How Many NFL Quarterbacks Have Won the Triple Crown?
In 2021, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady made a bid to become the only quarterback to own a private win in an already exclusive club. Only nine quarterbacks in NFL history have ever won the passing Triple Crown: Leading the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and completion percentage in the same season.
Slingin’ Sammy Baugh is the only one of the Triple Crown Nine to ever accomplish the feat twice, in 1940 and ’47, but he did that with the same Washington team. Brady, who completed the Triple Crown with the New England Patriots in 2007, was attempting to become the first quarterback to pull off the feat with two different teams, leading the NFL in yards and touchdowns. Alas, Brady was well behind the leaders in completion percentage, but he keeps his keys to the Triple Crown washroom.
Here is the list of the nine quarterbacks to achieve the Triple Crown:
Ed Danowski, 1935 New York Giants: 794 yards, 10 TDs, 50.4%
Danowski is probably more famous for what he did in the 1934 season, leading the Giants to the NFL Championship in what is known as the “Sneakers Game,” because Danowski and several other Giants skill players changed into sneakers at halftime and the improved traction propelled the Giants from a seven-point deficit to a 30-13 victory.
Danowski led the Giants to a second NFL Championship in 1938, but his passing stats in the 1935 season earned him the first-ever NFL passing Triple Crown.
Arnie Herber, 1936 Green Bay Packers: 1,239 yards, 11 TDs, 44.5%
Herber was already a two-time NFL champion with the Packers by 1935 when wide receiver Don Hutson joined the franchise. At that point, Herber put together his finest season by winning the passing Triple Crown in 1936, leading Green Bay to its third title of the decade under his leadership. Herber also led the league in passing yards and touchdowns in 1932 and ’34, but 1936 was his only season leading the league in all three Triple Crown categories.
Sammy Baugh, 1940 Washington Football Team: 1,367 yards, 12 TDs, 62.7%
“Slingin’” Sammy Baugh is the only quarterback to appear on the Triple Crown list twice, adding a second such season in 1947, after Baugh had helped transition the league from a run-first (and often) mentality to the first signs of becoming the passing game that thrills fans today. But not even putting up Triple Crown numbers could save Washington in the NFL Championship Game. The Bears won by the all-time lopsided score of 73-0.
Cecil Isbell, 1941 Green Bay Packers: 1,479 yards, 15 TDs, 56.8%
Isbell only played quarterback in the NFL for five seasons, but he made the most of them, playing in four Pro Bowls and making either first- or second-team All-Pro in every season from 1938-42. He led the NFL in passing yards in both 1941 and ’42, but the Triple Crown came in 1941 with his 56.8 completion percentage. The year after losing to the Giants in the NFC Championship Game, Isbell led the Packers to the title in 1939.
Sammy Baugh, 1947 Washington Football Team: 2,938 yards, 25 TDs, 60.6%
You can see the impact that Baugh made on the potency of the passing game at the NFL level by looking at his stats from his two Triple Crown seasons. In 1940, Baugh led the league 1,367 yards and 12 touchdowns. A mere seven years later and Baugh’s league-leading totals were more than double of both his 1940 numbers.
Otto Graham, 1947 Cleveland Browns: 2,753 yards, 25 TDs, 59.3%
Wait, two Triple Crown winners in the same season? From 1946-49, there was a second professional league called the All-America Football Conference, and the most dominant team in that league was the Cleveland Browns, led at quarterback by the Tom Brady of his generation, Otto Graham. Not only did Graham lead the Browns to seven league championships in 10 seasons, including all four with the AAFC before the Browns were folded into the NFL, but Graham won AAFC MVP honors in 1947 and ’48, achieving the Triple Crown in the first of the two MVP seasons.
John Brodie, 1965 San Francisco 49ers: 3,112 yards, 30 TDs, 61.9%
The other team that merged into the NFC from the AAFC was the San Francisco 49ers, and Brodie was one of the top quarterback of the 1960s and early ‘70s, leading the league in passing yards three times, touchdowns twice and completion percentage twice, putting it all together in 1965. Brodie was the last quarterback of the 20th century to achieve the passing Triple Crown.
Kurt Warner, 2001 St. Louis Rams: 4,830 yards, 36 TDs, 68.7%
Warner took the league by storm in 1999, coming literally from nowhere to replace the injured Trent Green in the preseason and lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory with a dominant MVP season. But it was 2001 that Warner really put it all together with the Greatest Show on Turf to capture the Triple Crown and lead the Rams to its second Super Bowl in three seasons. But in the end, Warner was bested in Super Bowl 36 by a future Triple Crown winner.
Tom Brady, 2007 New England Patriots: 4,806 yards, 50 TDs, 68.9%
There have been quarterbacks with more passing yards in a season. There have been quarterbacks with more touchdown passes. Peyton Manning achieved both of those records in 2013. But in 2007, Tom Brady put together a regular season like no quarterback has ever enjoyed. The first quarterback to throw for 50 touchdowns in a season, Brady not only achieved the Triple Crown, he did it in the only 16-0 regular season since the league expanded the schedule to 16 games in 1977.
Drew Brees, 2011 New Orleans Saints: 5,476 yards, 46 TDs, 71.2%
The last quarterback to achieve the passing Triple Crown, Brees held the record for most passing yards in a season for two years before Manning set the marks for yards and touchdowns in 2013. But no quarterback who ever won the Triple Crown has ever completed better than 70 percent of his passes, giving Brees the best completion percentage and yardage total of all Triple Crown winners in history.