Drew Brees On Pace For NFL's All-Time Passing Leader

Justin Edmonds

Projecting the career passing yards of both Drew Brees and Peyton Manning over the next six years leads us to the simple conclusion that Brees will be the NFL's all-time leader when it's all over.

Drew Brees will very likely finish his career as the NFL's all-time passing leader, considering he plays each season for six more years.

I know that might be hard to believe after the Manning/Brady lovefest we had to watch last night on NBC's Sunday Night Football. But it's true.

Here are the current all-time passing leaders. These stats include the current 2013.

1. Brett Favre 71,838 1991-2010
2. Peyton Manning 63,209 1998-2013
3. Dan Marino 61,361 1983-1999
4. John Elway 51,475 1983-1998
5. Drew Brees 49,566 2001-2013

Manning and Brees are obviously the only active players in the hunt. Brady is 7th all-time but poses no real threat to the top spot, so we can ignore him.

We're going to assume that each quarterback plays for 19 seasons. That's how long Brett Favre played. That would make both Manning and Brees 40 years old at the time of their retirement. It's a pretty generous assumption. We'll also assume they both start a majority or all of the games in those seasons.

Peyton Manning has already played 16 seasons in the NFL, including most of this year and 2011 when he missed the entire year with a neck injury. That means he's got 3 seasons left to play under our 19 season assumption. Let's figure he averages 4,620 passing yards each of those final years. Where did I get that number? That's Manning's average passing yardage for the past three full seasons he's played (2012, 2010, 2009), and it's a generous prediction considering 4,700 yards was his best passing season ever. Plus let's tack on another 1,000 yards for the remainder of this season.

That would give Manning a career total of 78,069 passing yards and make him first all-time ahead of Brett Favre.

So where does that leave our boy Brees? Including this year he's played 13 seasons, so he's likely got another 6 seasons remaining. Drew's average passing yards over his last three full seasons is 5,091. Even though that's technically the number we should use here to calculate his potential career total, let's make Drew a little less superhuman and assume he only averages 4,600 per season over the remainder of his career. They would be pedestrian seasons by Drew's standards. Let's also tack on another 1,000 yards for the remainder of this season.

That would give Brees a career total of 78,166 passing yards and make him first all-time ahead of Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

It's incredibly close, but Brees has the edge in the end. And that's assuming Peyton plays some of his best football to end his career and Drew plays some of his worst. Obviously we're being very safe in our estimations and handicapping Brees. There's a good chance he completely blows the record out of the water.

Hat tip to Kevin Sean Held for coming up with the idea and inspiring this thought process.

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