CFL Team vs. Top NCAA Team

I was reading this:

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CFL Team vs. Top NCAA Team, who wins? I say CFL team wins no matter what rules they're playing.

Welcome Neely!!! - from OttawaRoughRiderFan at HF. There are more than a few of us here.


CFL team wins every time. :slight_smile:

Thanks & I agree!


I always wondered if you had an account here. :slight_smile:

Considering all the top NCAA players and award winners who look completely out of place in the CFL, but come in with high expectations, I'd say CFL wins every time.
CFL is Men vs Men. College is some men vs boys.

Well Alabama great QB just got cut from the Argos after 1 week, he looked lost out there

short time in camp. new rules to learn. has very little to do with ability.

And I'm sure all of that is taken into consideration before releasing a player.

Exactly this.
Any player must be prepared...a QB absolutely needs to do their homework. So many come up to Canada thinking it is a stopover and don't do the homework in advance...many fail. Not saying that is the case here, but if he was so great you would think there would be a lot of leeway. I could see him getting picked up once the shock is worn off and he commits to doing extra work on his own. Sometimes a player needs to be released to realign their perspectives. All that said, it was actually a tough roster for him to realistically crack...Ray is...well...Ray...Harris has looked pretty good out there in play...and might have some potential in himself, and is still only what...25...and knows the playbook to develop on? Tough spot...same thing happened last year I believe.

CFL team wins with relative ease IMO. Considering most have played in the NCAA anyways.

Same argument with the worst AHL team vs. a top ranked CHL team. It's men vs. boys

With the odd exception, it would be men vs boys and the CFL would likely win easily. A lot of the current CFL players came through the NCAA, and a lot of highly touted NCAA players come to the CFL and flame out. I think the experience and age difference would make it a blow out. There’s never going to be the talent level of a high end NFL draft pick on a CFL roster, but the overall roster is going to be so much stronger and deeper than that of an NCAA team that it would more than make up for it. An NCAA O line would get rolled against stronger more physically mature D lineman in the CFL.

I think it's obvious to most people who follow and understand the CFL that a CFL team would beat any NCAA team. The NCAA team may have a handful of players that are bigger talents than any of the CFL players, but you can't win a football game with a handful of stars. It's too easy to focus on them (if they're offensive) or avoid them (if they're defensive).

Once you get past the stars, however, the NCAA team is populated by players that will never get drafted and never play a down for a pro team. By definition these players are of a lower caliber than all the CFL players. Our veterans would know how to exploit that.

A more interesting question: would a CFL team beat a team of NCAA all-stars? All would be destined for the NFL and be the best at their positions for the year. But they wouldn't be as seasoned, and they wouldn't have the experience of playing together as a team.

who would win, xena or batman

A fairer challenge might be a CFL All-Star squad versus an All-Star NCAA team, playing Canadian football rules, of course...I'd hate to see the first time an 18-yr-old "Rudy" the punt returner signals for a "fair catch." :wink:

I think many Americans and those unknowledgeable about Canadian football might assume because teams are made up of Canadians, CFL players are automatically inferior to the NFL, or even NCAA. In reality 75% of CFL's starting players are Americans. They are likely the best American professional football players in the world not in the NFL...and that's a pretty big talent pool! If you factor in the "hunger" and "hustle" factor of CFL players trying to prove themselves and earn bigger paycheques, as pros CFL starters are at least the equal of most NFL players (with perhaps the exception of a few elite players on each team).

To think any NCAA team would stand any chance against a battle-hardened CFL squad is laughable, with most CFL players having 4 years or more of pro experience. Most CFL starting players were elite players in the NCAA and have steadily improved their skills with years of professional weight training, nutrition, coaching, etc. Just look how a player like Geroy Simon improved from his college days (He had tryouts with 8 NFL teams). After couple years in Winnipeg learning under Milt Stegall, then signing in B.C. and becoming one of the most dominating CFL receivers of his era. After years in the CFL, Geroy was light years a better player than when he tried out in the NFL years earlier.

Many who play both leagues say the same thing...Chad Johnson being the most recent...the talent level is essentially the same, minus the couple big superstars each NFL club basically has on average.

