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NFL records are certainly made to be broken

Career records don’t seem to be as sacred for the NFL as they are for other sports leagues. Maybe that’s because they’re being broken all the time, and people don’t seem to notice all that much.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James became the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the prestigious record in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder last Tuesday.

It was a mark that stood for over three decades after Abdul-Jabbar’s retirement in 1989.

Major League Baseball has many hallowed records; not only do people pay attention as soon as these records are threatened, but the players trying to break them face great scrutiny (and even death threats) because, well, everyone apparently loved Babe Ruth back in the day.

NHL superstar, Alex Ovechkin, will likely break Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894 career goals before long, and when he does, the hockey world will stand up and take notice (people and pundits may even scrutinize Ovechkin because, well, Gretzky is hockey’s Babe Ruth).

As for the NFL, does it have many sacred records?

I used to think it was the career-rushing mark, and it may still be the league’s Holy Grail in terms of records. But I don’t remember nearly as much hype surrounding Emmitt Smith surpassing Walter Payton for the all-time record in 2002 as there seemed to be when Sweetness broke Jim Brown’s record in 1984.

It’s certainly not the all-time passing yards record. I once thought of Fran Tarkenton (47,003) as the gold standard for passing yards, and that’s because he held the all-time record for nearly two decades after retiring from the NFL following the 1978 season.

Basically, Tarkenton was the Ruth/Kareem/Gretzky of passing yards all throughout my childhood.

Then, Dan Marino broke Tarkenton’s record in 1995. Since then, 12 other quarterbacks have also surpassed Tarkenton on the NFL’s all-time list for career passing yards.

I don’t know if there was any hoopla when Tarkenton became the NFL’s career passing yards leader during his storied career, but I don’t recall much hype when Marino passed him. I remember where I was when Peyton Manning became the all-time passing leader, but it just seemed like a thing and not some monumental moment. Heck, I can’t even tell you who he surpassed to break the record.

Tom Brady currently holds the mark with 89,214 career passing yards (I don’t even know what I was doing when he set the record), and it’s probably just a matter of time before someone tops him.

There likely won’t be a huge fuss made about it, either.

Bruce Smith is the NFL’s career sack leader with 200. That record will be broken one day. If he can stay healthy, T.J. Watt (77.5 career sacks) has a great chance to do it, but will there be a sack tracker as the big guy approaches the mark?

I doubt it.

Will anyone ever break the NFL’s career mark for interceptions?

Do you even know what the number is? It’s 81.

Do you know who has the mark? Paul Krause.

Do you even know who that guy is?

Krause was a safety for Washington and Minnesota from 1964-1979. The NFL was so impressed with Krause’s career and interceptions record that he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame...19 years after he retired.

Rod Woodson, a superstar cornerback for the Steelers for 10 seasons during his glorious career, is known for many things—including being a First Ballot Hall of Famer, a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team, and one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the league.

But did you know that Woodson is third on the NFL’s interceptions list with 71?

I did not know that, either.

Will any running back ever come close to surpassing Smith’s career rushing mark (18,355)?

Frank Gore finally retired following the 2020 campaign, and he did so with 16,000 career rushing yards, good enough for third all-time.

That’s not a bad run at the record that Jim Brown once made sacred (in road-trip terms, Gore was about two states away), but it certainly wasn’t close enough for anyone to really care.

The ground game isn’t considered nearly as vital to success as it was during Smith’s time, and even then, football was clearly transitioning into a true passing league.

But as I said, nobody even seems to be wowed when passing records get broken these days.

Ironically enough, the all-time rushing mark might still be the one that moves the needle if it’s ever broken or even threatened again.

Sadly, the running game—or at least the running back—has become so devalued in today’s NFL that no back may ever come close.

As for the rest of the records? They will be surpassed. The NFL is the one league where records are truly made to be broken.