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Remember when 300 yard passing games were for losers?

Posted by Jason Lisk on November 17, 2009

One of the Sunday traditions on NFL Countdown was to list the 300 yard passers and 100 yards rushers from each week of action, and then point out how more frequently the 100 yard rushers won. It was a prime exhibit for those who get their correlations crossed with their causations to use in order to point out that establishing the run is what wins in football. If you've been paying attention this year, you may have noticed that even that old canard about 100 yard rushers versus 300 yard passers has disappeared. I'm going to show you some astonishing numbers. Here is the W/L record when a player has 100 yards rushing, or 300 yards passing, going back to 2002 (oh, and curse you Donovan McNabb and Tommy Maddox).

	300 yard passers				100 yard rushers	
2009	41	18	0.695		45	19	0.703
2008	47.5	28.5	0.625		100	30	0.769
2007	43	38	0.531		105	37	0.739
2006	39	29	0.574		112	47	0.704
2005	29	33	0.468		115	23	0.833
2004	36	45	0.444		135	44	0.754
2003	29	31	0.483		107	44	0.709
2002	44.5	34.5	0.563		96	40	0.706

Those numbers include six shootouts in which both teams had a 300 yard passer, as well as two games where each team had a 100 yard rusher, and one game where one team had two rushers reach that mark. In games where one team has a 300 yard passer and the other doesn't, the record for the 300 yard passer is 35-12 (.744), compared to 42-17 (.712) in games where a team has at least one 100 yard rusher and the other does not.

Up until last year, teams that had a passer reach 300 yards won about half the time. The numbers for 100 yard rushers have held steadily north of 70%. Last year's mark of 0.625 was the highest since 1962 (NFL), when passers went 15-5-1 when throwing for 300 yards, and this year's percentage is exceeding last year. Last year, the 47 games won by teams with a 300 yard passer were the most ever. And so far this year, we are at 41, and every team still has seven games left. To put that in historical perspective, from 1970-1977, quarterbacks who threw for 300 yards won a total 45 games, over 8 seasons. We are almost there in nine weeks.

Weather should slow that pace down, but judging by the ratios from the last seven years (on average, there were forty-three 300 yard games from 2002-2008 through game 9), we are looking at somewhere in the range of ninety-eight 300 yard passing games in 2009. That would be the highest total ever. The previous high (90) was in 1995, the expansion year when Carolina and Jacksonville joined. That total dropped immediately to 50 the next year, so it was a freak anomaly partially aided by the expansion dilution year. The two other spikes in the percentage of 300 yard games were also directly attributable to either profound rule changes or massive expansion. The rule changes in 1978 to assist the passing game resulted in a four-fold increase in 300 yard games within a few years. The formation of the AFL and expansion from 12 to 22 professional teams led to a spike in high passing yardage games in the NFL from 1961 to 1963.

This one seems different. We are eight years removed from the last expansion. We are five years removed from some rules changes. I know Chase has some thoughts on this that he might write up. What do you think? Anomaly, or definite trend?