Reach­ing great­ness on his own terms

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - TOM BRADY

Tom Brady has learned how to use foot­ball and not be used by it.

With Tom Brady’s per­for­mance in Sun­day’s Su­per Bowl hav­ing in­spired many pun­dits to la­bel him the great­est Na­tional Foot­ball League quar­ter­back of all time, let’s take a look at a Cana­dian Foot­ball League ver­sion of that list.

Nam­ing the best quar­ter­backs in CFL his­tory will al­ways be a con­tentious one due to the simple fact that there are so many ways to eval­u­ate the game’s most im­por­tant po­si­tion.

For some, sta­tis­tics are king, and, for oth­ers, it’s about team suc­cess.

This rank­ing at­tempts to sift through 104 years of CFL his­tory while try­ing to bal­ance era, stats, wins, ca­reer length and dom­i­nance.

So, here they are, from 10 to 1. Let the dis­cus­sions be­gin: 10. Henry Bur­ris, 1997-2016 After 20 years of pro­fes­sional foot­ball, Bur­ris went out in style, with a Grey Cup­win­ning MVP per­for­mance. Bur­ris fin­ishes his ca­reer with 63,227 pass­ing yards, 435 touch­downs (374 pass­ing, 61 rush­ing), 118 wins and 93, 300-yard pass­ing games. In ad­di­tion to his three Grey Cup rings, the five-time all-star and two-time MOP owns the CFL record for com­ple­tions in a sea­son (481) and an in­di­vid­ual game (45). 9. Kenny Ploen, 1957-1967 The three-time all-star led the Bombers to six Grey Cup berths, win­ning four. While his pass­ing stats might not com­pare with some on this list, there’s no doubt that he was one of the most dom­i­nant play­ers of his era, tak­ing Win­nipeg to the play­offs in eight of his eleven sea­sons and win­ning 15 out of the 21 play­off games he suited up in. 8. Ron Lan­caster, 1960-1978 In ad­di­tion to be­ing the first quar­ter­back in CFL his­tory to pass for 50,000 yards, Lan­caster was one of the win­ningest QBs of all time, lead­ing his team to vic­tory 158 times. Over 18 years, the seven-time al­ls­tar and two-time MOP played in 288 games with Ot­tawa and Saskatchewan, reg­is­ter­ing just two los­ing sea­sons. Lan­caster led Saskatchewan to the play­offs 14 times in a row, ap­pear­ing in the West Fi­nal 12 times, the Grey Cup five times but only win­ning Earl Grey’s tro­phy once. 7. Russ Jack­son, 1958-1969 Three-time Grey Cup winner. Six-time CFL all-star. Four-time Most Out­stand­ing Cana­dian. Three-time CFL Most Out­stand­ing Player. And the last great Cana­dian quar­ter­back.

In the 12 sea­sons he played for the Rough Rid­ers, the Hamil­ton na­tive led them to the play­offs ev­ery sea­son and was the league’s most dan­ger­ous dual threat; pass­ing for 24,592 yards and 185 TDs while rush­ing for 5,045 yards and 54 TDs. 6. Tom Wilkin­son 1967-1981 Dur­ing his 15-year ca­reer, Wilkin­son missed the play­offs only once and turned his eight Grey Cup ap­pear­ances into five vic­to­ries. The CFL MOP in 1974 was a three time all-star and one of the most clutch play­ers in league his­tory. 5. Joe Krol, 1942-1955 One of only four play­ers to have his num­ber re­tired by the Argos, the “King” was a four time all-star and six time Grey Cup cham­pion. While stats are hard to come by for the era in which he played, it’s uni­ver­sally agreed that Krol, a triple threat to score by pass­ing, rush­ing or kick­ing the ball, was among the most ver­sa­tile and valu­able play­ers in the CFL when he suited up. 4. An­thony Calvillo, ’94-2013 Atop nearly ev­ery CFL pass­ing record, you’ll find Calvillo’s name. He’s got the most pass­ing yards (79,816), most touch­downs (455), most com­ple­tions (5,892) and most 300-yard games (125). But what holds him back from be­ing higher on this par­tic­u­lar list is his less than stel­lar record in the Grey Cup. In eight trips to the big game, Calvillo only man­aged to muster three wins. For an Alou­ettes team that was con­sis­tently a reg­u­lar sea­son jug­ger­naut, years of play­off dis­ap­point­ments can­not be over­looked. 3. Warren Moon, 1978-1983 In six brief years, Moon helped es­tab­lish a dy­nasty that will never be ri­valled. While throw­ing for 21,228 yards and 144 touch­down passes, Moon won nine of 10 play­off games and cap­tured the Grey Cup five straight times, twice be­ing named the Grey Cup MVP. 2. Da­mon Allen, 1985-2007 It’s fair to say we’ll never see another ca­reer like Allen’s. Over 23 sea­sons, the dual threat QB found the end zone 487 times (394 through the air and 93 on the ground), played in 370 games and was a part of 17 play­off teams. If com­ing up big when it mat­ters most is how you judge a QB, Allen’s three Grey Cup MVPs in four cham­pi­onship wins speaks vol­umes about his abil­ity to rise to the oc­ca­sion. Upon re­tir­ing in 2007 Allen was the CFL’s ca­reer pass­ing leader with 72,381 yards and an in­cred­i­ble third on the league’s all­time rush­ing list, with 11,920 yards on the ground to his credit. He’s also the only QB in league his­tory to throw for at least 10,000 yards with four dif­fer­ent teams. 1. Doug Flu­tie, 1990-1997 Was there ever any doubt? No­body’s claim to the top of this list is as strong as Flu­tie’s. Over eight years, he com­plied a 105-38 record as a starter, passed for 41,355 yards and 270 TDs, led the league in pass­ing five times, was named the CFL’s Most Out­stand­ing Player six times, brought his team to the play­offs seven times and won three Grey Cups. In ad­di­tion to his team suc­cess, Flu­tie also put up eye-pop­ping per­sonal stats which have stood the test of time, such as av­er­ag­ing a CFL record 306.3 pass­ing yards per game. To this day, he still holds the record for the most pass­ing yards (6,619) and touch­downs thrown in a sin­gle sea­son (48). Though his ca­reer doesn’t boast the longevity of oth­ers on this list, it’s un­de­ni­able that when com­pared to ev­ery other pivot in the CFL’s sto­ried his­tory, Flu­tie stands head and shoul­ders above his peers.

Honourable men­tions: Matt Du­ni­gan, Danny McManus, Sam Etchev­erry, Tom Cle­ments, Bernie Faloney.


In eight years, Doug Flu­tie be­came the best CFL quar­ter­back ever.


Saskatchewan’s Ron Lan­caster (23) comes in at No. 8. Warren Moon, No. 3 on our list, runs through the rain to vic­tory at the 1982 Grey Cup in Toronto.



Hamil­ton-born Ot­tawa great Russ Jack­son comes in sev­enth best.

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