WMD: The Chase – Peyton Manning

As everyone knows, Brett Favre has retired and then not retired and is now in limbo for what seems like the 900th time. However, for this installment of WMD (Weller’s Musing and Divination) I’m going to be assuming that Mr. Indecisive is actually staying retired and won’t be returning. I realize that it’s a coin-flip and is really anybody’s guess at this point but just bare with me. I’m making this assumption so that we can take a peek into the future to see how far off -both quantitatively and in terms of time- Peyton would be/will be/is from breaking all of the major NFL career passing records if/when/now that Favre retires/has retired – I figure that if he can be indecisive when it comes to returning or retiring then I should follow suit and be just as indecisive with the tense of my verbs.

Now I realize that I’m not the first person to run the numbers on this to figure out how long it will be before Peyton breaks all of Favre’s records (see here and here) but I’m going to take it a step further and see how long it will take him to climb each rung of the ladder along the way. Granted, there aren’t very many rungs left for him on the ladder but it’s still something fun to take a look at. And while they each only looked at five statistics, I’m going to be looking at 10 different records. First and foremost let’s see how the record books look right now:

Passes Completed Pass Attempts
Rnk Player Amount Rnk Player Amount
1 Brett Favre 6,083 1 Brett Favre 9,811
2 Dan Marino 4,967 2 Dan Marino 8,358
3 Peyton Manning 4,232 3 John Elway 7,250
4 Warren Moon 6,823
Passing Yards 5 Drew Bledsoe 6,717
Rnk Player Amount 6 Vinny Testaverde 6,701
1 Brett Favre 69,329 7 Peyton Manning 6,531
2 Dan Marino 61,361
3 John Elway 51,475 Games w/ 4+ TD Passes
4 Peyton Manning 50,128 Rnk Player Amount
1 Brett Favre 23
Passing Touchdowns 2 Dan Marino 21
Rnk Player Amount 3 Peyton Manning 21
1 Brett Favre 497
2 Dan Marino 420 Consecutive Starts
3 Peyton Manning 366 Rnk Player Amount
1 Brett Favre 285
Career Wins 2 Peyton Manning 192
Rnk Player Amount
1 Brett Favre 181 Seasons w/ 3,000+ Pass Yards
2 John Elway 148 Rnk Player Amount
3 Dan Marino 147 1 Brett Favre 18
4 Peyton Manning 131 2 Dan Marino 13
3 Peyton Manning 12
Games w/ 400+ Pass Yards
Rnk Player Amount Games w/ 300+ Pass Yards
1 Dan Marino 13 Rnk Player Amount
2 Joe Montana 7 1 Dan Marino 63
2 Warren Moon 7 2 Brett Favre 61
3 Peyton Manning 7 3 Peyton Manning 56

As you can see, Peyton is extremely close to owning some records while a bit further off on some of the others. So the second piece of the puzzle is to see what his per game averages are for these stats. I considered calculating the standard deviation for some of them to weed out any outliers that could throw off these numbers (ie: eliminating the 1998 season when running the numbers for wins because the Colts only won three games that year) but decided that might be overkill. Plus I thought it unlikely that there were any outliers anywhere – yes, even the year with three wins is unlikely to be mathematically considered an outlier. I did however find both Peyton’s per game average like normal and then also his per game average while excluding the maximum and minimum season for the given statistic. This however proved to be almost pointless, as none of the stats were changed a significant amount. So in the end I stuck with the plain ol’ basic per game numbers:

Wins per game: 0.68

Completions per game: 22.04

Attempts per game: 34.02

Yards per game: 261.08

Touchdowns per game: 1.91

400-yard games per game: 0.03125

4-touchdown games per game: 0.109375

300-yard games per game: 0.2916667

And obviously he has one start per game because he’s started every game since he’s entered the league and he’s had a 3,000 yard season every year as well so that one is simply going to depend on how many more years he decides to play.

Peyton Manning visor

Then when you wave a magic wand you figure out how many more games it is until Peyton breaks the record. The magic wand piece of it is taking the stat from whichever person he’s trying to pass in a certain category, add one to their total, divide that by Peyton’s per game average, then subtract how many games he’s played in (192) from that number, round up to the nearest integer and that tells you how many more games, at his current pace, it will take Peyton to surpass said-person’s total. Fortunately for me I made a sweet spreadsheet that does all that for me. After every game I can simply update Peyton’s career totals and it will immediately tell me how many more games he needs to play for every single one of the other players he has to surpass in each of the statistical categories.

