Passer Ratings of 100.0 Skyrocketing in NFL
There are currently four NFL quarterbacks with a passer rating of over 100.0 — Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers and Michael Vick. Passer rating is calculated using pass attempts, completions, passing yards, touchdowns and interceptions. Since the inception of the NFL, a quarterback has finished a season with rating of at least 100 just 51 times, a feat accomplished by only 35 different quarterbacks including the four listed above from this season.
In the NFL’s first 80 seasons, the mark was reached 26 times. Hall of Fame signal callers Otto Graham and Sid Luckman each had a passer rating of 100.0 or better once in the 1940s. No quarterback hit the mark in the ’50s. In the ’60s, four quarterbacks did it, including Bart Starr and Len Dawson — both during the 1966 season. Roger Staubach and Ken Stabler were two of the three to do it in the ’70s. The 100 mark was reached four times in the ’80s — once by Dan Marino and three times by some guy named Joe Montana. The heir to Montana’s throne in San Francisco, Steve Young, accounted for half of the ’90s total with six, the record for most such seasons by one quarterback.
Then came the new millennium. From 2000-2009, 17 different quarterbacks finished a season with a passer rating of 100.0 or greater 21 times. Five did it last year, including Brett Favre for the first and only time in his career. That’s 25 times since Y2K including this season, or one less than the total from the previous 80 years of professional football combined.
Failing to reach the 100.0 mark certainly doesn’t stop a quarterback from achieving greatness, and accomplishing the feat in no way guarantees a shrine in Canton. Carson Palmer hit the century mark one time — exactly once more than Johnny Unitas — when he finished with a passer rating of 101.1 in 2005. You won’t see Palmer in the Hall of Fame, especially considering the way he’s played recently. Jim Harbaugh did it once too, in 1995, as did Frankie Albert in 1948 with the Niners. Harbaugh never had another season with a passer rating higher than 86.2, and Albert eclipsed the 80.0 mark in only one other season. John Elway, Terry Bradshaw and Frank Tarkenton are just a few of the Hall of Famers to never to hit 100.0.
So what does all this mean? First of all, quarterbacks are protected now more than ever. They aren’t hit as much or as viciously as they used to be, so they’re more comfortable in the pocket and can make better throws. Secondly, defensive backs aren’t allowed to man-handle receivers like they used to. This leads to less disruption of timing and receivers catching balls they may not have been able to get to in the past. Even the pure athleticism and size of wide receivers today gives quarterbacks more room for error.
To me, these factors take a backseat to the fact that we are watching some all-time greats play the game. Favre, Brady and Manning are all locks for the Hall of Fame. Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger — each has hit 100.0 twice — aren’t there yet, but are well on their ways. Manning and Brady rank first and second in terms of highest single-season passer rating, with 121.1 and 117.2 respectively.
Including this year, Rivers has hit the century mark in three consecutive seasons. He may not win the Super Bowls needed to build a Hall of Fame resume, but he’s unbelievably talented. Rodgers is in that class also, having gone over 100.0 twice in his career. Both are very good — if not great — quarterbacks who play the game at an extremely high level. Football fans should cherish it. Aside from all the talk about the game becoming soft and labor issues jeopardizing next season, we should feel lucky to be able to witness some of the best all-time play from the marquee position in sports — quarterback.