by Kent Sterling
With unofficial word of Brett Favre’s latest August retirement, it’s a good time to take a look at Peyton Manning as a threat to Favre’s NFL records. Favre holds virtually every meaningful quarterback record, and Manning is the only active player with any chance of catching him.
Manning opens the season at 34, but coming off his fourth NFL MVP, and is still playing at an outrageously productive level. While many QBs see a diminishing return on statistics as they enter their mid-30s, Manning has never relied on running or speed as he has excelled. He has also avoided major injury and hasn’t been hit as much as other quarterbacks with similar mileage. If Manning can produce at the same level he has enjoyed through his first 12 seasons, how long will it take for Manning to catch Favre?
We start with pass attempts, where Manning opens the season seventh all-time with 6,531. He has averaged 544.25 per season. If he meets his average, Manning will finish this season fourth all-time, and will pass John Elway for third place in week seven of the 2011 season, but is 3,280 behind Favre right now. Manning will get there, if he doesn’t miss any time and maintains his prolific pace, during the first quarter of the first game of the 2016 season. Manning will be 40.
Manning is already in third with 4,232, roughly two seasons behind Dan Marino in second with 4,967. Favre cleared Marino by more than 1,000 with 6,083. Manning completes a hair more than 22 passes per game. At that pace, Manning will eclipse Favre during the fourth quarter in the week four game of the 2015 season at the age of 38.
Fourth overall is where Manning opens the 2010 season, only 1,347 yards behind Elway – five or six games away. He’s 19,201 yards behind Favre. To put that number in perspective, Daryle Lamonica is 95th all-time in NFL passing yards with 19,154, so Manning needs to eclipse a top 100 all-time passing career from the age of 34-forward to catch Favre. Averaging 261.08 yards per game, Manning will get there in just 73 games – or the tenth week of the 2014 season.
Third place all-time is where Manning begins the 2010 season at 366 – 54 TDs behind Dan Marino and 131 behind Favre. He averages 1.91 per game. At that pace, Manning will pass Favre in the third quarter of the fifth game of the 2014 season at the age of 38.
This is where Favre’s legacy is safe, unless Manning develops glaucoma or cataracts. Manning is 136 picks behind Favre, and at a pace of .942 interceptions per game, it will take until the first game of the 2019 season for Manning to get to the top of that pack. He will be 43 years old, and likely hunting quail in bayou country, not receivers in the heartland.
Not only will Manning never top this list (Elway is the all-time leader with 516), he will never even catch his Dad. Peyton has been sacked a total of 215 times – an average of 1.12 times per game. To get to Elway, Manning would need to play until he’s 51 years old (although likely less because in his late 40s Manning’s mobility would be severely limited by the same unpleasant aches and pains that keep me from moving with anything resembling agility on the tennis court). To get to Archie Manning’s 10th ranked total of 396, Peyton will need to play into the 2020 season.
Manning currently ranks 78th among all players with 192 games started, and he will start moving up this list with some speed during the next two years, if he stays healthy. By the end of this year, he’ll make it into the 40s, and the 20s during the 2011 season. For Manning to get to second ranked Favre, he will need six years. When Peyton ambles on to the field to lead the Colts offense during the 14th game of the 2015 season, he will pass Favre. If Manning can find the juice to play at the age 40, he will break the all-time record held by Bruce Matthews during the fifth week of the 2016 season.
Whatever happens from this point forward, Peyton Manning is a first ballot NFL Hall of Famer, and has served as a great role model for kids nationally, but in particular in central Indiana. His work ethic is unmatched, and that the hardest working guy is also the best is a lesson that resonates.
Watching Manning is very similar to watching Michael Jordan or Barry Bonds. At the time we watched those two singular athletes, it was obvious they were playing a different game.
Of course, this is all moot and the dates get pushed back if Favre returns.