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Top Single Season NFL Passers

Updated on January 24, 2008

Dan Marino

Kurt Warner

Dan Fouts

As with rushing and receiving single-season bests, the ten best passing performances for single seasons since 1960 have all occurred in the last 30 years. Here we take a look at that top ten, keeping an eye on Tom Brady in 2007, who has the potential to shatter several records.

Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins - 5084 Yards - 1984

Dan Marino played his entire career with Miami, from 1983 to 1999, and racked up 61,361 passing yards over that time, ranking him first all-time in NFL history. But Brett Favre is catching up, and so is Peyton Manning. Still, for now, Marino holds that career record, as well as the single season mark of 5084 yards in 1984. That season, Marino completed 362 of 564 passes with 48 touchdowns and just 17 interceptions.

Kurt Warner, St. Louis Rams - 4830 Yards - 2001

Kurt Warner played on those great Rams teams that were nicknamed "The Greatest Show on Turf." He was a former arena league QB who played in Mike Martz' arena league-style passing game with precision. In 2001, Warner had the second best yardage season for a QB, as he completed 375 of 546 passes for 4830 yards and 36 touchdowns. This was Warner's best season for completion percentage as well, at 68.7%.

Tom Brady, New England Patriots - 4806 Yards - 2007

Tom Brady had the third-best yardage mark for a QB in a single season in 2007, with 4806. He also broke the NFL record for TD passes with 50, in helping lead his Patriots to an undefeated regular season. This was the second time Brady led the league in passing yardage as well (4110 in 2005).

Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers - 4802 Yards - 1981

Dan Fouts played his entire career in San Diego, including several years under Don "Air" Coryell. This team was like the recent pass-happy Rams teams, and so it's no surprise that Fouts is on this list. In 1981, he had his best season, completing 360 of 609 passes for 4802 yards and a career high of 33 TDs to 17 interceptions. Fouts also ranks eighth all-time with 43,040 passing yards.

Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins - 4746 Yards - 1986

Really, is it a big surprise that Dan Marino is on this list more than once? His second best season for passing yardage (1986) ranks him fourth all-time, as he passed for 4746 yards and 44 touchdowns. That year, Marino completed 378 of 623 passes.

Daunte Culpepper, Minnesota Vikings - 4717 Yards - 2004

If you are throwing to Randy Moss, you've got the chance to put up huge numbers as a QB. Daunte Culpepper proved that in 2004, as he completed 379 of 548 passes (69.2 %) for 4717 yards and 39 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions. The yardage ranks Culpepper fifth all-time for a single season in NFL history.

Dan Fouts, San Diego Chargers - 4715 Yards - 1980

Like Marino, Fouts is also on this list twice. In 1980, he completed 348 of 589 passes for 4715 yards, with 30 TD passes. What might be most remarkable, though, is that Fouts passed for over 4000 yards in three straight seasons (1979-1981).

Warren Moon, Houston Oilers - 4690 Yards - 1991

Warren Moon was Canada's best-kept secret until the NFL caught wind of how good he was. In 1991, Moon completed 404 of 655 passes for 4690 yards and 23 touchdowns. The 655 attempts ranks second for a single season behind Drew Bledsoe's 691 in 1994.

Warren Moon, Houston Oilers - 4689 Yards - 1990

Like Marino and Fouts, it's not really a big mystery why Moon is on here twice. In 1990, he passed for one less yard (4689) than he did in 1991. That season, Moon completed 362 of 584 passes for a career high of 33 touchdown passes to just 13 interceptions.

Rich Gannon, Oakland Raiders - 4689 Yards - 2002

Rich Gannon is a name you might not expect to see on here, but he is tied for eighth all-time with Warren Moon for single season passing yards with 4689 in 2002. That year, Gannon completed 418 of 618 passes (67.6 %) for 26 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions.

Neil Lomax, St. Louis Cardinals - 4614 Yards - 1984

Along with Gannon, Neil Lomax is another name you might not expect to see on this list. But in 1984, Lomax completed 345 of 560 passes for 4614 yards, with a career high of 28 TD passes to just 16 interceptions. Though his career was cut short by injury, Lomax managed to rack up 22,771 passing yards in an 8-year stint, all with the Cardinals.


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      kid13 6 years ago

      this is a little old.

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      Matty P 7 years ago

      It should also be noted that Peyton is not there, despite holding the record for most seasons of 4000+ yards passing (10).

      Great article though!

    • Nashville G-man profile image

      Nashville G-man 8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      hey Robert...that's a great question and I just did some research on it. Favre's best single season was 4413 yards in 1995, which ranks 24th all-time. I find that hard to believe since he has more overall yards than anyone, but there it is. I also need to add Drew Brees to this list, because he is now second all-time to Marino. Thanks for reading!

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      Robert M. Burns Jr. 8 years ago

      Where is Brett Favre in all this?