For the results, I’m going to list each record just like I did above except I’m going to list each ranking spot as the year and game that Peyton will achieve that position on that list, along with how old he will be at that time. These results are based on the assumption that the season doesn’t end up being expanded from 16 to 18 games. Here it is:

Completions Pass Attempts
Rnk When Age Rnk When Age
1 2015, Game 5 39 1 2016, Game 1 40
2 2012, Game 2 36 2 2013, Game 6 37
3 2011, Game 6 35
Passing Yards 4 2010, Game 9 34
Rnk When Age 5 2010, Game 6 34
1 2014, Game 10 38 6 2010, Game 6 34
2 2012, Game 12 36
3 2010, Game 6 34 Games w/ 4+ TD Passes
Rnk When Age
Passing Touchdowns 1 2011, Game 12 35
Rnk When Age 2 2010, Game 10 34
1 2014, Game 6 38
2 2011, Game 13 35 Consecutive Starts
Rnk When Age
Career Wins 1 2015, Game 14 39
Rnk When Age
1 2014, Game 11 38 Seasons w/ 3,000+ Pass Yards
2 2011, Game 11 35 Rnk When Age
3 2011, Game 9 35 1 2015 to tie 39
2 2010 to tie 34
Games w/ 400+ Pass Yards
Rnk When Age Games w/ 300+ Pass Yards
1 2025, Game 16 49 Rnk When Age
2 2013, Game 16 37 1 2011, Game 12 35
2 2011, Game 5 35

As  you can see, nine of the 10 records are certainly with in reach. The number of games with 400+ passing yards is lookin’ a bit like a long shot. Dan Marino went ahead and made that one a little too difficult to catch. However, the number of games with 300+ pass yards and 4+ touchdowns are on the other end of the spectrum and are the two that Peyton will get to make nearly impossible to pass. I actually wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him tie -if not break- both of those records this season. This year he should also move into third place in passing yards and fourth place in pass attempts. And it’s not unlikely that by the end of next season he’ll be in first or second place for seven of the 10 stats.

Now by the end of 2015 there’s a good chance that Peyton will own all of these records excluding the number of games of 400+ passing yards. He will be tied for first in the number of seasons with 3,000+ passing yards, and based on his averages he will be 15 or 16 pass attempts short of having that record, and while there’s a good chance his pass attempts average could go up and he’ll make up those 15 or 16 attempts by then there’s also a good chance that it will go the other way and he’ll need more than just 15 or 16 pass attempts to seize that record. So what I would love to see is for him to play through the 2016 season, that would be a 19-year career (the same length as Favre if he doesn’t come back) and he’d be insuring that he’ll  own both of those records as well as putting the other seven far out of reach.

If he does this he will likely be the first person to a lot of milestones. 75,000 yards, 500 touchdowns, 200 wins, 10,000 attempts, 300 consecutive starts, and he’d likely have 90 games with 300+ yards by then. His projected stats would be 207 wins, 6701 completions, 10,341 attempts, 79,369 yards, 580 touchdowns, 10 games with 400+yards, 33 games with 4+ touchdowns, 89 games with 300+ yards, 304 consecutive starts and 19 seasons with 3,000+ passing yards. Those numbers are insane. Absolutely insane. And not only are they not out of the questions, they’re actually likely to happen.

Either way, as I mentioned above it’s relatively easy for me to update this as the season goes on – I even formatted it to have space for his stats all the way through 2016 and I’ll be able to update it even if Favre does come back. So I may post a couple updates on it throughout the season just for kicks and will definitely be posting an updated version at the end of the year.

3 Responses

  1. Nice analysis. I think he’s going to catch Favre quicker than everyone expected. I wonder if this is on Favre’s mind as he decides whether or not to retire. I mean, would you want to make your records unbreakable? I would risk it haha!

  2. You and your statistics. You amaze me, Wellerman.

    Oh, and when I see WMD, I can’t help but think of weapons of mass destruction. Although, with some people’s hatred of statistics, you could possibly kill them with it.

    Just kidding. Love your stuff. Keeps me entertained during the day :-)

  3. […] want to understand how all the math and statistics that go into this post, I suggest you check out this post. If you would prefer just to see another cool chart like the one above, then scroll down just a […]

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