Discussing the Top Five CFL quarterbacks of all time

TORONTO — Sports as a whole are always driven by debate. With the current world situation, fans have a chance to interact with one another and bicker over who their favourite players are and what their lasting legacies are in the Canadian Football League.

Earlier this week, Donnovan Bennett asked CFL fans who they’d have on their list as the best CFL quarterbacks of all time. It garnered a number of responses, so why not see how a pair of CFL pundits would rank the greatest signal-callers across the history of the league.

On the latest episode of The Waggle presented by Sport Clips, Davis Sanchez and Bennett chatted with CFL.ca’s Marshall Ferguson, and the trio gave their respective top five pivot lists.

Episode 205: Trusting the Tape w/ Marshall Ferguson

EPISODE OVERVIEW: Davis returns with news of his happy and healthy second child while Marshall Ferguson joins us to explain his toughest assignment to date: formulating a mock draft without a combine. Later, Donnovan stirs up the classic top 5 QBs of all-time debate. Does Bo belong in that conversation? Listen to find out.

EPISODE RUNDOWN: Marshall Ferguson on formulating a Mock Draft (5:29); How will no Combine alter players w/ injury histories (16:16); Mechanics of social distancing on Draft night (20:00); Territorial picks and Ottawa’s options (25:17); Debating the Top 5 QBs of all-time (33:00); Will Bo Levi MItchell enter the Top 5 while playing (47:44); Binge-watching suggestions (53:10).

“But I think one two and three, I think if you have a get those ones wrong or you’re different than mine you’re just out to lunch,” Sanchez said. “I’m gonna go with Doug Flutie at number one. Warren Moon, I go number two, and the great Damon Allen is number three.”

Flutie was a lock across the board. The Boston College product came into the league in 1990 after spending his first five seasons as a professional in the USFL and NFL.

He started out with the BC Lions and also made stops with the Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts. Over eight seasons north of the border, the Manchester, Maryland native completed over 60 percent of his passes for 41,355 yards and 270 touchdowns while adding 4,660 yards and an additional 66 majors on the ground.

He holds the record for most passing yards in a single season (6,619) as well as the most passing yards per game over a career (306.3).

“Doug Flutie is the best quarterback, period,” Bennett said. “He was the first guy that I ever saw where the most athletic person on the field was a quarterback — something that we take for granted now.”

Moon turned to the CFL in 1978 after going undrafted. In his first season with the Eskimos, Moon helped start an unprecedented run of success, with the team winning five consecutive Grey Cups from 1978-82.

His success up north wouldn’t go unnoticed, as the Houston Oilers came calling, and the rest is history.

Over six seasons, Moon threw for 21,228 yards and 144 touchdowns in 94 games. He also added 14 rushing touchdowns and 1,706 yards. Along with his championship run, he also was named the league’s Most Outstanding Player in 1983 and was a two-time Grey Cup Most Valuable Player (1980, 1982).

Allen played for seven different franchises over his 23 seasons in the league. He started out with the Esks before moving on the play for the Rough Riders, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the expansion Memphis Mad Dogs — there was also another two-year stint with Edmonton sandwiched in between those stops.

Arguably his most memorable tenures would come at the end of his career, during his seven-year-long stint with the BC Lions before joining the Double Blue to finish off his illustrious career.

Over 370 career games, Allen posted 72,381 yards and 394 touchdowns while also adding 11,920 yards and 93 rushing scores.

He’s a four-time Grey Cup champion (1987, 1993, 2000, 2004) and also has league MOP (2005) and Grey Cup MVP (1987, 1993, 2004) to his name.

As for the fourth and fifth positions, those are up for debate. There are several quarterbacks who could be in the conversation, as the likes of Anthony CalvilloHenry BurrisRicky Ray and Matt Dunigan are all strong options to round out the list.

Ferguson did have another nomination for his list, as he looked to a McMaster and Ottawa Rough Rider legend as one of the greatest pivots of all time.

“To me, Russ Jackson is like the grandfather of Canadian quarterbacking and he is the golden standard,” Ferguson said. “I know that his name comes up a lot as this ghost of the past but I’m telling you, when I watch Russ Jackson and games that he played in, I’m stunned because yeah, the game has changed and the footballs have evolved and the conditions and the equipment, I understand it’s a completely different time.

“But I watch Russ Jackson make throws when I’m watching old games in the CFL, and I’m like, ‘That dude … if he would have grown up in the evolved modern offensive systems today, it would have been insane to watch.”

Calgary Stampeders QB Bo Levi Mitchell runs out of the tunnel ahead of the team’s Labour Day game against the Edmonton Eskimos Photo: Johany Jutras (CFL.CA)

So where do today’s signal-callers factor into this conversation? Names like Trevor HarrisMike Reilly and Bo Levi Mitchell are undoubted superstars in the CFL, but do any of them have a stake as a top-five quarterback of all-time at this point?

Mitchell seems to be the most obvious candidate out of the trio at the moment.

At just 30 years old, he’s done just about all there is to do in the CFL. He’s a two-time Grey Cup champion — winning MVP in both wins — while also being a three-time Divisional All-Star and a two-time league All-Star.

“I wonder at what point an active Bo Levi Mitchell gets included in this conversation because he’s on the edge,” Ferguson said. “It’s not just Stampeders fans that are doing. Looking through some replies to the original tweet, there are a lot of people who kind of tossed him in as well you know maybe or you know he’s fringe guy.

“If he ends up being able to win one or two over the next three or four years, I think you’re gonna see the conversation shift to where he’s gonna start to bump some of the names we’ve been talking about.”

It’ll be extremely interesting to see if the current crop of pivots can ultimately push for a bigger spot in the conversation.

The most interesting part of this debate is that two people will more than likely have different top fives when it comes to the most important position in the league. There have been so many legendary names to grace the position and there will be more to cement their legacies in the coming years.

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