BALLANTINE: Choosing Bo Levi Mitchell over Doug Flutie for Stampeders all-time team
TSN announced its all-time Calgary Stampeders team and if it had come out two or three years ago, I would have had no complaints.
However, in 2020, it’s clear that Bo Levi Mitchell is the greatest quarterback in Stampeders’ history.
It came as somewhat of a shock to me over the last few years with Mitchell replacing Doug Flutie at the top of the heap in Cowtown. Flutie was the QB of record when the Stamps began this three-decade run — Feterik years excepted — as the pinnacle of CFL achievement.
It was also when I became a fan as a young lad.
A few years ago, the 1992 Grey Cup champion Stampeders came together for a reunion and reenacted the “Shoeless Doug Flutie” play. There was clearly someone cutting onions nearby as my eyes moistened remembering the emotions I felt as a kid watching it in real time and seeing my new team go to the Grey Cup, eventually capturing the trophy.
Some things stand out when comparing the two passers for a list like this and how similar the two men are, but there are two very distinct differences between them.
Flutie would run, often; Mitchell doesn’t, like, ever.
Mitchell is better at protecting the ball than Flutie was.
When comparing the two on a more in-depth level, the advanced metrics are very similar.
Yards per attempt? Flutie 8.6, Mitchell 8.5.
Mitchell is now second on the Stampeders’ all-time chart behind Henry Burris, who had a remarkable career but was too inconsistent to be included in this conversation. Flutie sits third in just four seasons with the team, averaging more that 5,000 yards per season.
TD throw percentage? Flutie 0.058, Mitchell 0.051.
Mitchell has 169 total TDs through the air to Flutie’s 140 but he threw the ball 898 more times than the long-time NFLer. Although, that knife cuts both as we address the next item.
Interception percentage? Flutie 0.029, Mitchell 0.021.
Again, with almost 900 more pass attempts, Mitchell still has not passed Flutie on the total interceptions list, although his next one will tie them at 71 total.
Flutie is remembered for his seasons in Calgary flinging the ball and Mitchell has never come close to his attempts. Flutie’s lowest full season saw him put the ball in the air 659 times, while Mitchell has topped out at 606 tosses.
There is a big difference between them from a running game perspective. Flutie overwhelms Mitchell in that regard, but that is also a reflection of how the game is called by the coaches in Calgary. Mitchell’s coaches have been former QBs who put back-ups in for third down plunges. No. 19 also embraces a preservation mindset of being willing to throw it away rather than run downfield and take a hit that has the potential to end his season, or even just remove him from a game.
The biggest difference, though, is the ultimate success. Mitchell is the only QB to ever win two Grey Cups as a starter for the franchise and this is what should have put him on the list in Flutie’s place. The margin is razor thin between the two, but rings weigh heavy in this conversation.
As in every team’s conversations, there will be names left out and with the Stampeders. Terry Evanshan stands out, but it is hard to make the case against Dave Sapungis who had similar numbers but over a longer time in Calgary.
Two of the other guys on the list finished their careers at No. 1 in receiving categories — Allen Pitts and Nik Lewis. Herm “Ham Hands” Harrison’s impact on the franchise is still felt today as the team awards the Herm Harrison award for leadership.
The current crop of offensive lineman, in particular Shane Bergman, might be looked at when this list is again compiled in the future as none of the Stamps hogs since 2003 made the cut this time around. Bergman has been a vastly underrated and overlooked lineman in his time in the red and white. His stellar play continues at that level with him finally being recognized as an all-star this season.
On special teams, the battery of Randy Chevrier, Rene Paredes and Rob Maver are all well deserving of the honours bestowed and while Mark McLaughlin might lead the franchise in points scored, Paredes is climbing the list with surgical precision.
Defensively there are no quibbles from this scribe as to who was a notable exception, although given the shortened tenure of Alex Singleton, his passport likely played a role in his selection. If he hadn’t departed for the NFL, he likely would have been on track to not have that even be a question.