All-American CFL QB busts
BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency June 28, 2010

In a perfect world, Andre Ware could’ve been a Doug Flutie clone; T.J. Rubley would’ve been Anthony Calvillo before anyone this side of Utah State knew there was an Anthony Calvillo, and Jason Gesser should’ve been a household name today beyond his own living-room walls.




They are the all-American kids and along with such luminous college football icons as Eric Crouch, Akili Smith, Don McPherson, Tommie Frazier, Tony Rice and Major Harris, there was every indication that they were perfectly suited to conquer the Canadian Football League.

The scouting reports said they had it all — strong of arm and will, quick or fast or both. They should’ve been able to capture a country’s football ideals.

Instead, they flashed through our universe like a phoenix that could not raise itself beyond mediocrity in a game they often never grew to understand.

Instead, they are just names on a long list of Heisman Trophy winners and contenders, superb, all-American athletes who could thrive in front of a hundred thousand screaming faithful in the temples of U.S. college ball but floundered on a Canadian prairie pasture or in Hogtown and Steeltown in front of family and friends and half-empty stadiums.

Tales of Cinderella turned Medusa.

How can this happen?

Not just once to the oft-impugned refugee from the NFL, Vince Ferragamo, but to the brightest and the best of U.S. college football.

Over. And over.

Generation to generation.

To NCAA champions such as Tee Martin, to first-round NFL picks such as Smith, to Heisman winners such as Crouch and to Brad Banks, winner of a Davey O’Brien Award presented annually to the best quarterback in U.S. college football.

“Players may have tremendous success in a high-profile university. They may become household names just because their games are being televised all the time and they may be on very good teams. And, as personnel people (scouts) we do get enamoured at times by great athletes, by players who have name recognition. But that doesn’t always translate into a good pro football player,? says Jim Popp, general manager of Montreal’s Alouettes.

If it did translate, then Ware, coming from the University of Houston’s run-and-shoot offence, should’ve been the perfect candidate to orchestrate a pass-happy CFL offence.

But as a CFL quarterback he makes a great colourman on ESPN.

If Heisman translated into hoser-speak, Crouch or Cody Pickett would be the Argonauts’ starting quarterback today.

But, notes former CFL quarterback and CFL hall of famer Matt Dunigan in pithy grace: “There’s a bunch of guys who roll up here with all kinds of athletic ability and they just (dirty) the bed.?

The reasons are many and varied:

One reason many college or NFL players never find success and glory in the CFL is because they can’t play outside a mould.

They were “system quarterbacks? in college, says Jim Barker, who spent the past five seasons scouting U.S. colleges for the Calgary Stampeders before signing on as head coach in 2010 to rebuild the Argonauts.

“In college, and sometimes in the NFL too, they build systems that suit the quarterbacks. Here we usually don’t. We ask quarterbacks to adapt to the system,? says Barker, “and at the pro level, a quarterback needs to be in a system that suits his abilities. When I got Tommy Maddox (in Los Angeles when they won the XFL championship) he had played for years in Dan Reeves’ (Denver) offence which didn’t suit what he does — play action, deep drop. His whole deal is getting the ball out of his hand quickly. That’s when he’s most effective. When he went on to Pittsburgh in the NFL and they put him in that situation, he flourished.?

Paul Masotti reached the zenith of his success in the CFL in the Toronto catching passes from Flutie, who made the leap from Boston College to the CFL without a hitch. But Masotti also saw a lot of great athletes who went on to careers as high school coaches.

There was Mike McMahon who went from setting records at Rutgers to the Detroit Lions to the Argonauts to unemployed. And Syracuse great Marvin Graves. Great skill sets. But ...

“That’s the thing. They could get away with just being great athletes in college when they had the system built around them. The perfect example would be (Crouch),? says Masotti. “They ran the option, some designated pass plays, but when players come up here the defences and offences are more sophisticated and there’s one less down to get it done ... ?

Crouch survived less than two seasons in the CFL. He is a free agent, a CFL refugee with nowhere to go at last check.

Major Harris was twice a Heisman contender and such a great talent that he left West Virginia University early.

“I thought he’d be a star up here,? says Masotti.

