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That’s the number of passing yards 23 year old phenom QB Dan Marino passed for in 1984 during only his second year in the NFL. Marino went on to pass for a total of 61,361 yards (nearly 35 miles of passing yards) over his 17 years career (all played for the Miami Dolphins), second only to Brett Favre, who eclipsed his total in 2008. But in 1984, Marino stamped his name on a record that I thought would not be broken in my lifetime — 5,084 passing yards.

Marino was the first QB to pass the 5,000 yard mark. No QB even cracked 4,000 passing yards until Dan Fouts did it in 1979 (4,082). It stood to reason that 4,000 would be passed when the NFL expanded its season from 14 games to 16 games, but even with that, 5,000 seemed an unattainable mark. The old record for passing yards was set in 1981 by Fouts when he passed for 4,802 (a mark that still places him 5th on the all-time list).

Now to pass for 5,000 yards in a season, a QB has to average 312.5 yards per game for 16 games. When Marino broke the record, he averaged 317.8 yards per game. That may not seem like a lot of yards, but when you consider that QB’s often get injured and teams rest their starters when the playoffs approach, and that 312.5/game gets a little tougher to maintain. Add to that the inevitability of slumps, or strong defenses, etc., and it doesn’t surprise me that Marino was the only QB to pass for over 5,000 yards in a season.

That was until 2008. New Orleans Saints QB, Drew Brees became only the second QB to pass for over 5,000 yards. He ultimately fell 16 yards short of breaking the record (16 YARDS!!! That’s one medium length pass route), but what Brees did was amazing: 5,069 passing yards in a single season. Brees and Marino stand as the only two QB’s to pass for over 5,000 in a single season.

However, for the 2011 season, the NFL instituted some new rules that have some thinking that 5,084 may be a thing of the past, several times over. Right now four weeks into the season, there are six QB’s on pace to break the record. In order they are:

  1. Tom Brady, New England Patriots (6,213 yards)
  2. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (5,640 yards)
  3. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (5,544 yards)
  4. Aaron Rogers, Green Bay Packers (5,301 yards)
  5. Phillip Rivers, San Diego Chargers (5,144 yards)
  6. Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys (5,093 yards)

Let’s assume that Rivers and Romo will fall off the pace, since they’re effectively tied with Marino already. There are still four QB’s that are not only on pace to go over 5,000 yards passing, but completely shatter Marino’s record. Now, I think Brees, Newton and Rogers will eventually come back down from the stratosphere, but Brady is on an amazing clip (388.3 yards per game) and it may take a while before he begins to normalize (if he normalizes). This is definitely something I want to keep my eye throughout the year. We’ll see after week #8 how these six are doing.