Have you heard that the NFL is a passing league? It’s true, but obvious at this point. When you look at the list of the most passing yards in a season for every NFL franchise, most of them have come since 2010. Not all of them, though, which makes us wonder what’s going on with the teams that aren’t racking up the passing yards these days. From the older records to the records set this past season, here’s the quarterback with the most passing yards in a single campaign for every NFL team.
Palmer helped revitalize the Bengals after they made him the first-overall pick. Then, he suffered a serious injury and it seemed like he might never reach those levels again. After a couple of years in the purgatory that was the Oakland Raiders in that era, Palmer was reborn with the Cardinals. In 2015, he broke the Cardinals’ record with 4,671 passing yards, and he also set a personal best with 35 passing touchdowns.
In the wake of the disastrous end of Michael Vick’s time in Atlanta, the Falcons spent a high pick on Ryan coming out of Boston College. He quickly made everybody forget about Vick en route to four Pro Bowls. Ryan has led the Falcons to a Super Bowl appearance as well, and then there is his 2016 season. He threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns against only seven interceptions, surprising many by winning the MVP.
Flacco is a polarizing figure, having led the Ravens to a Super Bowl win but never, to evoke a phrase, proving to be an elite quarterback. That being said, the Ravens don’t have a great history of passing quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson’s running ability is what separates him). The same season that Ryan was setting a different bird-named team’s record and winning MVP, Flacco was throwing for 4,317 yards.
Many scoffed when the Bills took Allen seventh out of Wyoming, and with good cause. He had serious accuracy issues in college, and it looked like a team that was buying into tools, not performance. That played out for Allen’s two first seasons, but in 2020 he completely revamped himself as a player. With Stefon Diggs on the team now, Allen tossed for 4,544 yards and became an MVP-level quarterback.
Beuerlein’s 1999 season remains one of the wilder outlier campaigns in NFL history. He had been a journeyman quarterback who mostly served as a backup in his career. Then, in his season as a full-time starter, Beuerlein threw for a league-leading 4,436 yards while adding 35 touchdowns into the mix. In 2000 he was Carolina’s starter again and threw for 19 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He’d never be a starter again.
The Bears have an ignominious history at quarterback, so it’s fitting that they are the only franchise that doesn’t have a 4,000-yard season in its history. Kramer, another journeyman, threw for 3,838 yards in 1995. That somehow remains the Chicago record, and that’s why people still talk about Sid Luckman in the Windy City.
When Palmer left Cincinnati it decided to spend a second-round pick on Dalton. Second-rounders don’t often turn into successful starting quarterbacks, but Dalton did. He was a busy guy during the 2013 season. He set personal highs in passing attempts (586), passing touchdowns (33), interceptions (20), and, of course, passing yards (4,293).
This is the second-earliest season on this list. The Browns have a pretty bleak history of quarterbacks as well, at least since the team returned to the NFL in 1999. Baker Mayfield may set a new franchise record at some point, but Sipe has had the franchise record for passing yards in 1980. A quarterback with an issue with interceptions, he only had one Pro Bowl season, but he also won the MVP that year. Sipe set the Browns record with 4,132 yards.
To a younger generation, Romo is going to be primarily thought of as a TV analyst, much how those of us who grew up in the ‘90s remember John Madden. For now, though, most of us remember him as the talented, occasionally frustrating, quarterback for the Cowboys. He had some big years, including throwing for 4,903 yards in 2012. Not bad for an undrafted player out of Eastern Illinois.
Given all his years in Indianapolis, you might expect Manning to have the record for two teams. However, that actually isn’t the case. Manning doesn’t have the Colts’ record, but he does have the Broncos record. He also had maybe the best season of any quarterback ever with Denver, when he won his fifth MVP in 2013. Peyton didn’t just throw for 5,477 yards and NFL record. He also threw for 55 touchdowns, which is also the NFL record.
The Lions have not been afraid to let Stafford air it out given his big arm (and the fact he’s often been trying to lead comebacks for the lowly franchise). The 2011 season was the first one in which Stafford was able to stay healthy, the first of eight seasons in a row where he started all 16 games. Stafford threw for 5,038 yards, which at the time made him the fourth quarterback ever to cross the 5,000-yard threshold. The next year, he came close to doing it again but fell just short at 4,967 yards.
Rodgers can still put up MVP numbers in his late thirties, and he’s also got the skills to guest host “Jeopardy!” His first MVP campaign came in 2011. As per usual, he protected the ball quite well, tossing 45 touchdowns against only six interceptions. On top of that, he set the Packers’ record with 4,643 yards. Let’s see Jordan Love do that.
Watson is the second of two quarterbacks on this list to have set their franchise’s record in 2020. Of course, Watson wasn’t going up against as much history as Josh Allen. Prior to the Clemson quarterback’s arrival, there wasn’t exactly a storied history of quarterbacking for the Texans. Houston put up a lousy record, but Watson put up 4,823 yards even after losing DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals.
Luck was the heir to Peyton Manning’s throne, and he could never quite live up to that level. However, he had some really impressive campaigns before his early retirement. Luck even broke Manning’s record for passing yards in a season by throwing for 4,761 yards in 2014.
Shout out to Jason Mendoza on this one. Was Bortles good with the Jaguars? Usually, the answer to that was “No.” However, Bortles was also the king of garbage time for some bad Jacksonville teams. In 2015, the Jaguars went 5-11. Bortles was sacked 51 times and fumbled 14 times as well. The third-overall pick in 2014 got to air it out plenty, though, as he threw for 4,428 yards, a lot of it in games that had been decided already.
