By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The quarterbacking quality level in the NFL got a whole lot worse on Monday, with news breaking that Ben Roethlisberger will miss the rest of the season due to an elbow injury and Drew Brees will miss roughly six weeks because of his thumb injury.
This is, quite obviously, terrible news for both teams and the NFL at large, as the loss of two marquee quarterbacks for extended periods of time benefits nobody. Two teams that had Super Bowl aspirations are now scanning the list of available bodies to fill a backup quarterback position, in an attempt to remain in contention come January.
A side effect of the Brees injury though has little to do with the Saints or this season. It involves the active race taking place atop the all-time passing leaderboards between Brees and Tom Brady.
After Brady threw a pair of touchdowns in Miami on Sunday, the 42-year-old Patriots QB moved into a tie with Brees for second-most passing touchdowns of all time, with 522. Both quarterbacks sit 17 touchdowns behind Peyton Manning, at 539, for most of all time.
Brees is already the NFL’s all-time leader in passing yards, but his total will be stalled for at least six weeks at 74,845. Manning and Brett Favre rank second and third, respectively, and neither of those QBs will be adding to their totals any time soon (unless the ol’ gunslinger has one more retirement cancellation in him).
Brady currently ranks fourth, though he’s a near-guarantee (barring injury) to pass both Favre and Manning in the next four weeks. (He’s 719 yards behind Favre and 821 yards behind Manning.)
Once/if Brady moves into second place, he’ll be about 3,000 yards shy of Brees’ all-time record. That kind of ground obviously cannot be made up this year, but if this all-time passing race extends beyond the 2019 (or even 2020) season, this will be considered an opportunity for Brady to make up for some of the time that was taken from him at the start of the 2016 season.
Of course, stats are just stats. The fact that Brees and Manning both played roughly 50 percent of their games indoors while Brady played in about 8 percent of his games with perfect conditions certainly factors in somewhere. And the fact that Brady has thrown the third-most passes in history but still ranks 47th on the all-time interception list — while his counterparts atop the passing leaderboards have all thrown a tremendous number of interceptions — should factor in to the conversation as well. (Favre has thrown far and away the most interceptions of all time with 336. Manning has thrown the ninth-most interceptions with 251, and Brees has thrown the 15th-most interceptions, with 235. Brady has thrown 171 interceptions.)
MOST PASSING TOUCHDOWNS, ALL TIME
1. Peyton Manning, 539
T-2. Tom Brady, 522
T-2. Drew Brees, 522
4. Brett Favre, 508
5. Dan Marino, 420
MOST PASSING YARDS, ALL TIME
1. Drew Brees, 74,845
2. Peyton Manning, 71,940
3. Brett Favre, 71,838
4. Tom Brady, 71,119
5. Dan Marino, 61,361
MOST INTERCEPTIONS, ALL TIME
1. Brett Favre, 336
9. Peyton Manning, 251
15. Drew Brees, 235
47. Tom Brady, 171
(If postseason stats were included, Brady already is the leader in both touchdown passes and passing yards, with very comfortable leads in both categories.)
The six Super Bowls and four Super Bowl MVPs likely mean more to Brady than a spot atop an all-time leaderboard, especially with everything else being considered. But at age 42, having accomplished everything else there is to accomplish in the sport, Brady might be looking for any reason to feel an extra motivation when waking up in the morning after getting throttled by enormous men wearing opposing jerseys.