8 NFL records that won’t be broken for a long time

When Peyton Manning established a new all-time passing touchdowns record in Week 7 by heaving one into the endzone for the 509th time, the achievement represented not only success, but sustained success.

Sure, that’s true of every all-time record, but with Manning it felt different. Not too long ago there were legitimate concerns about the state of his career due to multiple neck surgeries. Now after missing the entire 2011 season he’s thrown 114 more touchdown passes, which includes breaking the single-season record last year with 55.

The conversation about his touchdowns and the all-time career mark has shifted to this question: will the record ever be broken again? Probably not.

Manning is currently on pace for 50 touchdowns again this season, which would give him a total of 536 (he threw three more last night). Even if he finally slows while playing two more seasons (his contract ends in 2016), 600 touchdowns is easily within reach, and that’s being conservative.

The closest active touchdown leaders are Drew Brees at 374 and Tom Brady right behind him at 372. They’re both clearly for too old to have any shot at Manning. Andrew Luck is only 25 years old and has already thrown 65 touchdowns. If he stays healthy and plays until at least the age of 38 as Manning has, Luck is on pace for 369 career touchdowns.

The word “impossible” shouldn’t be thrown around lightly in the NFL. But Manning’s career touchdown mark (wherever it finally lands) feels safely untouchable.

Which leads to another question: what other NFL records are pretty much safe for all of eternity, or close to it? These ones.

You’ll notice two frequently-occurring names…

Jerry Rice’s 1,549 career receptions: The closest active receiver is Reggie Wayne at 1,101 receptions and he’s 36. Tony Gonzalez is second on the all-time list with 1,325 receptions, and he only missed two games throughout a 17-year career. Health wasn’t his problem, and neither was workload while averaging 4.9 catches per game.

Jerry Rice’s 22,895 career receiving yards: So hey, Jerry Rice was pretty good at catching footballs. Terrell Owens shared that skill and is second on the all-time career receiving yards list. How far behind Rice is he? Oh, just 6,961 yards. Rice redefined career longevity for a wide receiver, and still finished the 2002 season with 1,211 yards at the age of 40.

Jerry Rice’s 208 total touchdowns: This Rice character really knew how to play football. Of that touchdown total 10 came on the ground. Emmitt Smith gave Rice a decent run here but still fell far back and 33 touchdowns short. The closest active player is Antonio Gates with 96.

Emmitt Smith’s 164 career rushing touchdowns: Ladainian Tomlinson finished his career sort of, kind of close to Smith here. But he was still 19 touchdowns behind, making Tomlinson and Smith the only running backs in history to score over 140 times on the ground. The closest active running back is Adrian Peterson at 86, and he’s now a grizzled 29 years old.

Emmitt Smith’s 18,355 career rushing yards: This is the slice of history Smith is most known for, and it will stay that way for quite some time. Like Rice, Smith was uniquely durable and in his own category of career longevity. Even at the age of 35 and in the twilight of his career Smith still chugged away for 937 rushing yards. The closest active running back isn’t even on Smith’s planet. It’s Steven Jackson with 10,966 rushing yards. Yeah, not happening.

Bruce Smith’s 200 career sacks: This one feels a little more possible, because with the high volume of throwing in today’s NFL any record on either side of the ball tied to passing is vulnerable. Still, Smith left a mighty tall mountain to climb. Reggie White came damn close at 198, but after him no other pass rusher has topped 165 sacks. After John Abraham’s recent retirement the closest active sack brute is Jared Allen way back at 130.

Devin Hester’s 14 career punt return touchdowns: Hester is still blazing fast at the age of 32, and he’s one of only two players in league history to record double-digit return touchdowns. File this one under possible but really, really hard and unlikely too. Other fast guys enter the league every year, but being this good for this long only is a challenge only the likes of Hester and Eric Metcalf have met.

Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 single-season rushing yards (honorable mention?): I know what you’re thinking. It goes something like this: “Are you drinking paint? Adrian Peterson came within nine yards of breaking this record a few years ago, and right now DeMarco Murray is running like he might actually be on fire.” Fine, despite the passing boom in recent seasons this record is the most reachable on this list, though only a few notches below impossible. In 2012 Peterson averaged an absurd 159.9 rushing yards per game and he still fell short. Right now Murray is doing amazing things and is the first running back to run for over 100 yards in the first seven games of a season. Yet even while averaging 130.4 yards per game he’s on pace to come jusssst short of Dickerson (2,086 yards). And close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and horseshoe hand grenades.

About Sean Tomlinson

Hello there! This is starting out poorly because I already used an exclamation point. What would you like to know about me? I once worked at a mushroom farm, which is sort of different I guess (don't eat mushrooms). I'm pretty wild too, and at a New Year's Eve party years ago I double-dipped a chip. Oh, and I write about football here and in a few other places around the Internet, something I did previously as the NFL features writer and editor at The Score. Let's be friends.