The CFL has a pretty exclusive club for quarterbacks. The 6,000 yard club. Whilst Groucho Marx famously claimed, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member”, you feel any current CFL quarterback who cracked that statistical barrier would be more than proud to be the newest member of this particular club.
Only four quarterbacks have ever thrown for 6,000 yards in a CFL season up until now. The men to do it are Doug Flutie, Kent Austin, David Archer and Anthony Calvillo. Of the top six single-season passing marks, five occurred between 1991 and 1993. Calvillo was in fact The last CFL quarterback to throw for 6,000 yards in a season (6,104 in 2004). The others were Austin (6,225 in 1992), Archer (6,023 in 1993) and Doug Flutie (6,092 in 1993 and the single season record 6,619 in 1991).
Doug Flutie’s CFL single season record for most passing yards saw him hurling the ball as a member of the BC Lions – at a pretty impressive average of 367.7 yards per game over the CFL 18 game season. After two games this season Ricky Ray has racked up 833 yards – or 416.5 yards a game. Given that he threw for over 500 yards in one of those games, and the fact that he has not lasted a full season recently, there is no way you could see Ray maintaining that all season long though.
It may perhaps seem surprising that the 6,000 yard barrier has not been broken for 12 years and counting when you consider how the game of American Football has evolved more towards the passing system over the years. In a move similar to that made by the NFL to open up the passing game recent rule changes also prevent a defensive back from contacting a receiver beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage. When you couple this with the fact that the 3 down game favours the pass more too it is even more notable.
So what’s to stop it happening? Well, the chances of a CFL QB passing for 6000 yards is less likely if you consider that CFL defenses will also be evolving to stop this at the same time as the offensive style is changing. Further, if teams want to succeed often a little more emphasis may be placed on balance using the running game. For any quarterback to do this they would also most likely have to play all 18 games – not a given – and be behind a healthy o-line keeping them upright.
No matter how good the quarterback and the o-line are they will also need a selection of talented receivers to make this happen. We should also bear in mind that a good quarterback on a good team may find themselves ahead and have his coach start calling a more conservative game to protect a lead.
So, to get there a QB is going to need a whole list of things to go their way, however the one thing we can say is that is not that the talent isn’t there. Bo Levi Mitchell has increased his output year on year and threw for 5,385 yards in 2016. Mike Reilly has impressed in Edmonton and threw for 5,554 yards also in 2016 and plenty of others around the league have the talent – it all comes down to opportunity.
Whilst it is an interesting question for us to ask…”who is next for 6,000 yards?”, you can guarantee that every signal caller in the league would swap entry into that exclusive club for a shot at the Grey Cup in a heartbeat. Whatever happens, with the current crop of QBs or in the future, it will be fun for us to watch it all play out.
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