NFL rule changes will change how NFL records will be remembered
By Brian Miller
On Monday night the NFL celebrated the breaking of an NFL record for passing yards as Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning for the most yards in NFL history. A record that will eventually be broken again.
As the telecast went on and the announcers played clips of Manning congratulating Brees and a series of “tweets” flashed on the screen from this guy to that guy offering congrats as well, I couldn’t help but think that the NFL rules are designed in such a way that this record will be broken sooner rather than later.
At one time Dan Marino held the record for most passing yards. That is not a surprise but what is a surprise is who he passed. When Marino took over the record he passed Fran Tarkenton. A 1970’s quarterback. He passed a record that had stood almost two decades. It meant something then. It was an accomplishment. But now?
The NFL rules have changed the way these records will be broken and remembered. Drew Brees has now thrown for over 72,000 yards. Marino threw for just over 61,000. Four players have thrown for more than Marino and three have thrown for more than 70K.
Rules against defenders has changed everything. Receivers are getting open more consistently and the NFL has shifted towards passing offenses instead of steady ball control. Even running backs are now expected to be more complete and able to catch passes.
Of course the league protects the quarterback more now than ever before and because of that, some records will be broken sooner and others will never be broken at all. Here is a look at some NFL records that will and will not be broken.
Passing yards: Brees holds it now and he will likely add another 3,000 by the end of the season and another four next season and possible another four after that. But that record will be broken eventually. Quarterbacks are not taking hits anymore and that means they have more time in the pocket and with rules protecting receivers there will be more than one or two good quarterbacks who will be viewed as great because of statistics. Hell even Ryan Tannehill can throw for 4,000 yards in a season.
Rushing yards: This is a record that will not likely be broken. Ever. Emmitt Smith rushed for 18,355 yards and will never have to worry about someone taking over his spot in his lifetime. Of the top 25 players in rushing yards only two players are active. Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson. Gore needs another 4,200 yards and Peterson needs over 6,000. Neither player will play long enough to reach those numbers.
The reason this will not be broken is the NFL no longer is a rushing league and while things always tend to shift one way or the other, those same NFL rules that protect the receivers and quarterbacks protect the future of the passing game against the rushing game. Running backs simply do not carry the same weight they once did and that shows in salaries and retention as well.
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Receptions: Jerry Rice holds the record at 1,549 which is three hundred more than third place holder Larry Fitzgerald. It’s unlikely that Fitzgerald plays long enough to take that spot over but someone will eventually. The league is pass happy and that won’t change. Providing that one receiver can stay healthy this record will be broken within another 10-15 seasons.
Touchdowns: Jerry Rice may have to mildly worry about someone taking his reception record but he doesn’t have to worry about the all-time touchdown record. His 208 scores is not in jeopardy of being broken any time soon and that could very well mean forever. Antonio Gates is the closest active player at 115 and that is good enough for 13th all-time. The way the NFL moves the ball around running backs are not going to rack up those kind of numbers and receivers are no longer singularly a focus like they used to be.
Sacks: This will never be broken. Bruce Smith will eventually grow old and die and his record of 200 sacks will remain untouched and unchallenged. The closest player to him is Julius Peppers with 154.5 sacks. Peppers is in the final years of his career. Beyond that, Terrell Suggs sits with 129. The problem that stands in front of any player hoping to challenge this record is the fact that you can no longer hit the quarterback for all intent and purpose. The rules protecting the QB will essentially kill any challenge to the sack record. Both career and season.
With so many rules taking away from the game in the name of protecting the players and igniting the scoring from offenses, many NFL records will either never be broken or broken quicker than they are now. Drew Brees holds the passing record today and Tom Brady sits 5,000 plus change behind him. It doesn’t take much to throw for 4,000 yards in a season anymore.
Congratulations to Drew Brees for his career accomplishment but do the records really hold the same stature they once did? Did they ever?