B/R College Football Exclusive: Doug Flutie Talks BCS, Heisman and Hail Flutie
It may have been 27 years since Doug Flutie threw the magical Hail Mary pass as time expired to beat the Miami Hurricanes, but it still ranks as one of the greatest college football plays in history.
B/R's David Luther had the chance to talk with Flutie about the 27th anniversary of "Hail Flutie" and also pick his brain about the burning college football topics of the day: the BCS, the Heisman race and potential pro careers for today's college quarterbacks.
We also talked about his involvement with the Capital One Cup, and you can read that portion of the interview here.
Bleacher Report's David Luther: It's been 27 years since that amazing pass. Is it still as amazing to you today as it was back when it happened?
Doug Flutie: I think it's getting just as much attention every year, that's for sure. Looking back at it, my thoughts are it was one of those things that just happened, and it happened on a huge platform on Thanksgiving weekend, high-profile game, all that. It just happens to carry a lot of weight that way. For me, I always look at it that I would love everyone to remember all I did throughout my career, but at least I have that signature moment that people will remember. But it was obviously one of the biggest moments at Boston College and one of my bigger moments as a player.
Flaws in the Heisman Race
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B/R: Your "Hail Flutie" pass is one of those signature "Heisman moments" that we look for so much in today's players. But is it really fair to boil down a Heisman-caliber season to maybe one or two highlights?
DF: All year long I've been analyzing the Heisman [race], and going week-by-week, but my biggest frustration with the Heisman is it's become the MVP of the national champion, or a team going to the National Championship game. That's what it's turned into. If you're not undefeated, you're out of the running. Once you lose, you're out of the running. Well, now everybody's got one loss, now you're back in the picture.
And I don't believe that. I think you have to be an outstanding athlete, and in reality these last couple of weeks, I'm starting to really think about Robert Griffin. Earlier on he put up some ridiculous numbers, but you know, he's playing for Baylor, and they got beat a few times, no big deal. I guess, what would Baylor be without him?
That's the criteria I always look at; what would that team be without that individual player? What would Stanford be without Andrew Luck? What would Alabama be without Trent Richardson? What would Baylor be without Robert Griffin?
More and more I go back to those players who maybe aren't on a National Championship-caliber team, but are just having amazing seasons.
I don't think it should come down to one moment, and I definitely don't think it should just be a guy from the National Championship team, either.
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B/R: With all of the upsets in the past few weeks, this season seems to have one of the more wide-open Heisman races we've seen in quite a few years. It's clear you seem to be gravitating toward Robert Griffin. Are there any other standouts that have gotten your attention to which the rest of the nation perhaps isn't paying attention?
DF: I look at Brandon Weeden and the job he's done all year long. If they had stayed undefeated, and they've got Oklahoma coming up, I kept saying all year long that it would come down to him and Landry Jones in that game. Whichever team wins that game and stayed undefeated would be sneaking up from behind on guys like Andrew Luck and Trent Richardson.
Unfortunately with the losses, it takes a little power away from that game now.
Looking around the nation, Denard Robinson I thought was a guy that could put himself in [the race] very easily, but he threw a few too many interceptions.
Russell Wilson has had a phenomenal year at Wisconsin. In Wisconsin's losses, he's driven the team down to what should have been a game-winning score, only to have the other team score in the very last second. And he's standing on the sideline, and there's nothing he can do about it. Russell Wilson should still be in the discussion.
B/R: And what about Andrew Luck?
DF: Early in the year up to the midpoint of the season, everyone thought Andrew Luck was running away with it, but now, it's a toss-up. There's going to be three or four guys at the top, and I'm sure there will be a lot of regional voting that takes place; guys on the West Coast that are doing well won't get any votes on the East Coast.
Is the Heisman Trophy a Quarterbacks-Only Award Now?
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B/R: Most of the players you've mentioned are quarterbacks. Back when you won the Heisman in 1984, you were the first quarterback to win the award since 1971. Do you think the Heisman today has become a little too focused on quarterbacks?
