There is an elite group of famous quarterbacks who headline the NFL all-time passing yards leaderboard, but who has racked up the highest career total?
In a sport that has increasingly been dominated by star quarterbacks, the list of players with the most all-time passing yards contains some of the modern greats.
Tom Brady has won the highest number of Super Bowl titles, while Peyton Manning has the most NFL MVPs.
Both of those players are also among the leaders in career passing yards, along with Drew Brees and Brett Favre.
Many of the top names in the list are now retired, but Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford are among the active players still surging further up the rankings every season.
Here are the players with the most career passing yards and what those rankings look like once the postseason is factored in as well.
1. Tom Brady: 89,214 Passing Yards
After a career spanning 23 memorable seasons, Brady retired with the most passing yards in NFL history with 89,214 across 335 regular season games.
Brady played in 48 more games than his closest rival Brees, allowing him to gain the edge in this statistical category. It’s one of the multiple records he holds after an incredible career.
He led the NFL in passing yards in four seasons, three with the New England Patriots and one with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brady continued to produce impressive passing statistics right up until ending his career following the 2022 season.
It was in 2021 with the Bucs that Brady threw for 5,316 passing yards – his career-best total – while also leading the league in touchdown passes with 43.
His highest yardage total with the Patriots was in his 2007 MVP season when New England went 16-0 as he threw for 50 TDs and a total of 4,806 passing yards with a career-best passer rating of 117.2.
Brady had a league-record 649 passing TDs across his career in the regular season – 78 more than Brees – and he also set another mark with his 7,753 completions.
Brees (98.7) is the only player in the top five to record a higher career passer rating than Brady (97.2).
While there are players with a higher completion percentage and yards per attempt than Brady, his extraordinary longevity and consistency were always likely going to give him the edge in the battle to record the most career passing yards. It will take something special for anyone to pass him.
2. Drew Brees: 80,358 Passing Yards
Brees is the only other player to pass 80,000 career passing yards and if it was not for his presence, Brady would be far more dominant in most of the statistical categories mentioned.
After leaving the AFC for the NFC when swapping the San Diego Chargers for the New Orleans Saints in 2006, Brees got a new lease of life and led the NFL in passing yards in an incredible seven separate seasons.
In the 2011 campaign, he racked up a career-high 5,476 passing yards and had an NFL-record 342.3 yards per game with 46 TDs and just 14 interceptions.
The San Francisco 49ers denied the Saints in the playoffs that year, one of seven disappointing postseason defeats that followed the Saints’ victory in Super Bowl XLIV.
Brees was famed for his accuracy and he completed 67.7% of his career passes. That’s the best rate among all the top 25 QBs on the list of players with the most yards through the air.
Only Brady tops Brees’ career totals for completed passes (7,142) and TD passes (571) in NFL history.
3. Peyton Manning: 71,940 Passing Yards
Manning might have been higher in this list had his body allowed him to play in the NFL for a longer period.
Despite injuries towards the end of his career, he played in 17 seasons compared to 20 years in the league for Brees and 23 for Brady.
Manning, a five-time NFL MVP, had higher career marks for yards per attempt (7.67), TD percentage (5.7) and first-down percentage (39.0) than both Brees and Brady.
He had 14 seasons with at least 4,000 passing yards and threw for an NFL-record 5,477 yards in the 2013 season as he headed up an explosive Denver Broncos offense.
Manning racked up a league-record 55 passing touchdowns that year, having previously led the league in passing on two occasions with the Indianapolis Colts.
4. Brett Favre: 71,838 Passing Yards
When Favre played his final NFL season in 2010 with the Minnesota Vikings, he was the leader in all-time passing yards and touchdowns.
More than a decade after his retirement, the Hall of Fame QB remains one of just four passers in an elite group who have reached 70,000 passing yards in the regular season.
Passing numbers in the NFL were lower when Favre was in his prime than they are these days, but he is helped by having played in 302 games. Only Brady has more to his name among the top 25 QBs.
Favre led the league in passing twice, including in 1995 when he had 4,413 yards in the first of his three consecutive MVP seasons.
He threw for 508 TDs over the course of his career, including 39 in the 1996 season when he won the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers.
5. Ben Roethlisberger: 64,088 Passing Yards
There is a significant gap until the fifth-highest QB for career passing yardage – the Pittsburgh Steelers great.
Roethlisberger was a two-time Super Bowl champion and he led the NFL in passing yards in 2014 and 2018. He threw for 5,129 yards and a career-high 34 TDs in an up-and-down 2018 season that also saw him throw a league-leading 16 picks.
Big Ben has the most career 500-yard passing games with four. Brees and Brady are the only other QBs who managed that more than once, doing so on two occasions each.
Other Career Passing Yards Leaders
Three quarterbacks who did not win a Super Bowl – Philip Rivers, Matt Ryan and Dan Marino – are also among the other players to record the most career passing yards.
Rivers (7.80) has the highest yards-per-attempt figure among the top 25 all-time passing yards leaders.
Marino was the overall passing yards leader when he retired after the 1999 season. He had a then league-record 5,084 yards in his 1984 MVP season. However, Marino and the Miami Dolphins were denied by an inspired Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX.
Aaron Rodgers and Eli Manning complete the top 10. Rodgers is the active player with the most career passing yards, while Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford is 11th. Russell Wilson is just outside the top 20 and likely to rise several spots across the remainder of his career.
Most Passing Yards in the Playoffs
With 13,400 passing yards in the playoffs, Brady is well clear of the pack and the only player to pass 7,500 in postseason play.
Peyton Manning (7,339) comes next, while Roethlisberger (5,972) and Rodgers (5,894) fare very well once regular-season play has been factored out of the statistics.
One player rising fast is Patrick Mahomes, who is already 10th in playoff passing yards despite only having five appearances in the postseason with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has 4,346 yards and two Super Bowls to show for his postseason career already.
The nine players above Mahomes all appeared in the playoffs on at least 10 occasions, more than double his total so far. And no qualifying quarterback has a higher passer rating in the playoffs than Mahomes (105.7).
Bart Starr (104.8), Kurt Warner (102.8), Matt Ryan (100.8) and Rodgers (100.1) are the only other QBs with 100+ career passer ratings in the NFL playoffs.
Most Passing Yards Including the Postseason
Brady once again comes out on top when it comes to the players with the most passing yards including the postseason.
The top five appear in the same order as the regular season list, although Brady’s advantage is far greater, given his stunning exploits in the playoffs over the years.
Brady has 102,614 yards, with Brees (85,724), Peyton Manning (79,279), Favre (77,693) and Roethlisberger (70,060) all topping the 70,000 mark overall.
Brady had 737 total career passing touchdowns and 8,953 completions, while Favre has the unwanted mark of the most interceptions when including the postseason with 366.
Rivers (66,405), Marino (65,871), Ryan (65,464), Rodgers (64,949) and Eli Manning (59,838) make up the rest of the top 10 for most passing yards including the postseason.
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