For the subject of greatest accomplishment in sports, I sat trying to think of which record stood out the most. Was it Ty Cobb’s .366 career batting average, or Cy Young’s 511 wins? Should it be Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record or Bill Russell’s 11 championships?
But then I thought I’d take this another way, instead of looking for that great career record or some single game achievement, I thought I’d take a look at a player. Look at a career and find in it greatness, and who did I look to but Doug Flutie.
Doug Flutie is the quarterback you couldn’t help but love. He was always a fan favorite who between three leagues logged in 21 years of professional play. Playing his high-school ball in Natick Massachusetts, Flutie went on to play quarterback for Boston College.
It was there that his magic began to shine. In 1984, Flutie achieved some of the things he is best known for. It was this senior season that Flutie threw for 3,454 yards and 27 touchdowns, while winning the Heisman Trophy, but more importantly, there was “the pass”.
The day after thanksgiving, Flutie and his BC Eagles played against the highly touted Miami Hurricanes. Lead by Bernie Kosar, the Hurricanes seemed to be an unstoppable force. But the Eagles fought them every inch of the way. After Kosar lead his team on a dramatic drive that would give the Hurricanes a 45-41 lead, Flutie came out and completed two quick passes that left six seconds on the clock.
On the final play of the game, Flutie dropped back in the pocket and scrambled around until he tossed up that fateful Hail Mary that was caught in the end zone by wide receiver, and roommate, Gerard Phelan. This play not only won BC the game, but has gone down as one of football's greatest moments.
Regardless of his solid collegiate career, the NFL would not take the 5’9" quarterback seriously, deeming him too short to play the position at the pro level. So it was with the USFL’s New Jersey Generals that Flutie would play his first professional season, a season in which he threw for over 2,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in 15 games. Upon the collapse of the league, Flutie went to the NFL, were he spent his first three season not doing much, and only playing in six games.
However, with the NFL players' strike in ’87, Flutie took his chance and crossed the picket lines to start playing for the New England Patriots. After 17 games and some 1,800 yards in three seasons with the Patriots, Flutie left for the Canadian Football League, signing with the British Columbia Lions.
Struggling in his first CFL season, Flutie and the Lions went 6-11. Over the next seven seasons, Flutie wouldn’t post a losing record again. After throwing over 450 completions for more then 6,500 yards and earning the Most Outstanding Player award with the Lions in 1991, Flutie signed with the Calgary Stampeders.
Soon after, he won his first Grey Cup, a game in which he was named Grey Cup MVP. Over his eight year career, Flutie won three Grey Cups, earning the MVP award in each, earned seven Most Outstanding Player awards, and threw more than 40,000 yards and 250 touchdowns. In 1998, Flutie left the CFL for a return to the NFL.
After four games and a 1-3 record, the Buffalo Bills gave Flutie the starting quarterback job. In his first start, he led the team to a fourth-quarter comeback, throwing two touchdowns, to beat the Indianapolis Colts. With Flutie taking the reins, the Bills won eight more games and ended their season with a 9-6 record, and earned his first Pro-Bowl appearance and the Comeback Player of the Year award.
After leading the team to a 10-5 record in ’99, Flutie was replaced by Rob Johnson, and Flutie would eventually be cut after spending a year on the bench.
After throwing a career high 3,464 yards in 2001 with the Chargers, Flutie spent the next three years battling with Drew Brees for the starter’s job. In 2005, Flutie spent his last season in the NFL with the Patriots, playing back up to Tom Brady, and getting little play time. But he made some of it count by being the first player in 64 years to make a successful dropkick in a game against the Dolphins.
After that season, Flutie announced it was time to “hang up [his] helmet” and retire at the age of 43.
You can make the argument that as an NFL player, Flutie was nothing special; he just threw for 14,000 yards and 86 touchdowns in 13 seasons.
However, when you look at his combined career numbers, pooling the NFL, CFL, and USFL years, you can’t help but take notice. He’s played in 241 games, only five less than Fran Tarkenton, the NFL's all-time leader for games played by a quarterback.
His 58,179 yards, 369 touchdowns, and 4,286 completions would put him third on the NFL’s all-time list for all three categories. I think that’s pretty impressive for a guy who was too short to play quarterback.