DF: This is my approach. When looking for the MVP of your team, who does the most to help them win? If you take that player—whether he's a quarterback, or a running back, or a wide receiver—if you take him off of that team, all of the sudden you have a Top 10 or Top Five team that's now not even in the Top 20, and that's kind of my criteria—the way I look at it.
The reason it's gravitated to quarterbacks is that college football in general has gravitated to throwing the football. Alabama still lines up in the I-formation, hammering the ball, and that's why Mark Ingram [won the Heisman]. Stanford is a pro-style, two-back set. That's why that's kind of unique that Andrew Luck is in the position he's in.
But the other teams are spread offense where they're throwing the ball 50 times a game. Guys like Brandon Weeden who are throwing the football a ton are going to put up ridiculous numbers. That's why it's kind of become a quarterback award. College football in general has become a passing game, and [quarterback] is the important position.
What About Moving on to the NFL?
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B/R: Since the college game has transformed into the spread offense and pass-heavy game, do you think it's preparing quarterbacks well for the NFL?
DF: First off, the spread offense and zone read stuff doesn't really prepare them to play in the NFL. I'm not saying you can't do that same stuff at the NFL level, but they're reluctant to do so.
B/R: Who are the top quarterback prospects for the NFL as you see them right now?
DF: The top guys, No. 1 right now is obviously Andrew Luck. I think you have to look at Landry Jones. And you start to think about Brandon Weeden, and although he's older, Chris Weinke went to the NFL for a while and did very well.
Matt Barkley is, I think, an exceptional quarterback, especially in these recent weeks. Russell Wilson up at Wisconsin. I think Russell could play.
When I came out of school, the NFL was looking for guys 6'1" to 6'3". Unfortunately, now they're looking for 6'5" and 6'6". It's all in what the NFL is looking for, but those are the guys I think can cut it.
And you have to throw Aaron Murray into the conversation, even though he's still young.
Boston College Headed in the Wrong Direction
B/R: The past few seasons, Boston College has gone from 8-5 in 2009 to 3-8 so far in 2011. What do you think the Eagles are missing, and what do they need to do to get back to being competitive in the ACC?
DF: The first thing I'll tell you about Boston College is the fact that I'm very proud that they do things the right way. They finished second in the nation in terms of graduation rates among athletes, and I think it's fantastic that we're always in the top three or four.
That being said, offensively, the Eagles have really, really struggled. Gary Tranquill, the offensive coordinator a year ago retired, and they went with a new offensive coordinator [Kevin Rogers] that got ill during training camp and took a leave of absence. They tried to maintain the status quo with the guys they had, and I think that's really hurt them. I think when you're right in the middle of learning a new system, and you lose your new offensive coordinator, it's frustrating from that standpoint.
Defensively, they're a solid football team, but I think they need to go out and hire themselves a big-time offensive coordinator who can really open it up and try to get it explosive.
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B/R: If you take a look at the BCS standings right now, what is your take on all of the changes at the top with the Top Three teams all being from the SEC setting up what looks like an all-SEC BCS Championship Game? Is it time for a change?
DF: Yeah, I think if you look at this year, it's time for a plus-one if not a playoff.
All of the top-caliber teams that lost last week—No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 all going down—it's what we love about college football: it's unpredictable. For seven or eight weeks of the season there were six undefeated teams, and people were rolling their eyes thinking it was going to be so unfair that somebody was going to go undefeated and left out. It's amazing how college football is so exciting down the wire here with these big upsets.
B/R: What about an all-SEC BCS Championship Game?
DF: It's frustrating to me. I honestly don't want to see an LSU-Alabama rematch, but they both are deserving of being in the BCS Championship Game right now, especially with LSU staying undefeated.
Even if Arkansas knocks off LSU, what happens? Does Arkansas go to No. 1? Does LSU drop to No. 2 because they've beaten Alabama and we'll have an Arkansas-LSU rematch?
I just think you gotta win your conference in order to play for a National Championship. I would like to see that implemented at some point.
But right now, if Alabama and LSU win, they deserve to play each other for a National Championship.
A very special thank you to Doug Flutie for spending some time with us and sharing his insights. You can read about his involvement with the Capital One Cup here.