Drew Brees and Johnny Unitas: By The Numbers

Drew Brees accomplished something truly remarkable on Sunday night by breaking the 47-game passing touchdown record that was set by Johnny Unitas 52 years ago.

There is no doubt that Drew Brees’ record-breaking touchdown feat is extraordinary, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how phenomenal it was that Johnny Unitas was the one that set the record in the first place in the late 1950s into the 1960s.

Back then, it was a completely different style of football. Pro football’s play calling was run-heavy with a pass thrown every now and again, just to throw off the defense.

Nowadays, the NFL is a pass-happy league that relies on good quarterbacking more than it ever has before.

So yes, the more I thought about this record, the more impressed I was that Unitas set this record in 1960 with the Baltimore Colts than I am that Brees surpassed the mark in 2012 with the New Orleans Saints.

Below are some stats that piqued my interest in taking a closer look at how two iconic quarterbacks performed during their record-setting streaks. Some of these statistics are directly tied to the passing record (touchdowns, games won, etc.) while others, I just threw in for fun (number of Pro Bowls, championships, etc.).

*Note: All information and statistics that were calculated for Johnny Unitas were via pro-football-reference.com

All information and statistics that were calculated for Drew Brees were via ESPN stats at espn.com

Numbers during streak                Johnny Unitas           Drew Brees (after Sunday night)

Streak                                                                47                                     48

Wins                                                                   31                                     34

Total TD’s                                                         98                                    118

TD’s per game                                               2.085                              2.458

Interceptions                                                    61                                     51

Yards                                                              10,868                             15,535

Yards per game                                               231                                  323

Full Seasons w/ TD pass                                 3                                      2

Championships                                                 2                                      1

Playoff Record                                                2-0                                  4-2

Pro Bowls                                                           4                                     3

League MVP’s                                                    1                                     0

Games Played (Season)                                  12                                   16

Number of Teams in League        12 (1956-59) /13 (1960)             32


It’s pretty interesting to see just how similar these two quarterback are, even from a numbers standpoint, where I thought Brees would dominate.

Outside of the total yards, the numbers are significantly closer than I had ever imagined.

Yes, this major accomplishment by Drew Brees is one that should be celebrated and glorified, because it is a record that has last for over half a century.

But perhaps what is more stunning is that the streak stood in Unitas’s name for over five decades.


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