There are some in the sports media world that argue Brees’s new mark should be annotated with an asterisk or a footnote or some other distinguishing character. This is an effort to annotate the “era” in which Brees set the new record.
Have the rules changed since Marino’s stellar season? No one will argue against that point. Are the rules that different that it warrants a special entry into the record books, absolutely not!!! It’s still a pitch and catch game.
Every player and team has had the same opportunity as Brees, and the only players to come close in 27 years are Brees (twice, 2011 & 2008), New England’s Tom Brady and Detroit’s Matthew Stafford this year.
Numbers and stats don’t tell the entire story, but some statistical comparisons can be made between Marino’s ’84 season, and Brees’s ’11 campaign
League averages per team, per game
Comp: 20.4; Att: 34.0; Comp %: 60.1; Yards / Game: 229.7; Yards / Att: 7.2
Comp: 18.0; Att: 32.0; Comp %: 56.4; Yards / Game: 205.9; Yards / Att: 7.1
Listening to some analysts, one would think teams in the league are throwing an extraordinarily high number of times more than in Marino’s day. The numbers don’t bear that out, though.
Doing the math, teams on average gained 380.8 yards more a season this year compared to 1984. I would argue teams are more efficient at passing than in years past.
Combined with the prevalence of the high percentage short passing game, teams have a better chance of increasing their total yardage marks.
During Marino’s time, the passing rules were without question different than they are today. Defenders were allowed more overall contact against receivers and the spread offense wasn’t employed by many teams if at all.
The West Coast Offense was just starting to gain prominence, but most teams were of the mindset that the running game should be the primary means of advancing the ball.