Two statistical giants in the history of pro football percolate just beneath the surface of NFL elite quarterbacks right now.
Only a Super Bowl appearance will catapult them into the current limelight enjoyed by Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, who squared off in another classic on Sunday. And, naturally, a victory in that Super Bowl will elevate one over the other.
The two quarterbacks, of course, are San Diego's Philip Rivers and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers.
Both are fresh off monster efforts in Week 11.
Rivers completed 15 of 24 for 233 yards, with a career high 4 TDs and 1 pick in San Diego's 35-14 beat down of Denver Monday might.
Rodgers completed 22 of 31 for 301 yards, also with a career-high 4 TDs, and 0 picks, in a 31-3 humiliation of BrettFavre and the Vikings
that forced Minnesota to fire head coach Brad Childress.
Both are in the midst of monster seasons.
Rivers is just tearing it up in so many ways right now: 23 TD, 9 INT and a great 105.0 passer rating. It's that rating number that's been so consistent: 105.5 in 2008, 104.4 in 2009 and now 105.0 here. But the number that really leaps off his stat sheet this year is the Montana-Esque 9.00 yards per attempt. And for those of you who care about things like yards, Rivers leads the NFL with 3,177 – which puts him on pace for 5,083 for the season, one yard shy of Dan Marino's 1984 record.
Rodgers has been nothing but tremendous since he became the full-time starter in Green Bay in 2008. His 103.2 passer rating in 2009 was the highest by any Packers quarterback since Bart Starr himself in his MVP season of 1966 (105.0) and the shortened season of 1968 (104.3). Rodgers is in great form again here in 2010, with 19 TD, 9 INT, 7.8 YPA and a 95.7 passer rating. More importantly, the Packers are 7-3 and tied for first in the NFC North.
And both are in the midst of what could go down as great careers. This is where it really gets interesting folks.
After last night's win over the Broncos, Rivers now boasts the highest passer rating in NFL history, 97.27. And with 4 TDs and 1 pick, he just edged past Tom Brady Monday night for the best "official" TD-to-INT ratio in the history of football – a critical number that indicates great production while minimizing mistakes. Rivers throws 2.39 TDs for every INT (129-54). Tom Brady throws 2.37 TDs for every INT (244-103)
After Sunday's win over the Vikings, Rodgers now boasts the second highest "unofficial" passer rating in NFL history, at 96.87. (Rodgers is still 30 attempts shy of the min. 1,500 attempts needed to qualify for "official" NFL records.) Perhaps more impressively, Rodgers is easily No. 1 in history in what we consider the critical TD-to-INT ratio, with 2.60 TDs for every INT (78-30). What an awesome number.
To put those TD-INT ratios into perspective, here are the numbers of Rodgers, Rivers and some other notable quarterbacks, Hall of Famers or CHFF favorites:
Aaron Rodgers: 2.60 to 1
Philip Rivers: 2.39 to 1
Tom Brady: 2.37 to 1
Steve Young: 2.17 to 1
Peyton Manning: 2.05 to 1
Joe Montana: 1.96 to 1
Drew Brees: 1.81 to 1
Dan Marino: 1.67 to 1
BrettFavre: 1.52 to 1
Otto Graham: 1.29 to 1
Ken Anderson: 1.23 to 1
Johnny Unitas: 1.15 to 1
Bart Starr: 1.10 to 1
Dan Fouts: 1.05 to 1
Sid Luckman: 1.04 to 1
Terry Bradshaw: 1.01 to 1
Sammy Baugh: 0.92 to 1
Joe Namath: 0.79 to 1
Young, by the way, remains No. 2 on the "official" career passer rating list (pending 30 more attempts by Rodgers), at 96.81.
Now, listen, the Cold, Hard Football Facts know better than anybody that numbers in this day and age are much easier to come by for quarterbacks than they have been in past years. So we are not saying that Rivers and Rodgers are better than Brady or Manning, Marino or Montana, Unitas or Starr, Luckman or Baugh.
What we are saying is that both Rivers and Rodgers are putting up numbers in critical areas that nobody else has done before, historic numbers that could someday have either remembered as one of the all time greats.
But fairly or not – and we argue fairly – the great quarterbacks are always remembered by team accomplishments. That means big performances in January and showers of confetti in February.
And on both these counts, Rivers and Rodgers have a lot to prove. But for out statistical money, both look capable of taking the steps to that next level this year. Then the "best QB in the game today" argument gets really crowded.