Monday, May 20, 2019

NFL Passing Leaders—Black Ink, Mackeys or Bennys?

By John Turney
Benny Friedman
Back in the day the NFLPA gave awards (called Mackey Awards) to those who led the league in passing, rushing, interceptions, sacks, receptions, receiving yardage and other categories. They don't get written about much but essentially they were 'black ink' (denotes bold type and was coined, we think, by Baseball that represented league leaders.

Here is a screenshot of Willie Mays' stats from Baseball Reference and you can see the bold numerals, meaning he led the NL in those categories. Akso, Baseball Reference has a "grey ink" category that denotes being in the top ten of a category.

So, while preparing our offensive players iterations of our "best of" series we run into stats more and leading the league in something is one measure we use. So, what to call them?

For now we will call them Mackeys since the NFLPA got the idea first but for quarterbacks we are thinking about calling them "Bennys".

Why? The first big-time passer in the NFL was Benny Friedman. He was the first, according to researchers, to throw at least 20 touchdown passes in an NFL season. Of course, we don't want it to be confused with 'bennies' for obvious reasons. So we are still nor sure.

While we could expand it, we are keeping it simple for now. When we post the upcoming "Best-ever T-formation Quarterbacks" the 'black ink' is leading the league in major key stats and it includes (1) passing championships and (2) passing yardage titles plus (3) completions, (4) touchdowns, (5) lowest interception percentage and (6) completion percentage. We would like to include yards per completion but it's not yet searchable on Pro Football Reference.

Plus, we only use these Mackeys are a small part of the evaluation process. So, here is a list of the leaders in black ink or Mackeys in the six categories we've selected as traditional.

Mackeys or Black Ink
Sammy Baugh—27 times
Drew Brees— 24
Otto Graham—23
Len Dawson—19
Johnny Unitas —17
Steve Young—17
Peyton Manning— 16
Dan Marino— 15
Tom Brady—14
Sonny Jurgensen—14
Ken Anderson —4
Bart Starr—11
John Brodie—11
Sid Luckman—11
Joe Montana—10
Brett Favre—10
YA Tittle—10
Kurt Warner—10
Dan Fouts—9
Roger Staubach—8
John Hadl—8
George Blanda—8
Tobin Rote—8
Frank Tarkenton— 7
Roman Gabriel—7
Aaron Rodgers—6
Bob Waterfield—6
Warren Moon—6
Milt Plum—6
Joe Namath— 6
Philip Rivers—5
Bobby Layne—5
Daryle Lamonica—5
Ken Stabler— 5
Babe Parilli— 4
Charlie Conerly—4
Norm Van Brocklin—4
Steve Bartkowski—4
Frankie Albert —4
Billy Wade—4
Ben Roethlisberger —3
Drew Bledsoe—3
Jim Kelly—3
Joe Ferguson—3
Alex Smith—3
Bob Griese—3
Rich Gannon—3
Jim Harbaugh—3
Steve Beuerlein—3
Earl Morrall—3
Brian Sipe—3
Babe Parilli—3
Neil Lomax —3
Steve Beuerlein—3
Bert Jones—3

Selected players with none
Donovan McNabb—0
Jay Cutler—0
Joe Flacco—0
Matt Hasselback—0
Kerry Collins—0
Phil Simms—0
Ryan Fitzpatrick—0
Andy Dalton—0
Cam Newton—0
Ron Jaworski—0
Chris Chandler—0
Joe Theismann—0
Danny White—0
Don Meredith—0

This was done by hand, so there may be an error or two nearer the bottom of the list but we think we have the major quarterbacks covered.


  1. John, intriguing as always....I presume that Otto Graham's numbers include his four AAFC years?...…...Chris Chandler? no knock on him, but of all the qb's in let's say the last 70 years, how did he get on your
    "selected" list?

  2. Does this page have what you are looking for for YPA?

    1. Looking for yards per completion, not yards per attempt. They ahve it on individual pages and career leaders but not a year-by-year list

  3. Black Ink came from Bill James; he used it as the MacMillan Baseball Encyclopedia put the league leaders in black ink.