CFL special teams have been on my mind recently. It is all because of an excellent series that has been running right here on Ninety-Nine Yards.
Greg Forbes has been running a series titled ‘Sunday Morning Special Teams’. That series has featured some iconic and truly classic NFL special teams players.
I am on record saying how much I love special teams. Because of that it seems only natural that with my CFL fan hat on this series got me thinking about some of the great special teams players who have played North of the Border.
We last looked at the Eskimo Express, return man supreme Henry ‘Gizmo’ Williams. Prior to that we had featured kickers. It started with Lui Passaglia, and moved on to Bob Cameron.
Now it is time to return to the men kicking up a storm in the CFL and remember another kicking great. We move from one Edmonton superstar to another, the man who delivered in a clutch situation time and time again, Dave Cutler.
It was a different Era
If you were to look at Dave Cutler’s career stats you may not be all that impressed.
He had a career field-goal success rate of only 58.7% after all. In Cutler’s defence he played from 1969 to 1984 and the move towards the accuracy we see from kickers today had not yet peaked.
Undoubtedly for kicking specialists the whole package has improved since then. Better equipment and better surfaces certainly contribute.
It says a lot about the era that starting out in college Cutler was a walk-on linebacker.
So, you could have a good argument about how Dave Cutler compares career for career against great CFL kickers.
What you cannot argue with is just how good Cutler was in the clutch. With everything on the line he may have been the best clutch kicker of all time in the CFL.
It Started With a Kick
In 1970 the Edmonton Eskimos were struggling. Head Coach Ray Jauch had his team at 2-5.
They could easily have slipped into oblivion. Instead Cutler inspired the team. On a muddy field he kicked a winning 52-yard field goal in the final seconds. By all accounts he belted it through.
The Esks would win 8 in a row before finishing 9-7 on the year and being knocked out of the playoffs at the first attempt. That kick was a sign of things to come.
Edmonton would finish 6-10 in 1971 before tearing it up and going 120-47-9 from 1972 to 1982. That decade of dominance saw 9 grey Cup appearances and 6 championships.
The clutch kicking of Dave Cutler that had foreshadowed it all in a rainy match against Montreal would be a key part of their success.
At the time of his retirement in 1984, Cutler ranked as the leading scorer in pro football history. His 2237 points, surpassing George Blanda’s NFL total.
Cutler also held CFL records for most career field goals (464), most points in a season (195), most field goals in a game (5), and broke the record for most field goals in a season several times.
His records have since been surpassed. Especially as the later generations of specialist kickers have come into play. He now stands second on the Eskimo books for career points.
Kickers were not named to the All-Star team until 1977. Effectively half way through Cutler’s career.
Dave Cutler was named CFL West-Division ‘All-West’ kicker every year from 1977 to 1980. He was also elected a CFL all-Star in 1977 & 1978.
Cutler won the Dave Dryburgh Memorial Trophy six times. From 1972 – 1975, 1977, 1978, 1980, and again in 1982.
Cutler’s 16 years in the league were burnished by appearing in a remarkable 8 Grey Cup contests. The Esks and their kicker appeared in the season final between 1973 & 1975 and again between 1978 & 1982.
Winners rings were collected in 1975 & every year between 1978 & 1982. The ‘king of clutch kicks’ kept the Esks streak alive in the 1981 Grey cup booting the winning points with just seconds left on the clock.
He is a member of the BC Sports Hall of Fame, the Simon Fraser University Sports Hall of Fame, has a place on the Eskimos Wall of Honour, and of course is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
Banner image from UniWatch
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