The 2012 season has 4 star quarterbacks
suiting up in the CFL's Eastern division. Henry Burris has been acquired
by the Hamilton Tiger Cats, he brings with him a 2010 Most Outstanding
Player Award and a 2009 Grey Cup. Ricky Ray has been acquired by the
Toronto Argonauts from the Edmonton Eskimos. Ray has 2 Grey Cup wins in
2003 and 2005. Anthony Calvillo is the all-time leading passer in
professional football he has captured 3 Grey Cups and been named Most
Outstanding Player 3 times. Buck Pierce has a Grey Cup win with British
Columbia and is coming off a trip to the Grey Cup in 2011 with the
Winnipeg Blue Bombers. An impressive line-up and it harkens one back first
to 1996 and then 1960.
CFL EAST The return of the quarterbacks Not
since 1960, with Rote, Faloney, Jackson and Etcheverry, have such quality
pivots dominated the division - Marty York - Globe & Mail 25-05-1996
The year was 1960. John Kennedy was elected
U.S. president in a narrow victory over Richard Nixon. Felt-tip pens were
invented. The Twist dominated dance floors in Canada and the United
States. And Willie Mays had become such a superstar in baseball that he
persuaded the San Francisco Giants to pay him all of $85,000.
In the Canadian Football League, meanwhile, the Eastern Division was
thriving. Packed stadiums were the norm in Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and
Montreal, primarily because of the teams quarterbacks - Tobin Rote, Bernie
Faloney, Russ Jackson and Sam (The Rifle) Etcheverry. Embroiled in an
intense rivalry, these three Americans and one Canadian (Jackson) combined
to thrill CFL followers in unprecedented fashion.
I lived in Calgary at the time, but I
remember even Western Canadians being excited about those four guys in the
East," recalled Greg Fulton, who began with the CFL as a statistician
in 1950 and, at 76, still serves the league as its secretary-treasurer.
There was something special about those four Eastern quarterbacks in 1960.
It was largely because of those guys that there ended up being a partly
interlocking schedule with the Western teams in 1961. Definitely, 1960
sticks out because it was the only year that Rote, Faloney, Jackson and
Etcheverry - four of the best quarterbacks in history - all played against
each other. There's never been anything quite like that in the East since
Not until now.
With training camps about to open this week,
CFLers are raving about the 1996 collection of quarterbacks in the East.
During the past off-season, Doug Flutie was acquired by Toronto. Matt
Dunigan joined Hamilton. David Archer was recruited by Ottawa. And Tracy
Ham, who led the Baltimore Stallions to a Grey Cup last season and was
chosen the championship games most valuable player, moved together with
his team to Montreal, where the Alouettes were reborn after a nine-year
There's a great deal of excitement about the
East again, especially because of the four quarterbacks, Fulton said, It's
quite clear that they form the finest group of quarterbacks in the East
Jackson agreed. At 59 the youngest of the 1960 quartet, he has followed
the CFL closely through the decades, and in the past few days has found
himself comparing this seasons Eastern QBs with those in the division 36
It's funny but I was sitting in the men's
lounge of my golf club the other day with a bunch of guys and it came up
that Flutie, Dunigan, Archer and Ham are probably the best quarterbacks in
the East since 1960, said Jackson, a retired school principal who lives in
Mississauga, Ont. I thought about it, and you know what? I couldn't argue.
I'm sure it's the truth.
Of the four quarterbacks in the East in 1960, Jackson attracted the least
fanfare. That's the way it usually was - and still is - with Canadian
quarterbacks in the CFL. Only injuries to other QBs, in fact, prompted
Rough Riders head coach Frank Clair to establish Jackson as his starting
Jackson progressed well, history shows, and ultimately sparked the Riders
to the Grey Cup championship in 1960. But not before some memorable
clashes with his fellow QBs in the East.
All four remember those clashes as if they occurred yesterday. They
categorize their styles in identical fashion. The consensus: Jackson's
success was in rolling out and taking advantage of his talented teammates,
such as Ronnie Stewart. Faloney threw footballs end- over-end, but they
managed to reach their destination. And he was a hard- nosed son-of-a-gun
who would lower his shoulder to make an extra inch. Etcheverry's arm
strength was unequalled. Rote was the classic drop-back passer who, the
other three believe, never quite understood Canadian football.
The four can describe plays from 1960 as readily as they can recite the
names of their children.
It was the rivalry, recalled Faloney, who at 63 runs a successful
machinery- and equipment-rental business in Hamilton. There was a personal
challenge for us like there never was in any other year. Going head to
head against Jackson, for instance, made me better and I probably made him
Faloney said he especially psyched himself for games against Rote, who had
jumped to the Argonauts from the National Football Leagues Detroit Lions
just before the 1960 season. Toronto had offered him $10,000 more. Rote
was the CFL's best-paid player in 1960 with a stipend of $35,000.
Tobin was a bit standoffish and he had come in with the big billing, said
Faloney, who was paid $22,000 in 1960. I remember (former Tiger-Cats head
coach) Jim Trimble telling me that Rote was nothing special, that he put
his pants on the same way I did. Trimble was a great coach and I
appreciated what he was saying, but I wanted to knock Tobin's pants off
just the same.
Of the four Eastern QBs in 1960, Rote undoubtedly was the most enigmatic.
After he quit the Argos before the 1963 season, he never attended another
CFL game. Why not? Because I never wanted to, he said.
Unlike Jackson, Faloney and Etcheverry - all CFL Hall of Famers who
remained in Canada, coached CFL teams at times and remained undaunted in
their support of the league - Rote views himself as a National Football
Leaguer who briefly interrupted his career with a stint in Canada.
But, don't get me wrong, Rote said from his home in Michigan, where at 68
he is retired as a marketing executive and recovering from an operation in
which he received an artificial left knee. A lot of those guys (in the CFL)
were tough bastards.
And I won't lie to you. Faloney, Etcheverry and Jackson brought the best
out in me, that's for sure. I can remember people saying that Etcheverry
had the best arm in the CFL and I wanted badly to prove that I could throw
better than him. And then I went out and threw more touchdown passes
against Montreal that year than I had thrown against all teams combined in
some years. I think I threw 28 touchdown passes against Montreal in 1960.
Rote shouldn't be so quick to take the credit for his success against
Montreal, according to Etcheverry.
It didn't take much to tear our defence apart in 1960,' recalled
Etcheverry, who at 63 manages an investment firm in Montreal and recently
purchased season's tickets for the Alouettes' games. 'Tobin was right on
target against us, but the truth is that we had a new coaching staff (the
head coach was Perry Moss) and he wanted to implement the zone defence for
the first time. Our guys didn't know what they were doing. Tobin just blew
us right out of the stadium.
Rote, who was raised in Houston and still speaks with a Texas drawl,
admitted that he never understood the CFL's strange rules and
I still don't understand what a goddamn rouge is, he said. Sometimes, we'd
lose games up there and I didn't know why. The other team would kick a
ball somewhere and, it wasn't a field goal or anything, and next thing I
know, they'd get points for it.
Me? All I wanted to do in Toronto was pass
the football and give it to guys like (Dick) Shatto and beat the hell out
of Faloney and those other guys.
Well, that's not really all Rote wanted to do in Toronto. The man had
built quite a reputation as something of a party animal, too.
Yeah, I know, he said, but there were some good reasons for that. My
family was in Michigan and there was never anything for me to do on our
days off. So I'd have Shatto and the guys over at my place and we partied.
You see, I had some deals with Molson's, the beer people, and part of my
agreement with them was that I got some free cases of beer. So the guys
would come to my place all the time and we'd drink lots of free beer.
Because I was the one who provided the beer, I got classified as the guy
who liked to party a lot.
Funny, but I guess it was true. I like to party. And I liked to hang out
with the guys.
Ironically, the Argos new quarterback was criticized heavily recently by
members of his previous team, the Calgary Stampeders, for being distant
with his teammates. With only a couple of exceptions, he never invited any
of them to his home in Calgary. And his teammates complained that, despite
his bulky salary, he was not nearly as benevolent as quarterbacks
traditionally tend to be, especially with their offensive linemen.
I've heard of Flutie, Rote said. Is he any
Faloney, Jackson and Etcheverry all agree that, yes, Flutie is good. You
get the impression, however, that they may have a tad more respect for
Dunigan. Dunigan is probably the only one of the four (contemporary QBs in
the East) who could have played in the CFL in our day, Faloney said. He
would be the only one tough enough to handle the way quarterbacks played
Flutie can run well, but he would get hurt. The game has changed, because
back in 1960 quarterbacks had to keep running, even into a linebacker, if
it meant getting an additional yard or two. Now the quarterbacks slide
into third base and make sure they aren't contacted. Or they run out of
bounds. No quarterbacks ever ran out of bounds deliberately back then. You
had to run and run hard to get every inch. You didn't even think twice
about that back then, he said.
And, frankly, I liked the game then more, because if you lowered your
shoulder and got that extra yard you felt great, a lot better than you do
when you slide for safety, believe me.
But these four guys in the East this year will put on some good shows, I'm
sure. They're fine athletes. Archer's a very good passer. Ham's a winner,
Etcheverry and Jackson agree that CFL quarterbacks were appreciated by
Canadians more in the old days because they didn't switch teams as often.
Hamilton will be Dunigan's sixth CFL team since joining the Edmonton
Eskimos in 1984. Archer, Flutie and Ham will be with their third CFL
Fans loved to support the teams in our day because they knew us,
Etcheverry said. We seldom, if ever, switched teams. Russ played his whole
career in Ottawa. I was in Montreal my whole career. But guys like Dunigan
move around so much that you lose track of them. Where is Dunigan now,
Jackson senses that Dunigan signed with the Ticats primarily because of
his desire to outshine Flutie in the East.
I believe that Dunigan is absolutely driven by a rivalry against Flutie,
Jackson said. I think he has a desire to prove that he, not Flutie, is the
best quarterback in the CFL. He's driven by personal ambition and rivalry.
But I don't think that's bad at all. I think that's actually a positive. I
think there's more stability in the CFL right now than there has been in a
long time and I think fans will enjoy a good Eastern rivalry involving
some very good quarterbacks.
Just like 1960.
In the 1996 season Doug Flutie would lead the
Argonauts to a 15-3 record and a Grey Cup victory over Edmonton. The
Argonauts also defeated Tracy Ham's Alouettes in the Eastern final at
Toronto's Skydome. Matt Dunigan would take Hamilton to a 4-2 start before
a concussion would end his career. David Archer would battle through a
bankrupt season in Ottawa finishing with a 4-12 record.
Note: Post-season statistics not included.
Estimated base salary.