ENGLEWOOD Take it from Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, theres no sense steering a kid to play linebacker if he can throw the ball like his son Luke can.
The senior at Valor Christian High School in suburban Denver is a Division I passing prospect who has committed to Oklahoma State, with Alabama and Oregon State trying to change his mind.
Its a good time to be a quarterback, Del Rio said with a hardy laugh.
Thats true whether its in the preps or the pros.
Passing-fueled offenses in the NFL are better than ever, and more than half of the leagues QBs are on pace to throw for 4,000 yards. That would shatter the record of 10 set in 2009 and tied last year.
Its another banner year for offenses, particularly in the passing game. Consider these stats:
Games are averaging 705.5 total net yards per game, on pace to surpass last years record (693.7).
Explosive passing offenses have fueled that trend, with an average of 476.7 net passing yards per game, also on pace for an all-time high (459.4 last season).
Scoring averages 45.7 points per game, on pace to be the highest average since 1965 (46.1), five years before the AFL-NFL merger, which is considered the beginning of the modern game.
Passers are on pace to set records with a combined 86.8 passer rating (84.3 in 2011) and 61.9 completion percentage (61.2 in 2007).
Teams are throwing more than ever to keep up, too. Minnesotas Adrian Peterson, the leagues leading rusher, has more yards (957) on the ground than 21 teams.
Everybodys throwing the ball more; were seeing more open offense, Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. Theyre open-it-up, college-type, everybody out wide, and throw it. Now, well see if that works or not. Thats not necessarily a formula to win. You have to be good at doing that.
Thats just it: A lot of teams are very good at it.
I really dont care about stats. I just care about scoring more points than the other team, said New England coach Bill Belichick, whose Patriots (5-3) are averaging a league-best 33 points a game and have topped 350 yards of total offense in a record 17 consecutive games, one more than the St. Louis Rams had during their Greatest Show on Earth era.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might as well have been speaking for every other NFL offense when he explained the streak this way: If youre not going backward and killing yourself with penalties and turnovers and really not beating yourself, you can usually put yourself in a good position to win.
With rules tilting more toward offense and players getting training at a younger age, thats pretty much the mantra of NFL offenses now: Just dont stub your toe, and youll pile up the points.
Its not just the teams with Brady, Brees and Manning stitched across their leaders backs who are putting up big numbers.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who scored 30 points just four times in the last three seasons, even have gotten into the act. Theyve scored 38, 28, 36 and 42 in their last four games, winning three of them. Its the first time in their history that theyve scored 28 or more in four consecutive games.
Well, thats the exciting part, right? Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. Thats what people come to see, the long runs, the scoring. You have a scoreboard for a reason, right? Its not a yardage board. People like to see scores. I like to see it, too.
Isnt Schiano a defensive guy, one who cut his coaching chops on tackles and takeaways?
Im a winning guy, Schiano said. Thats what I want to do.
The rules and regulations that govern pro football long have tilted toward offense, resulting in an aerial fireworks show thats good for ratings of both the quarterback and television variety.
Add to that an eruption this season of spread offenses and the no-huddle, and you get panting pass-rushers and mismatches with smaller defenders trapped on the field to face towering tight ends and taller receivers who no longer think twice about going over the middle, certain theyll get the ball or the call.
Delivering those pinpoint passes are ever-sharper quarterbacks.
The rules are part of it, said 12-time Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez of the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons. Defensive players cant do what they were allowed to do before, which is good. Its keeping the players safe. I think its given us a fair advantage where if you get a 5-yard check, and thats it, you cant hold me all the way down the field. That shouldnt be allowed.
But then also you look at the lower ranks of football, at least from what Ive seen. I have an 11-year-old son, and hes already doing passing camps, Gonzalez said. When I was in high school, I think we played in one passing camp tournament, and that was like the big thing during the summer, but now these guys are doing it week in and week out. Youre growing up in that environment where youre throwing the ball, its spread offenses, and youre seeing it carry over the NFL now. Guys are coming in and putting up huge numbers.
Four rookies, Indianapolis Andrew Luck (four), Washingtons Robert Griffin III (two), Clevelands Brandon Weeden (two) and Miamis Ryan Tannehill (one) have combined for nine 300-yard passing games, already the most by rookie QBs in any NFL season.
In addition to the offensive-friendly rule book that leads to more touchdown celebrations than sack dances, the athletes coming out of college are better, QBs are readier, offensive linemen are sharper.
The game has definitely evolved, Detroit defensive end Erik Coleman said. Fans want to see more touchdowns.
After all, it helps their fantasy teams.
There have been 395 touchdown passes and 73 300-yard passing games, both of which are the most ever through Week 9. And the league-wide pass touchdown-interception ratio of 1.626 to 1 is well ahead of last seasons record pace (1.472:1).
Peyton Manning leads a record six QBs on pace to finish with a 100-plus passer rating, along with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger and Brady.
Rodgers has 25 touchdown passes in Green Bays first nine games, the first player in NFL history to reach that mark that fast in two different seasons, and Stafford is on pace to throw 692 passes, which would best Drew Bledsoes 1994 mark by one.
The only stat that tilts toward the defense is this: Theres been 34 pick-6s, the most interceptions returned for touchdowns at this point of the season since 1970.
This, however, largely is a byproduct of having so many balls buzzing through the air.
Adapt or perish, Del Rio said. You have to understand where things are going and devise new ways to slow it down, and thats what were all working hard to do. But clearly, rules are in place to allow more of what were seeing: more offensive production and balls in the air and yards and points.
Thats one reason why he didnt steer his kid toward the position he played when he was in high school, at USC and then with the Saints, Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings.
Most coaches looked at him and said, Your dads a linebacker. Play linebacker or D-end. And so he did at first, and then he said, Hey, look, I want to play quarterback, Del Rio said.
Its been fun to watch, he said, for once not cringing at the thought of a big-armed QB leading a high-octane offense down the field.
AP Sports Writers Fred Goodall, Chris Duncan, Noah Trister and Howard Ulman and Associated Press Writer George Henry contributed to this report.