NFL Records That Are Least Likely to Fall
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Brett FavreGeorge Gojkovich/Getty Images
Throughout the history of the NFL, players and teams have established many hundreds of records.
Some of them, however, are unlikely to be broken.
The entertaining part of this conversation is whether it’s a good or bad record. For example, the San Francisco 49ers once managed to dominate road games over an incredible three-year stretch. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could not stop losing for nearly two seasons.
And the result is a seemingly unbreakable record.
Now, it’s important to note how the sport continues to evolve. It feels improbable the league will ever revert to a run-heavy approach, since basic math shows the statistical advantage of a strong passing game. But, hey, who knows what might be happening in 2057!
Jim Hardy’s Interceptions
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Back before the Super Bowl era, Chicago Cardinals quarterback Jim Hardy had a day to forget in 1950.
Hardy completed just 12 of his 39 passes in a 45-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Worse yet, he connected with the wrong team for eight interceptions, one of which the Eagles returned for a touchdown.
Not only is eight just a shockingly high number, a key component today is the proverbial leash for a quarterback.
Only two players in the last 45 years have tossed seven interceptions. At some point, a head coach may spontaneously combust if he doesn’t make a change—even if only for the remainder of the game.
O.J. Simpson’s Yards Per Game
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At the time, O.J. Simpson set a single-season NFL record with 2,003 rushing yards in 1973. Seven players have since surpassed the mark, which now belongs to Eric Dickerson and his 2,105 yards in 1984.
Dickerson and the others, though, each tallied 16 appearances during their respective year. Simpson had 14 games.
On a per-game basis, Simpson (143.1) holds the highest average by exactly 10 yards. For comparison’s sake, Adrian Peterson posted 131.1 in his memorable 2012 campaign, and Derrick Henry had 126.7 in 2020.
Between the current 17-game schedule and a lesser emphasis on the running game in the modern era, it’s highly improbable that anyone will collect 2,433 rushing yards to surpass Simpson’s mark.
George Blanda’s Career Length
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George Blanda put together one of the most fascinating careers in NFL—and, technically, AFL—history.
Altogether, he played 26 professional seasons with tenures of seven-plus seasons with the Chicago Bears, Houston Oilers and Oakland Raiders. In addition to setting the record for career extra points (943), Blanda notched a 53-50-1 record as a quarterback.
Blanda debuted in 1949 and played his final game in 1975.
Since then, a few kickers have come reasonably close to matching his 26 years. Morten Anderson played 25 seasons, while both Adam Vinatieri and John Carney hit 24.
But actually making it to that 27th season seems unbelievable.
Tampa Bay’s Losing Streak
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Steve SpurrierFocus on Sport/Getty Images
I choose to believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers began their franchise history with a salute to Blanda’s long career.
Blanda retired after the 1975 season, and the Tampa organization began play in 1976. Unfortunately for Bucs fans, the team dropped 26 consecutive games before earned that first win in December 1977.
Along the way, Tampa endured 11 shutout losses. The offense averaged a league-low 8.9 points per game in 1976. That number tumbled to 4.4 during the 12 losses—a streak in which Tampa’s quarterbacks tossed one touchdown to 29 interceptions—to open the 1977 season.
That is a nauseating level of futility.
Even the franchises with the worst two-year runs during the last two decades—think the Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars—never surpassed 20 losses in a row.
Note: Technically, the Chicago Cardinals lost 29 straight games in the early 1940s. I’m inclined to put an exclusionary asterisk on a losing streak that happened during World War II.
San Francisco’s Road Wins
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The peak of the San Francisco 49ers’ dynasty began in 1988, the first of two straight seasons with a Super Bowl ring.
Not coincidentally, the Niners kept winning on the road.
San Francisco rattled off 18 consecutive regular-season wins outside of Candlestick Park from 1988-90. The streak started with a 48-10 dismantling of the San Diego Chargers in November 1988 and continued until the opening game of the 1991 season.
In other words, the Joe Montana-led 49ers were a perfect 8-0 in both the 1989 and 1990 campaigns.
Only the 2016-17 New England Patriots have also registered more than 12 straight road victories, and their streak ended at 14.
Brett Favre’s Interceptions
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Brett Favre is deservedly remembered as one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, boasting a career with three MVPs, 500 touchdown passes and a Super Bowl win.
However, he had a “gunslinger” reputation for a reason.
Favre tossed 336 interceptions in his 20 NFL seasons, leading the league in the inglorious category three times. He threw a career-worst 29 picks during the 2005 campaign.
Longevity is a major factor in this record, of course. Among the 30 quarterbacks with 200-plus interceptions, every single one played at least 14 years. Heck, exactly half of them are Hall of Famers—with Drew Brees, Tom Brady and potentially a few others on the way.
Favre, though, has 53 more interceptions than anyone else. And the modern era doesn’t allow for someone to throw 20-plus picks with no repercussions for more than a decade.
This record is safely in Favre’s opponents’ hands.
Emmitt Smith’s Rushing Yards
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This conversation is particularly interesting to me.
How will we view running backs in 20 years? Over the last decade, they’ve become the most expendable players on a roster. Gone are the days—mostly—of running backs handling 300-plus carries per season and holding a featured role into their mid-30s.
Perhaps you’d like to point out Derrick Henry, who’s been a true workhorse for the Tennessee Titans. Well, he enters the 2023 campaign with 8,335 career yards.
Henry is only 10,020 yards behind Emmitt Smith.
Offenses today understandably lean on quick passes as an extension of the running game. Football will evolve, but there’s no guarantee it leads to the inefficient “ground and pound” mentality of years past.
Smith racked up 18,355 yards in his 15-year career, scampering for 900-plus in every season but one. That’s an awfully high bar to clear at a position now searching for long-term relevance.