In safe hands: the CFL’s 2000 Yard receiving seasons

In safe hands: the CFL’s 2000 Yard receiving seasons
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The CFL’s 2000 Yard receiving seasons

The CFL recently had an article up looking at ‘Which CFL records could last forever’. Notably missing was the most yards receiving in a single season record. Which made me go and look it up. It may not be unassailable, but it certainly looks a tough one to beat – 2,036 yards receiving set by Allen Pitts in 1994.

In fact there have only been three 2,000 yards receving seasons in CFL history (so far). And the most recent was set by Derrell Mitchell in 1998.

So the all-time record has stood for 27 years. Whilst the last 2000 yard receiving season was 23 years ago. Which is arguably a little suprising when you think the 3 down game favours the passing attack.

In fact, of the top 10 seasons by receving yards in the CFL, only one was set in the last decade. 1,777 yards receiving set by Jamel Richardson in 2011. Further, only three of the top 10 seasons have come in the Twenty-First century. Richardson’s 1,777 yards in 2011, along with a 1,856 yard season from Geroy Simon in 2006, and a 1,862 yard season from Milt Stegall in 2002.

All of which makes the 2000 yard receiving seasons all the more notable and worth celebrating, so let’s take a look at them.

2,000 yards receiving – Derrell Mithcell 1998

160 Catches 2,000 Yards 12.5 yards per catch 10 TDs.

Team Record: Toronto Argonauts 9-9 , first round playoff loss. Awards: CFL Eastern All-Star.

In 1998 Derrell ‘Mookie’ Mitchell had a blockbuster year. This was his best year in the CFL. A season where he caught a CFL record 160 passes. As well as most receptions in a single season, Mitchell also tied the record for most receptions in a game with 16.

This was only his second year in the CFL and he had made a blistering start to his career. In 1997 Mitchell had 77 catches and 1,457 yards receiving with 17 TD’s earning the CFL Most Outstanding Rookie award.

He would never come close to another 2000 yard receiving season. But from 2000-2003 he had 308 receptions for 4,543 yards and 39 TD’s definitley making a mark in the league.

Mookie spent his first seven seasons with the Argos picking up a Grey cup win in 1997. In 2004, he was released by the Argonauts, and was swiftly signed with Edmonton. From 2004-2006 he had 212 catches for 2,967 yards and 16 TD’s with Edmonton winning another title in 2005.

Derrell Mitchell returned to play one final season with the Argos in 2007.  ‘Mookie’ ended his career as a 5 time East All-Star, and 3 time CFL All-Star selection (1997, 1998 and 2000). Mitchell was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2016.

A footnote of interest for UK fans is that Mitchell suited up for the Scottish Claymores in their debut season. The Claymores were 2-8 in what was still the WLAF in 1995 and Mitchell had just 11 catches for 145 yards and one touchdown.

2,003 yards receiving – Terry Greer 1983

113 catches 2,003 yards, 17.7 yards per catch 8 TD’s

Team Record: Toronto Argonauts 12-4 , Grey Cup Champions. Awards: CFL All-Star, Most Outstanding Player Eastern Division.

Greer played only six seasons in the CFL but her certainly made his mark. The 1983 season where he had 2,003 yards receiving broke a long-standing league record. Not to mention being the CFL’s first 2000 yard receiving season coming in a 16 game schedule.

Greer was a key cog in the Argonauts’ Grey Cup winning team in 1983, giving the team’s fans their first championship since 1952. Breaking the Argos longest title drought.

From 1982 to 1985 Greer led the CFL with 404 receptions for 6,817 yards, an average of 16.8 yards per catch and 47 touchdown catches. This coming off the back of 4 consecutive 1,000 yards receiving seasons.

Greer went on to play in the NFL. From that time he has two Super Bowl rings to add to his Grey Cup ring. Making him the first player in pro football history to win both championships.

Terry Greer was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2019.

2,036 yards receiving – Allen Pitts 1994

126 catches, 2,036 yards, 16.2 yards per catch, 21 TD’s

Team Record: Calgary Stampeders 15-3 , West Division Runners Up. Awards: CFL All-Star.

Allen Pitts had his best season in 1994, recording his one 2,000 yards receiving season. His catches, yards and TD’s for this season were all career highs. But only one of four seasons that he made 100+ receptions. At the time the receptions and TD totals were league records.

Pitts retired as the all-time receiving leader in yards with 14,487 yards. This has since been surpassed but we cannot overlook Pitts’ consistency. Through 176 regular season games, Pitts averaged 15.4 yards per reception. Arguably, Allen Pitts never had a bad year. In his 11 season CFL career, Pitts had over 1,000 yards receiving 9 times, missing twice only because of injuries.

Pitts was part of a Calgary Stampeders team that went 45-9 from 1993-1995. A run of 15 win teams that didn’t pick up a Grey Cup title. But that was hardly his fault, and this was his best year. In fact he spent his entire career with the Stampeders, with whom he appeared in five Grey Cup games, winning two. (1992 and 1998).

Some of the league records may have been surpassed, but the highest volume 2000 yard receiving season is not one of them. As well as this Pitts still holds various Stampeder team records, is on the Stampeder Wall of Fame and had his number 18 jersey retired.

He was twice nominated as the Stampeders Most Outstanding Player, and was a six time CFL All-Star.

Allen Pitts was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Not quite 2,000 yards reciving but wow – Hal Patterson 1956

88 Catches, 1,914 yards, 21.8 yards per catch, 12 TD’s.

Team Record: Montreal Alouettes 10-4 , IRFU Champions, Grey Cup Runners-Up. Awards: All-Star, Most Outstanding Player Award.

Why have I included Hal Patterson here when he didn’t have a 2,000 yards receiving season? Because when I looked at the top 10 single seasons Patterson was in fourth place meaning he had held this record for 27 years. Exactly the length of time this record has stood for Allen Pitts. Could history repeat itself?

I also love the history of the game, so to take a look back and see a receiver in the 1950’s putting up such modern numbers is wonderful to see.

Patterson won the most outstanding player award in 1956 and set a team record of 11 100-yard receiving games in a single (14 game) season that year. That record stood for over half a century. If he had played a 16, or 18 game season there is no doubt in my mind he would have put up 2000 yards receiving. And, perhaps even still hold the all-time yardage record off the back of his incredible 21.8 yards per catch. The Als certainly look to have had quite the vertical attack at this time!

Harold (Prince Hal) Patterson, was a three-time CFL all-star who won three Grey Cups. He spent seven years with the Montreal Alouettes before starting a seven-year run with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1961. He won the Grey Cup in 1963, 1965 and ’67.

During his days with the Alouettes, Patterson was a favourite target of one of the great CFL pivots, Sam (The Rifle) Etcheverry. Patterson finished his career with 460 receptions for 9,473 yards and 75 TD’s – an incredible 20.6-yard per catch average.

He also made his mark on the D too. Recording 27 interceptions in his first six seasons. Including 8 in his rookie season and 7 in 1955 which led the East. Hal Patterson was elected to the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Banner Image: Allen Pitts in action with ball in hand from beckett.com

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