In fact, Brady is one of three quarterbacks who are on pace to surpass Marino's 1984 campaign in which he threw for 5,084 yards. New Orleans' Drew Brees and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, the last two Super Bowl MVPs, are also in line to boot Marino from his perch.
It'd be naïve to chalk it up to the NFL's new rules — although it would be irresponsible to say they didn't help — because Brady, Brees and Rodgers have been building résumés that will stack up against the best who ever played the position. And all three have led the game's most explosive passing attacks that utilize an up-tempo pace, a multitude of dangerous receiving threats and a system that they've been comfortable with for years.
For starters, a quarterback would need to average 318 yards per game over the course of a full season to unseat Marino. At this point, Brady (2,163 yards through six games for an average of 360.5 yards), Brees (2,477 yards through seven games for an average of 353.9) and Rodgers (2,372 yards through seven games for an average of 338.9) have been way ahead of Marino's pace.
They've gotten off to such a hot start that they could fall off over the second half and still topple Marino's mark. Brady, who is on pace for 5,768 yards, would only need to average 292.2 yards over the last 10 games to surpass Marino. Brees is on pace for 5,662 yards and needs to average 289.8 yards over the last nine games to knock off Marino. And Rodgers, who is on pace for 5,422 yards, needs to average 301.4 yards over the last nine games to get past Marino.
By comparison, Marino averaged 292.2 yards through six games (68.3 yards less than Brady's average) and 296.3 yards through seven games (57.6 less than Brees and 42.6 less than Rodgers). Marino, though, finished the season with an incredibly strong streak, averaging 333.1 yards over his last 10 games.
That will be the greatest challenge for Brady, Brees and Rodgers. Brady and Rodgers have the toughest challenge ahead of them for two reasons. First, their teams have begun to take a stranglehold on their respective divisions, which decreases the chance that they'll get a regular amount of work during the last week or two of the regular season. Second, they both play home games in cold-weather cities.
Brees' Saints figure to be in a dogfight in the division, and incredibly, eight of the Saints' last nine games will be played in a dome. Plus, Brees has challenged Marino before, throwing for 5,069 yards in 2009, and he had a chance to dethrone Marino on the final play of the regular season. That combination of factors might put him in the best position to capture the record in 2011.
Of course, while Brady, Brees and Rodgers are all in pursuit of Marino, only one of them can claim the single-season passing record. So the competition is stronger between the three of them than it is with a 27-year-old record.
That's a compliment to the NFL's golden age of quarterbacks, which is currently led by Brady, Brees and Rodgers, who have combined to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in five of the last 10 years. One of them could do it again this year, but before that, they'll be chasing one of the game's most prominent single-season records.