Up until recently, a 4000 yard season was a standard of excellence for a quarterback. It comes out to 250 yards per game. It doesn't seem like that much, but history suggests otherwise. Few great quarterbacks routinely reached the plateau. Steve Young did it twice, Warren Moon 4 times, and Dan Marino had 6 4000+ yard seasons. The godfather of the the 4000 yarder is probably Dan Fouts, who did it 3 times between 1979-1981, and before that the first 4000 yard season belongs to Broadway Joe, who did it in 1967.
Those 5 guys are all in the Hall of Fame. The thing is, so are Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach, and John Elway. How many 4000 yard seasons did they have? You guess it, zero.
The first 5 guys I listed won 1 Super Bowl (our Steve Young). The next group of guys I listed won 15. Think about that.
Now, you can argue that the league is different now, and you'd be right. In 2012, we had eleven 4000 yard passers. We've had at least ten 4000 yard throwers in 3 of the last 4 seasons. The reason is simple, more passing. Duh. In 2012 the league averaged 21.2 completions for 231 yards per game. The decade of the 1990's averaged 18.6 completions for 204 yards/gm. 2.6 completions for 27 extra yards per game is an extra 400 yards on the season. In 1995, for example, there were four 4000 yard passers. If you gave the QB's that year an extra 2-3 completions and 25 yards per game, then we would have had 9.
The 4000 yard plateau just doesn't have the same panache as it used to. Volume does not equal goodness. Colin may hit that mark next year, but it really doesn't matter. What matters is what the 4000 yards may represent, potential imbalance.
The NFL has had 111 season's of QB's with 4000+ yards throwing, but only 4 of them were Super Bowl winners.
The first 4000 yard QB to win the Super Bowl the same year was Kurt Warner and the greatest show on turf in 1999. Prior to that, we have had 4000 yard seasons, but not 4000 yard SB winning seasons. Since then, Peyton Manning did it in 2006, Drew Brees in 2009, and Eli in 2011. That's 2 of the last 4 years, but only 4 out of the last 14. Also, upon closer inspection:
1999: The Kurt Warner led Greatest Show on Turf also had 2000 yards rushing
2006: Peyton had the help of 1700 yards rushing, 4.0 average
2009: The Saints had 2100 yards rushing (I know, surprised me too)
2011: This one was all Eli, but let's face it, it was a magical playoff run, not a dominant team (9-7 in reg season)
So, 4000 yards passing balanced with about 2000 yards of rushing offense, great. 4000 yards throwing, without the run game to support it, not so great. Since we are all about the Super Bowl, let's hope our coaching staff keeps us balanced.
A Ram's blog recently suggested that the Ram's were most likely to throw for 4000 yards in 2013, so that Sam Bradford is the best QB in the division. I agree that Bradford might be the most likely to throw for 4000 yards, but I also think that he might be the most likely to be watching the playoffs from the couch. History suggests you don't want that yardage without the running game that goes with it. From 2012, just ask Mathew Stafford, Tony Romo, or Carson Palmer.
4000 yard passers by year: