Doug Flutie - Quarterback - 1997-98 - Boston College
Doug had enjoyed 6 outstanding seasons in the CFL's Western division with British Columbia and Calgary when the financial difficulties of Stampeders owner Larry Ryckman started to adversely affect Flutie and the lifetime contract he had signed with Calgary. Ryckman's financial troubles had started prior to the 1996 season in which Flutie had had surgery on his elbow the only major injury of his CFL career. Doug played essentially for free as creditors closed in on Ryckman in 1996.
Disillusioned by the whole scene and looking for a new start Flutie signed with the Argonauts, the new look Argonauts who underwent a complete overhaul from the dissapointing 1996 team that finished a dismal 4-14. The Argonauts brought in Don Matthews to lead the revitalized team along with a boatload of talent to surround Flutie including Tyrone Williams, Tim Cofield, and Robert Drummond. Matthews also revitalized Mike "Pinball" Clemons by moving him to slotback. The club opened the season with a stunning last drive comeback victory over Montreal at Olympic Stadium and the trend was set for a season of big plays and excitement.
On July 4, 1996 Flutie would have his last battle with long-time rival Matt Dunigan. Dunigan had moved to the Tiger-Cats prior to the season and expectations were high in Southern Ontario for both teams. Dunigan would go on to suffer a season ending concussion in the 6th game of the season and be forced to retire. On that night the Argos home opener 26,333 the largest Argo crowd of the season witnessed an offensive showcase as the quarterback's combined for nearly 800 yards through the air and 9 passing
touchdowns. Dunigan's Ti-Cats would be triumphant in a 38-36 nail-biter as new Argo kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed the possible tying field goal as time expired. The match was one for the ages and a fitting close to the 7 season the two had clashed as the premiere pivots in the league.
The Argo's finished 15-3 in 1996 their best win total in their history. Flutie was as advertised passing for 4,720 yards and 29 touchdowns. He was the face of the team and although the crowds were not what team brass envisioned when they signed Doug, the fans who were in attendance were definitely entertained. Toronto went on to defeat the Montreal Alouettes in the Eastern Final and in a Classic Grey Cup game dubbed the "Snow Bowl" the Flutie led Argo's edged Danny McManus, Ron Lancaster and the Edmonton Eskimos 43-37 for their 2nd Grey Cup of the decade. The game featured return touchdowns for James "the Jet" Cunningham for Toronto and a 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by the legendary Henry "Gizmo" Williams. Mike Vanderjagt hit four field goals for Toronto and controversial non-fumble by Flutie were the factors in the Argo victory. Flutie capped the season winning his 5th Most Outstanding Player Award.
The whole gang returned for 1997 and produced an identical 15-3 record. Flutie set a club record for passing touchdowns with 47 and threw for 5,505 yards. Doug mastered the offence and called his own plays under offensive co-ordinator John Jenkins. Robert Drummond was dominant in the running attack and only a late season injury prevented Drummond from becoming the only player to total over 1,000 yard rushing and receiving in a season, he finished with 1,134 and 806 respectively. Derrel Mitchell was added to the offensive mix and as a rookie caught 1,457 yards and 17 touchdowns to be named rookie of the year. Toronto once again edged out Montreal in the Eastern final at Skydome as Flutie hit Pinball Clemons for the winning touchdown pass within the last minute. Over 30,000 fans witnessed the gripping Eastern Final and wished the club well as they went on to Edmonton to face the surprising Saskatchewan Rough riders who led by Reggie Slack has upset both Calgary and Edmonton to make it to the final. Toronto easily handled Saskatchewan 47-23 to become the only team since the five-in-a-row Edmonton Eskimos to win consecutive Grey Cups. Flutie also won his 6th and final Most Outstanding Player award for the 1997 season.
After the 1997 season Flutie had accomplished everything in the Canadian game. The questions of his ability to win the big game when he came to Toronto were eliminated with back-to-back Grey Cup victories. Looking for a new challenge, Flutie turned his sights back to the NFL, with his agent Jack Mula, Flutie signed a free agent contract with the Buffalo Bills for the 1998 season. He started the season as back-up to Rob Johnson but injuries and ineffective play by Johnson had Flutie starting by mid-season and his flair for dramatics returned to the beloved figure he had been in college. Flutie signed a free-agent contract with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots in 2005 he returned home for his 8th NFL season since his return to the NFL in 1998. It is a fitting place for Flutie to end his storybook (if not vagabond) pro football career, but he will be quick to tell those who ask that the most fun he had in football was calling his own plays for the 97-98 Argo's.
Doug Flutie announced his retirement from professional football on May 15, 2006 he has gone on to join ABC as a college football analyst.
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