NFL Passer Rating Record

Drew Brees just broke Dan Marino’s record for most passing yards in a season, a record which lasted 27 years.

But when Joe Montana achieved a 112.4 passer rating in 1989, it was the best the NFL had seen in 29 years.

Passer rating didn’t go into official use 1972, but in 1960 Milt Plum achieved a 110.4 rating, which was applied retroactively.

That effectively cut his time with the record in half, which, in addition to the obscurity of the formula itself, is probably why Plum’s longtime mark is not so well known.

Nevertheless, in 1960 Plum completed 151 of 250 passes for 2297 yards with 21 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.

Had the statistic been around in 1960, and were his team and coach concerned with it (no guarantee), Plum’s mark might have been better.

He went into the final game of the season with just one interception, but against the Giants he was 19 of 40 for 296 yards, with 4 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The Browns nevertheless won, 48-34.

Prior to that game, however, Plum’s 132 completions on 210 attempts for 2001 yards with 17 touchdowns and just one interception would have been a 119.2 rating.

Had that been the mark instead of 110.4, it might not have been broken until 2004, and would still be the third best of all time.

On the flip side, had Plum thrown just one fewer TD pass with the same numbers otherwise, his rating would have been 109.0, in which case Sammy Baugh’s 109.9 rating in 1945 would have stood as the record until 1989.

Evolution of NFL Passer Rating Record (Retroactively until 1972)
(Minimums: 168 attempts, 1920-60; 196 attempts, 1961-77; 224 attempts, 1978-present)

Yr Quarterback Tm Cmp Att Yds TD Int Rtg
1936 Arnie Herber Packers 77 173 1239 11 13 58.9
1940 Sammy Baugh Redskins 111 177 1367 12 10 85.6
1942 Cecil Isbell Packers 146 268 2021 24 14 87.0
1943 Sid Luckman Bears 110 202 2194 28 12 107.5
1945 Sammy Baugh Redskins 128 182 1669 11 4 109.9
1960 Milt Plum Browns 151 250 2297 21 5 110.4
1989 Joe Montana 49ers 271 386 3521 26 8 112.4
1994 Steve Young 49ers 324 461 3969 35 10 112.8
2004 Peyton Manning Colts 336 497 4557 49 10 121.1
2011 Aaron Rodgers Packers 343 502 4643 45 6 122.5