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Defining Factoid of the Era No. 1: Last December, Drew Brees passed Joe Montana for 11th place on the alltime passing yards list. Montana played until he was 38. Brees was 32.
LAST FEBRUARY 4, in Indianapolis, the Pro Football Hall of Fame's 44 voters spent 67 minutes debating the qualifications of receivers Tim Brown, Cris Carter and Andre Reed, each of whom had caught more NFL balls than anyone already in the Hall, save for Jerry Rice. And for the third straight year voters split on the merits of the threesome, who had combined for 3,146 receptions. None got in.
Now try to imagine a similar situation 20 years from now. This time voters spend twice as long debating the worthiness of quarterbacks Jay Cutler, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan, each of whom has thrown (hypothetically, but reasonably so) for more yards than any Hall of Famer, save for Brett Favre. For a third straight year voters are split. None get in.
Afterward, two gatekeepers shake their heads.
"Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford and Andrew Luck are going to be in this room soon," one says.
"What about Matt Barkley?" says the other. "He has three 6,000-yard passing seasons in his career. What do we do?"
Defining Factoid of the Era No. 2: When you think of Dan Marino and numbers, you think of, perhaps, the alltime most explosive passer. After six full seasons as a starter, Marino had 23,856 passing yards. Philip Rivers, thought of as one of the more productive quarterbacks of this age, but certainly not of all time, had 24,137 yards in his first six full seasons as a starter—47 more yards per season than Marino.
IS THIS the new normal? If so—and I can't believe I'm writing this—then a 6,000-yard passing season is conceivably right around the corner.
"Five thousand is the new 4,000," says Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. "There's so much that's so hard to defend. Aaron Rodgers making the quick throw downfield to [a receiver's] back shoulder—you can be in perfect coverage, and you can't defend that."
The thrower he speaks of is dubious. "I doubt we'll get to 6,000," says Rodgers, "though you never know."