For some reason that probably can only be answered by neuro-scientists, we sports fans have a great affinity and fondness for statistical milestones. As football fans, we value 100+ receiving or rushing yards per game, just as we like to think a 1,000-yard receiver or rusher is an elite (or at least a pretty good) player.
And while those numbers are pretty arbitrary (shouldn't a receiver these days get at least, say, 1,300 receiving yards to be considered elite?), their appeal lies in their simplicity: the numbers are easy to understand, have some (sometimes tenuous) correlation with a good to great performance and often mark a numerical cutoff point.
Almost all sports have such numbers. In hockey and soccer, a hattrick signifies three goals scored by one player. In baseball, you intuitively understand what a .300 hitter is, while you may struggle to say whether a guy with a .800 OPS is any good. In basketball, a triple-double is the accumulation of double-digit totals in any three of five categories in a game, although it most commonly refers to points, rebounds and assists.
For long time, there wasn't much in terms of such a statistical milestone game for quarterbacks in the NFL. Sure, you could always get a "perfect" passer rating, but 158.3 is such a butt-ugly number that no QB would call his mom and say "Hey mom, I just threw a 158.3 game." In fact, that number is so offensive to numerological sensibilities that nobody even calls a game like that a perfect game.
But all of that changed in 2001 when Peyton Manning became the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to complete a QB Trifecta by passing for more than three hundred yards, completing more than three quarters of his passes and throwing three or more touchdowns. The Oxford Dictionary defines a Trifecta as a "run of three wins or grand events", and while the term is mostly used in horse racing, a stat line of 300/75/3 is a combination of three pretty grand achievements for a QB and can therefore also be called a Trifecta.
The latest quarterback to throw for a QB Trifecta was Tony Romo, who managed that feat last weekend against the Eagles with a stat line of 303 passing yards, an 81.5% completion rate and 3 touchdown passes. Romo's performance was the 61st QB Trifecta since 2001. And a look at how many times that statistical milestone has been achieved over the years tells you all you'll ever want to know about how the passing game has evolved in the NFL:
|No. of QB Trifecta games per year
|QB Trifecta games||2||2||1||3||5||3||9||3||7||4||9||13|
For Tony Romo, it was the fourth QB Trifecta game of his career, and second this season. In the season opener against the Giants, Romo passed for 307 yards, had a completion rate of 75.9% and 3 TDs. The other two games in which he hit the 300/75/3 mark: against Philly in 2007 (324/80/3 in a 38-17 win) and against Tampa in 2006 (306/75.9/5 in a 38-10 win).
Of course, the 300/75/3 mark is an arbitrary cutoff stat like many others used in sports, but the numbers do have a certain ring to them, and they are not numbers that every Tom, Dick or Eli puts up every day. Here's a list of all the quarterbacks who've had at least one game in which they passed for a QB Trifecta:
|Player||Career Trifecta Games|
|One game each: Charlie Batch, Kerry Collins, Andy Dalton, Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith|
You could argue that the inclusion of Kevin Kolb on any list supposedly measuring the best QBs in the league automatically and irrefutably invalidates that list, and while I sympathize with that argument, there's also the story of the blind squirrel and the nut...
Looking at the table above, it's no surprise to find the usual suspects (Peyton, Brees, Brady and Rodgers) at the top of the leaderboard, and only people with less than a rudimentary understanding of football would be surprised to see Tony Romo rank fifth on that list.
But if you came here looking for the likes of Eli Manning, Jay Cutler, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan or Michael Vick, don't give up. Their greatness is bound to manifest itself at some point.
(Hat tip to BTB-member Dr-P whose comment led to this post)