Mahomes is going to have every Chiefs franchise record when he retires, we assume. Heck, he might have most of the NFL records as well. In his first full season as a starter, Mahomes lit up the NFL and won MVP. He threw for 50 touchdowns, of course, but he also threw for 5,097 yards. That’s a combo that only Peyton Manning can also claim.
Gannon was a good quarterback, but when he joined the Raiders to end his career he found a whole new level. All four of his Pro Bowls appearances came with Oakland, and he was an All-Pro and an MVP in 2002. That year he led the Raiders to the Super Bowl, but before that, he threw for 4,689 yards. This was his last full season as a starter, as injuries hampered him in his final two seasons.
Given that both Drew Brees and Philip Rivers played for the Chargers, it’s impressive that Fouts still holds the Chargers’ record for passing yards in a season. The bearded signal-caller set the record back in 1981, a completely different era of football. Having thrown for 4,802 yards that season, Fouts would still have the franchise record for several NFL teams. That’s impressive.
Warner’s story is legendary at this point. He came out of nowhere to become an NFL MVP and led the Rams to a Super Bowl win in his first season as a starter. In 2001, he won his second MVP while leading the “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. The Rams went 14-2, and Warner tossed for 4,830 yards, led the NFL. Then, the Super Bowl against the Patriots happened, and we know how that ended.
Adjusting for the era, we might still consider Marino’s 1984 campaign the best of any quarterback. At a time when 4,000-yard seasons weren’t the norm, Marino became the first quarterback to throw for over 5,000 yards. Specifically, he threw for 5,084 yards, which was the NFL record at the time. He also set an NFL record with 48 passing touchdowns. Marino may not have won a Super Bowl, but you can’t argue with his career accomplishments.
Cris Carter was gone by 2004, but Culpepper still had Randy Moss to throw the ball to. Moss was a frequent recipient of passes from Culpepper, helping the quarterback set the Vikings’ franchise record with 4,717 yards. He also tossed 39 touchdowns for good measure. Unfortunately, Culpepper suffered a serious injury in 2005, and his career was never the same.
We usually remember Brady’s 2007 season, when he threw for a whopping 50 touchdowns. However, that’s not the year he set the Patriots’ passing yards record. That would come in 2011 when he threw for 5,235 yards. It’s Brady’s only 5,000-yard season in his career.
Brees and Brady, Brady and Brees. These two legends played well into their forties and changed the landscape for quarterbacks over that age. The two battled back-and-forth for career records regarding passing yards and passing touchdowns. Funnily enough, in 2011 Brady didn’t lead the NFL in passing yards. That’s because Brees threw for 5,476 yards that season to lead the league, and to set an NFL record that would last all the way until…2013 when Manning broke it by one yard.
Speaking of Peyton, his brother also owns a franchise record. Speaking of that 2011 season, Eli also set his franchise’s record that year. In fact, five quarterbacks set a new team record for passing yards in 2011. What a wild year. Manning fell just short of 5,000 yards, ending up with 4,933 yards.
This is the earliest year on this list by a considerable margin. Sipe set the Browns’ record in 1980. Namath set the Jets’ record way back in 1967. He was a completely different kind of quarterback for the era. Namath threw for 4,007 yards that year. For the era, that’s like throwing for 5,000 yards today.
Wentz has seen better days in Philly. Like, as recently as 2019. While the 2020 season was a disaster for Wentz, just one year earlier he was still putting up good numbers and not getting Doug Pederson fired. In only his second time playing 16 games, Wentz threw for 4,039 yards. Sure, he also fumbled 16 times, but let’s focus on the passing record.
In 2020, Big Ben was basically only throwing the ball like two yards down the field as most. It’s crazy to remember that he was airing it out as recently as 2018. That year he set a personal high with 675 passing attempts and threw for 5,129 yards. He averaged 7.6 yards per attempt. In 2020? That was down to 6.3.
When you let Russ cook, good things happen. If Pete Carroll was a little less run-happy, the Seahawks’ franchise record could probably be even gaudier. Instead, Wilson set the Seahawks record when he threw for 4,219 yards in 2016. If Russ got to throw as often as some quarterbacks he could definitely beat that.
No, it’s not Joe Montana or Steve Young that has the 49ers’ record. It’s not even Colin Kaepernick. The record belongs to Garcia. In 2000, Garcia was in his second year in the NFL after spending five seasons in the CFL. He tossed for 4,278 yards, securing a few years as the starting quarterback in San Francisco. After a few years with the Niners, Garcia would hope around the NFL a bit before ending his career in 2010 in the UFL with the Omaha Nighthawks.
In 2019, Winston accumulated numbers like crazy. The most notable thing is that Winston threw 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. No quarterback had ever done that before. On a more positive note for Winston, he also led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards. Then he lost his job to Brady, which seems fair. Brady has never thrown for 30 interceptions, after all.
Like Garcia, Moon became his career in the CFL. Unlike Garcia, Moon is in the Hall of Fame. In 1990, Moon won the MVP with the Houston Oilers by throwing for 4,689 yards and 33 touchdowns. However, 1991 is when he set the franchise’s passing yards record when he threw for a whopping…4,670 yards. Yes, Moon broke his own record by one yard one season later. There would be no MVP, though, as he threw 21 picks that year.
Cousins was not necessarily drafted to become Washington’s starting quarterback, but that’s the job he ended up with. Fortunately, the Michigan State product proved up to the task, especially in 2016. That year, he threw for 4,917 yards. A couple of seasons later he would move on to the Vikings, thanks in part to the rare fully-guaranteed NFL contract. You like that?