The NFL embarks on a new chapter in its storied history for the 2021 season. This will be the first year the NFL has had more than 16 regular games in over 40 years. The 16 game schedule has been a part of the NFL as it has grown to the most popular sport in America. That all changes this year. How do the NFL and those around the sport handle the inclusion of another regular-season game?
Record holders like Drew Brees should not have their careers diminished by this new scheduling. The NFL and those around it need to treat the 2021 season as the beginning of a whole new statistic tracker. Quarterbacks playing in the new NFL should not diminish the greatness of Brees. Having another game to match or pass the things that Brees has in the record book should not overshadow his greatness.
The 17-Game NFL Schedule
The NFL has been the NFL we know since 1978. A 16-game schedule with four pre-season games has been the norm so long, that common NFL vernacular is based around these 16 games. Four pre-season games have been the norm for fans and those around the NFL for years. Potential starters were unlikely to see the field much in the opening games of the pre-season. Most teams would put their starters on the field for large sections of the third preseason games, however.
Jokes, bets, and records were all based around 16 games. Going 8-8 carried with it talks of mediocrity, causing some to label it the “Jeff Fisher Award.” Heading into the 2021 season though, this entire ecosystem has been upended with the newly implemented 17-game schedule. One thing that has to be assessed is how records are handled, especially for those who are as decorated as Drew Brees.
Drew Brees in the Record Book
With more games comes more statistics for players. Prolific quarterbacks are likely to overtake some of Brees’ accomplishments when given an extra game. When Brees retired, he held the NFL record for most career passing yards, most career pass completions, most completions in a season, and most 5,000 yard passing season. The accuracy of Brees is one record that is likely to hold since it is a percentage. Brees holds that record with an astounding 74.4% completion percentage in a single year. Giving players like Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, and others another game every year should change how statistics are counted.
One of the most obvious records that will be challenged immediately is the 5,000 yards one. Only seven players have eclipsed this benchmark in an NFL season. Brees is the only quarterback who has done this more than once. He accounts for five out of the total 12 times this has occurred in the NFL. Brees ranks second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eleventh in single-season passing yards. Adding another game to current players is likely to immediately begin moving Brees down in the record books if they are tracked together.
The extra game in a season likely would mean that the 5,000-yard passing mark would have been passed a whopping 27 more times since 1980. Peyton Manning comes in on the list at 39th all-time with 4,700 yards in the 2010 season. With another game, is it likely that Manning would have gone over the fabled 5,000-yard mark? This is just one example of how the expansion of the NFL regular season will affect the record books.
Time to Close the Record Book
It is likely time to close the current NFL record book. Players like Brees, Manning, and Dan Marino should not have their careers diminished by the NFL’s expansion. Rumors are already going around that the NFL could expand again in 2030 to add another game. Adding two games will simply water down the current records if they are kept together. Let’s not diminish Brees or any other players who set themselves apart with the 16-game record book.
With another game or two, Brees’ accolades would likely be even higher. Though, without truly knowing a change should be made to the way the NFL is looked at historically. Just like the NFL refers to this current era as the “Super Bowl-era”, so should everything from here forward be referenced as something similar.
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