6,000 Yard CFL seasons have been few and far between. 6,000 yards passing in a single season that is. The only Quarterbacks to surpass that number have been Dough Flutie (twice), Kent Austin, Anthony Calvillo and David Archer. It’s such a high plateau to reach that the last one to do it was Calvillo in 2004.
Doug Flutie 1991
6,619 yards passing (367.72 yards per game)
Received the 1991 CFL Most Outstanding Player Award. Led the BC Lions to an 11-7 regular season record. BC lost 43-41 in the Divisional Round to Calgary.
466 of 730 (63.8%) 6,619 yards, 38 Touchdowns and 24 interceptions.
Flutie has the most passing yards in a single CFL season. But that 6,000 yard CFL seasons mark doesn’t tell the whole story. This was Flutie’s second year in the league, and first as a full time starter.
He served notice with this season of an 8 year career in the CFL. A career that would deliver 41,355 yards passing and 270 Touchdowns supplemented by 4,660 yards rushing and a further 66 Touchdowns.
As well as passing for 6,000 yards in a CFL season twice he also came within 55 yards of doing it again in 1992 when he threw for 5,945 yards. Meaning that from 1991-1993 he threw for 18,656 yards (345.48 yards per game) showing an incredible period of dominant passing and sustained consistency.
Kent Austin 1992
6,225 yards passing (345.83 yards per game)
Did not win the 1992 Most Outstanding Player Award or Western All-Star place. Both went to Doug Flutie. Led the Saskatchewan Roughriders to a 9-9 season and first round playoff exit losing 22-20 to Edmonton.
459 of 770 (59.6%), 6,225 yards, 35 Touchdowns and 20 interceptions
Kent Austin played for four different teams in the CFL, – Saskatchewan, BC, Toronto and Winnipeg. But he spent the first seven of his ten years in the league with the Roughriders.
That included winning the Grey Cup in 1989 and winning the MVP trophy in the process. Over his ten years as a player he threw for 36,030 yards and 190 Touchdowns. He also picked up a second Grey Cup ring in 1994 with the BC Lions.
Austin has also coached in the CFL winning the Grey Cup as Head Coach for Saskatchewan in 2007 & picking up another ring as an offensive coordinator with Toronto in 2004.
Doug Flutie 1993
6,092 yards passing (338.44 yards per game)
Received the 1993 CFL Most Outstanding Player Award. Led Calgary to a 15-3 regular season record. However Calgary lost 29-15 to Edmonton in the Western Final.
416 of 703 (59.2%), 6,092 yards, 44 Touchdowns and 17 interceptions
Flutie is the only player to achieve a 6,000 yard CFL season twice. This was the second time. On both occasions he was named MOP. In fact, during his 8 year stint in the CFL he was named MOP 6 times, (1991–1994, 1996, 1997).
He appeared in 4 Grey Cups. The only championship loss coming in 1995 to the Baltimore Stallions. In the three Grey Cup games he did win (1992 with Calgary, and 1996-97 with Toronto), he was named MVP on each occasion.
Doug Flutie was voted the #1 CFL player of all time by TSN in 2006.
Anthony Calvillo 2004
6,041 yards passing (335.61 yards per game)
Did not win the 2004 Most Outstanding Player Award but was named an Eastern All-Star. The MOP Award went to Casey Printers of the BC Lions. Led the Montreal Alouettes to a 14-4 record. Lost in the East Final 26-18 to Toronto.
431 of 690 (62.5%), 6,041 yards, 31 Touchdowns and 15 interceptions
After starting out playing for the Las Vegas Posse and then Hamilton Tiger-Cats, Calvillo found his home in the CFL with the Montral Alouettes. Of a 20 season career in the league, 16 were spent with the Als (1998-2013).
He served notice of potentially hitting the 6,000 yard CFL seasons mark the year before this. Because in 2003 he flung the football, completing 408 of 675 pass attempts for 5,891 yards and 37 touchdowns.
Calvillo played in eight Grey Cup games (2000, 2002-2003, 2005-2006, and 2008-2010) winning three times (2002, 2009 and 2010).
He received 10 team MOP nominations from Montreal. Winning the East Division Award seven times and overall as the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player three times (2003, 2008, and 2009).
Over his 20 year CFL career Calvillo made 277 career starts. That led to 79,816 yards passing and 455 Touchdowns.
David Archer 1993
6,023 yards passing (334.61 yard per game)
Did not win the 1993 Most Outstanding Player Award – this went to Flutie as noted above. Led the Sacramento Gold Miners to a 6-12 record. The Gold Miners made history as the first US based franchise ever to play in the CFL.
403 of 701 (57.5%), 6,023 yards, 35 Touchdowns, and 23 interceptions
Archer was a revalation in the CFL. He had come from the WLAF with the first US based franchise in CFL history, the Sacramento Gold Miners. They may have finished bottom of the West Division with their 6-12 record. But, that was a good performance for an expansion team.
Archer went on to have a five year career in the CFL. Limited to only 12 games in 1994 for Sacremento due to injuries, Archer’s numbers dropped, but he still threw for 3340 yards. By the end of a five year career he had completed 1,388 of 2,434 passes (57%) for 20,671 yards with 120 touchdown passes.
Should we be obsessed with volume?
Having a 6,000 yard season is quite the achievment. Even in an 18 game season. You still need to average just over 333 yards passing per game. Which speaks of an incredible season long consistency.
But how does it compare. For example the first 5,000 yard season in the NFL came from Dan Marino in 1984. A season that ran over 16 games and saw him throw for 5,084 yards. Meaning he was throwing for 317.75 yards a game. Now our 6,000 yard season stacks up well.
The master of the 5,000 yards passing season in the NFL has been Drew Brees. He has amassed five of them. His highest return was 5,476 yards in 2011. The NFL record is 5,477 set by Peyton Manning in 2013. Both Brees and Manning were averaging 342.3 yards per game at their peak volume here.
In an 18 game CFL season that rate of passing per game would net 6161 yards.
Some Historical perspective
Sam Etcheverry was arguably the first modern passer in the CFL. In a 12 game 1955 season he threw for an amazing 3,657 yards and 30 TD’s. Meaning he was passing for 305 yards per game.
He was also the league’s first 4,000 yard passer. Hitting on 61.9% of his passes for 4,723 yards (10.3 yards per attempt) and 32 touchdowns in a remarkable 14 game 1956 season. Here Etcheverry was hitting 337.35 yards a game. If head maintained that pace for four more games he would have made over 6,000 yards at 6,072.
If he had maintained that pace. That’s the key point here. Yes, a longer season adds the potential for more volume to records like a 6,000 yard CFL season. But it is the consistency over that longer season that is worth celebrating.
Conclusion re the 6,000 yard CFL season
The CFL introduced an 18 game schedule in 1986. In the ensuing 35 years so far we have only seen the 6,000 yard CFL seasons mark breached five times. Twice by one player. And the last time was in 2004.
The closest any player has come recently has been Mike Reilly in 2017. Reilly became only the third quarterback in CFL history to throw for more than 5,000 yards in three-consecutive years after hitting that mark in 2016, ‘17 and ’18. Reilly picked up the MOP award in his most productive year – 2017.
But that 5,830 yard season (323.88 yards per game) was still short of a 6,000 yard CFL season. What I guess I am saying is that despite the long season that target is still hard to achieve.
And it makes Flutie’s 6,619 yards in 1991 all the more incredible. Those 367.7 yards per game are an astonishing testament to durability and consistency.
Banner image: Doug Flutie CFL legend and two time 6,000 yard CFL season man celebrates with teammates. Image from Argonauts.ca