A handful of sportswriters and talk show hosts have floated the idea of recently retired quarterback Doug Flutie for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There’s no doubt the Heisman winner deserves to be in the college hall–and he is–but did he really have a HOF pro career? Mark Kreidler thinks so.
Flutie had one startling, statistics-grabbing, championship-winning, scramble-matic career in pro football. He just didn’t do the best of it in the NFL.
When Flutie’s retirement was announced Monday, the Hall of Fame question came up pretty quick. It’s a fair thing to ask, in the sense that Flutie passed for more than 58,000 yards in his career and wound up with 369 touchdown throws. He also was named the top player in his league six times, and he played on three championship teams.
Alas, the league was the Canadian Football League. And even if I could construct an argument that Flutie dominated the CFL at a time when it was in one of its more impressive periods in terms of overall talent, what does that matter to you, drinker of (insert liquid here), official beverage of the National Football League?
More to the point, what does that mean in Canton-ese?
Only Warren Moon has made the Hall of Fame with a significant CFL blot on his rÃ©sumÃ©, and you get the feeling the voters this year sort of agreed not to hold that against him rather than actually considering it in his favor. In Flutie’s case, though, the opposite effect is in play: Doug’s best years undoubtedly came in Canada, and he was truly, almost transcendently, excellent during those years. What’s that worth?
One of the counterarguments you get in a conversation like this is the dreaded draw-the-line theory, as in, “If they let Flutie in for being a good CFL quarterback, where does the madness stop? Is Mark Grieb next, with his shimmering Arena Football League numbers?” It’s low-grade mumbling, of course, since there isn’t another case remotely similar to Flutie’s (unless you know of a sizzling hot NFL Europe player I’ve somehow been missing in my weekly updates). Beyond that, it’s a given that all leagues are not created equal, that there is no sister to the NFL anywhere, and that, generally speaking, the best football players on Earth are toiling in the Tagliabue Division. I’m guessing the Canton voters know that.
All told, he had a great ride. He did win titles. He was the MVP (or the Most Outstanding Player, as the CFL dubs it). He was, for years, The Man in his league, the best at what he did. He had legions of fans. He had avid followers. He confounded coaches, stirred up teammates, had an ego, threw touchdowns, made money — the whole deal. He lived a bunch of professional lifetimes in a single career.
While I think Flutie deserves serious consideration, he falls short (no pun intended) in my book. Warren Moon was, to me, a no-brainer. He had an excellent NFL career plus five CFL championships. Yes, I think the CFL should count as “bonus points” if you will. But it’s simply not a comparable league. (By the way, there is a Canadian Football Hall of Fame. Flutie deserves to be in it. He almost certainly will be on the first ballot once he’s eligible.)
Flutie was, at best, an average NFL quarterback. That’s the highest level of the pro game. Just as we don’t give the Heisman for dominance in Division III or consider Eddie Robinson on the same level at Bear Bryant, Joe Paterno, and Bobby Bowdon–or Pat Summit with Dean Smith–we shouldn’t consider dominance of a minor league as the major component for Hall enshrinement.
Would we put a real life Crash Davis into Cooperstown? I don’t think so.
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