeper. Letâ€™s look at the top four passers from 2011 as compared to the previous two seasons.
2011 2010 2009
Drew Brees - 5,476 Philip Rivers - 4,710 Matt Schaub â€“ 4,770
Tom Brady â€“ 5,235 Peyton Manning â€“ 4,700 Peyton Manning â€“ 4,500
Matt Stafford - 5,035 Drew Brees â€“ 4,620 Tony Romo - 4,483
Eli Manning - 4,933 Matt Schaub â€“ 4,370 Aaron Rodgers â€“ 4.434
There was a noticeable jump in the top five passing offenses over the last three seasons.
2011 2010 2009
Saints - 334.2 Colts â€“ 288.1 Texans â€“ 290.9
Patriots â€“ 317.8 Chargers â€“ 282.4 Colts â€“ 282.2
Packers â€“ 307.8 Saints - 277.6 Patriots â€“ 277.2
Lions â€“ 300.9 Texans â€“ 259.0 Saints â€“ 272.2
Giants â€“ 295.9 Packers â€“ 257.8 Chargers - 271.1
The very best passing attacks from the 2009 and 2010 seasons wouldnâ€™t have finished in the top 5 of 2011. The NFL has been transitioning over to more of a passing league, but nothing happened as far as a rule change or offensive scheme that would have led to this drastic of a change statically. However, there was an event that happened during the 2011 offseason that caused the increased passing efficiencyâ€¦the lockout.
Everyone, including myself, thought that the lockout would lead to sluggish offenses and out of sync chemistry. We were all wrong. What I realized after the first few weeks of the 2011 season was that the exact opposite scenario happened. The NFL defenses lacked an identity and a feel for one another. The more I thought about it the more sense it made. On an offense, whether heavily run or pass based, a few players need to be in sync with each other. The running backs need just a few offensive linemen to hold off their man and open a hole and then the rest of the play was placed on one individualâ€™s shoulders.
The passing game played out the same way. As long as the quarterback had protection he could find the flaw in the defense and exploit their weakness. He only had to be on the same page as the target that found the hole in the defense. The defensive side of the ball was completely different. The NFL defenses didnâ€™t have an offseason to mesh as a unit. They didnâ€™t have a feel for where their teammates were going to be on a given play. In zone defenses, quarterbacks were shooting fish in the open barrel. In the simplest form, the offense needed two people to be on the same page, where the defenses needed 11 men to be on the same page for an entire 60 minutes. It was asking for the impossible.
While everyone ponders if there will be a 6,000 yard passer in 2012, I wonder how hard of a time the quarterbacks will have adjusting to defenses that are vastly more improved and if we will even see one of these signal callers put up 5,000 yards of passing this season.