Jeff Pearlman's 2016 book Gunslinger: the Remarkable, Improbable, Iconic Life of Brett Favre tells the story of of Green Bay Packers legend Brett Favre, the three-time MVP, Super Bowl champion Hall of Famer who holds the NFL's all-time record for consecutive quarterback starts.
From 1992 to 2010, Favre didn't miss a single start. Not one. For 321 consecutive games (297 regular season and 24 playoff), Favre went out and made magic happen, leading his team to the playoffs 12 times in 19 seasons as a starter. It's an impressive record — an almost unbelievable 94 more than the second-longest streak — but it's not Favre's most unbreakable record, nor is it the reason they call him "Gunslinger".
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Favre's wild west nickname is a byproduct of his most unbreakable record: the all-time NFL record for passes intercepted — 336.
This record is incredible. No active quarterback has thrown more than Drew Brees' 220, and most of the quarterbacks in the top 10 on the passes intercepted charts played before 1980. Take a look:
*Hall of Fame
Provided by pro-football-reference.com
It's a testament to Favre's longevity and talent in other aspects of the game that he was able to throw this many interceptions. For a quarterback to get this many chances, he has to be so damn good and play for such a long time, which Favre was, and Favre did. Only two quarterbacks have ever played longer than his 20 years, and he's the only quarterback in NFL history to throw more than 10,000 passes — one of just two to even attempt 9,000 (along with Peyton Manning).
The modern NFL is a passing league. You hear it all the time. So it's not unrealistic at all to think a quarterback will come along and break Favre's record for pass attempts at some point, probably reasonably soon. Just look at how the run/pass split has changed since the merger:
NFL Run/Pass Split since the Merger
However, as the league becomes more pass-happy, it also becomes more interception-conscious. Quarterbacks today throw fewer interceptions than they ever have — both by a percentage of total passes and in general. Take a look at the chart below, which shows pass attempts, total interceptions, and interception percentages from 1969 to today.
Attempts, Interceptions, and Interception Percentage in the NFL (1969-2017)
Every quarterback who started least seven games last season has a better career interception percentage than Favre's 3.3 percent (one exception: Jared Goff, who threw seven interceptions in 205 attempts last season for a rate of 3.41 percent).
For a quarterback playing today to break Favre's record, he would almost certainly have to play longer than Favre's 20 years, since he almost certainly throws fewer interceptions per game. How long? I'm glad you asked.
Using each player's career interceptions per game average, here's how long it would take each NFL starter to break Favre's career interception record, assuming they start every game from here on.