When we talk QB’s, particularly ones who started their careers in the 21st century, the notion of comparing them to their 20th century counterparts from a production standpoint is almost fruitless. The game has changes so much in the last 20-25 years, that the idea of saying ‘Ben Roethlisberger is 6th all-time in career passing yards’ doesn’t really acknowledge the changing nature of the NFL.
But there is one QB who despite how the NFL has morphed into a ‘bombs away/throw it 60% of the time’ type league who maintains his place amongst the statistical greats of today: Dan Marino.
It feels like the blemish on his resume (not winning a SB) somewhat overshadows the unreal career he had. If you consider that his signature 1984 season where he put this statline up:
…compares favorably with the amazing season Pat Mahomes just exploded onto the scene with:
…it’s tough to comprehend just how ahead of the game Marino was. So I sought to undertake an exercise. What would Marino’s career look like statistically had he played in this era?
I wanted to compare him to Matt Ryan. While Ryan doesn’t get a lot of buzz, through his first 11 seasons in the NFL, Ryan has thrown for more yards than any other QB through their first 11 seasons. But again, on that sliding scale of 'yards accumulation' becoming easier by the season, how impressive this is, is debatable. So, here was my step-by-step process.
Step 1: What was the average passing season for each NFL team since 2008, when Ryan entered the NFL; Completions, Attempts, Yards, TD, INT's
Step 2: Break those totals down to an average season and then average game over the course of 11 seasons.
Step 3: Calculate Matt Ryan’s per game averages over that same period
Here is how Ryan has performed over the average ‘passing game’ during his career to date:
8.28% more completions than average
3.38% more attempts than average
9.54% more yards than average
13.03% more TD’s than average
19.24% lower INT rate than average
All in all, we’ve watched Ryan play. He’s consistently been an upper echelon QB below the elite tier of QB’s widely acknowledged as all-timers.
Step 4: Calculate Dan Marino’s per game average during his first 12 seasons in the NFL. I did this because a) Marino only started 9 games his rookie season b) in his 11th season, he tore his Achilles and missed 11 c) after 1994, he was really a shell of the QB he’d been.
So taking those conditions into account, here is how Marino performed over the average ‘passing game’ during that similar career stretch.
22.68% more completions than average
15.59% more attempts than average
35.36% more yards than average
53.49% more TD’s than average
17.73 lower INT% than average
So the ultimate question is this on Marino. If you took his per game averages over the first 11 years of his career, extrapolated the degree by which he exceeded league averages during his career…what would his 16 game averages look like if he played from 2008-2018.
This…for 11 seasons… 🤩
66.2% Completion Rate
...this includes his rookie year!! So if you consider that there are guys like Mahomes, Rodgers, Rivers who sat at least one year, Marino didn't even get that benefit. The only QB who really comes close to that is Brees...and his best 11 year stretch is his most recent, so really, byt the time we start counting, Brees is a 7 year veteran:
Know we had a Top 10 QB's thread last week. But Marino gets glossed over a lot. He was boss.