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Who has had the best quarterbacking season in NFL history? Is it Tom Brady in 2007? Is it Peyton Manning in 2004? Dan Marino in 1984? Certainly those are the first three that come to mind, but the question is "Why them?" It's because we tend to look at that TD:INT number, and if that checks out, to the total TDs. Of course, that's nonsensical. Quarterbacking is supposed to be measured by an idiotic "rating" system, yet somehow we're supposed to then cast that aside and measure production only. Absurd it is, I tells ya.
I'll use what I call Offensive Opportunities here, which is really nothing but passes attempted plus rushes attempted. Heck, if the French can call hot meat juice a fancy name ("au jus"), I can call passes + rushes something else.
The quarterback that has had the most offensive opportunities in a season is Drew Bledsoe in 1994, with a staggering 735. That comes out to 46 per game. So I thought, rather than simply reject offensive opportunities entirely when assessing "BEST SEASON", why not adjust seasons to fit that number? Using basic math, I went ahead and adjusted a variety of seasons to fit into "how good would this be with 735 offensive opportunities?"
Let's start off with two of the worst seasons in recent memory, which is Bobby Hoying and Ryan Leaf in 1998. Their actual numbers are atrocious, but let's see how they'd look normalized to Bledsoe.
HOYING (actual) -- 114/224 for 961 yards, 0 TD 9 INT, 22 carries for 84 yards HOYING (adjusted) -- 341/669 for 2871 yards, 0 TD 27 INT, 66 carries for 251 yards
LEAF (actual) -- 111/245 for 1289 yards, 2 TD 15 INT, 27 carries for 80 yards LEAF (adjusted) -- 300/662 for 3483 yards, 5 TD 41 INT, 73 carries for 216 yards
With that actual production, I (as a coach) would never allow either one of those guys to pass the ball 600 times. I'd be more inclined to run the single wing or the Notre Dame box, cut the quarterback, and save some money for free agency. But think about this. With that number of offensive opportunities, you still see 3100 yards and 3700 yards from two guys that had (mercifully) short careers.
Now let's look at the great seasons.
Peyton Manning 2004 (actual) -- 336/497 for 4557 yards, 49 TD 10 INT, 25 carries for 38 yards Peyton Manning 2004 (adjusted) -- 473/700 for 6416 yards, 69 TD 14 INT, 35 carries for 54 yards
Tom Brady 2007 (actual) -- 398/578 for 4806 yards, 50 TD 8 INT, 37 carries for 98 yards and 2 TDs Tom Brady 2007 (adjusted) -- 476/691 for 5744 yards, 60 TD 10 INT, 44 carries for 117 yards and 2 TDs
Sid Luckman 1943 (actual) -- 110/202 for 2194 yards, 28 TD 12 INT, 22 carries for -40 yards and 1 TD Sid Luckman 1943 (adjusted) -- 361/663 for 7200 yards, 92 TD 39 INT, 72 carries for -131 yards and 3 TD
YA Tittle 1963 (actual) -- 221/367 for 3145 yards, 36 TD 14 INT, 18 carries for 99 yards and 2 TDs YA Tittle 1963 (adjusted) -- 422/701 for 6004 yards, 69 TD 27 INT, 34 carries for 189 yards and 4 TDs
George Blanda 1961 (actual) -- 187/362 for 3330 yards, 36 TD 22 INT, 7 carries for 12 yards George Blanda 1961 (adjusted) -- 372/721 for 6633 yards, 72 TD 44 INT, 14 carries for 24 yards
Otto Graham 1947 (actual) -- 163/269 for 2753 yards, 25 TD 11 INT, 19 carries for 72 yards and 1 TD Otto Graham 1947 (adjusted) -- 416/687 for 7026 yards, 64 TD 28 INT, 48 carries for 184 yards and 3 TDs
Dan Marino 1984 (actual) -- 362/564 for 5084 yards, 48 TD 17 INT, 28 carries for -7 yards Dan Marino 1984 (adjusted) -- 449/700 for 6312 yards, 60 TD 21 INT, 35 carries for -9 yards
The best ever? Let's see here...
Luckman in 1943 was playing in a league in which over 250 players were off fighting WWII and can barely be described as top-level football. Blanda in 1961 was playing in a subpar AFL (although I should note that the AFL caliber of play exceeded the NFL by the end of the decade) Graham in 1947 was part of possibly pro football's greatest team, although 1946-49 was in an inferior AAFC YA Tittle in 1963 was going against an NFL that was rapidly aging and declining in relation to the AFL
I'll take Manning in 2004. Had he been in a truly pass-happy offense (like Marino) he would have vastly outstripped what he actually did, and had he been kept in long into the 4th quarter in games with a 35-point lead and still been passing (like Brady), the single season records would be so far out of sight we couldn't see them with a telescope.