Instead he was gone after one season, played a few years of Arena ball and retired. All those glitzy numbers in the NCAA didn’t add up to success in the CFL.

“The college co-ordinators will gear their entire offence towards what a guy can do. That was the case with Harris,? says Masotti. “They adjusted their offence to suit his assets. Whereas when he went to B.C., it was tough. He came in as the backup and now he’s got to adjust to a system he’s not used to, something that isn’t his forte.?

Too often American players think they’re just too good for the CFL.

Harsh, maybe. But true.

More than once an All-American has arrived with talent exceeded only by their ego. But seldom does someone step from the college, or even the NFL ranks, into a starting role as a CFL quarterback.

Ricky Ray and Doug Flutie were anomalies. Most successful starting quarterbacks in the CFL spend three to five years in apprenticeship as backups. Calvillo became one of the CFL’s greatest quarterbacks but it took years before he got a job as a starter and eight years before his first all-star nomination.

“If they are big-time stars in the NCAA and all of a sudden they have to take a back seat as the backup quarterback, a lot of guys can’t handle it. A lot of guys don’t want to handle it,? says Popp, “they want out.?

Going from big man on campus to holding a clipboard for someone playing ahead of them that they’ve never heard of can be a harsh reality check.

“I’ve met a few guys who come up here who are just disappointed that they didn’t make the NFL and that they’re in the CFL. They get down, depressed and maybe don’t work so hard,? says Argonauts backup QB Dalton Bell.

Texas-born, he was the third-stringer last year in Saskatchewan after leading West Texas A&M to a 20-4 record in two seasons as a starter. American kids, he says, never see Canadian football and few understand what it’s all about until they get here. It’s difficult to respect what you don’t know.

“It’s a different game than we grew up with down there. I maybe saw one CFL game when I was growing up. Where I’m from, it’s football, football and our way of playing football is the way it is. At least that’s how people think.?

So, too many arrive believing that what works in the NCAA will work even better in the football hinterland of Canada.

“There are players who come up here and have no idea of the calibre of this league,? says Barker. “They expect, ‘Oh, I’ll sign with the CFL, play there for a year and then go to the NFL.’ That happens more often than the NFL or college guy who comes up here and embraces the game. If a guy can do that, he can have a great career.

“It’s the guy who thinks he’s coming up here for a year to show his stuff and then go on to something better — that is never succesful. He just doesn’t have the right mindset.

“The guy who does that usually gets cut and often they never get another chance down there either. It happens all the time.? Dunigan, who threw for a little more than 43,000 yards and had 306 passing TDs during his 14-year career in the CFL, remembers McMahon as a player who had the skill set to play up here. “But if you don’t respect this game and you come up here and think you will master it, you’ve got another thing coming. “That’s been the case with quite a few people. “They come up here not respecting the game and thinking they’re going to own it. “That it’s going to be just a stepping stone.?

Ready, set ... Duh! Canadian football can make a college kid’s head spin. It’s big-play oriented. The motion can be confusing, the field is bigger and there’s an extra player on each side. “I just think it’s a different kind of offence. They can’t get their head around it. It’s just such a big jump,? says Masotti.
Throws have to go farther, defences are different. There’s more room to run, but with the ball in the air longer, there’s also more time for defensive backs to intercept inaccurate throws.

“It’s a big adjustment for any quarterback. When they get on the field the first time with all the motion and guys running all over the place, it’s a big shock,? says Bob O’Billovich, general manager of the Hamilton Ticats and a player, coach and CFL executive since 1963. “It does take time to get used to the nuances and how to be effective. Being tagged as a Heisman candidate doesn’t mean a lot except that you don’t win the Heisman unless you have some ability. “You have to gauge that against what we do in our league. We’re a big-play league with aggressive offensive systems.

“Some guys take advantage of their opportunities — and with other guys it never happens. Andre Ware was a guy with whom it never did click and he came out of a passing offence in college. He wasn’t consistent enough.? Masotti says on the surface the CFL looked like a league made for Ware, who retired in 1999 after three nondescript CFL seasons. “It should’ve been perfect. But he came up and just didn’t make the adjustments. (The run-and-shoot offence) is also a tough offence for linemen to protect because you need a quarterback who can get rid of the ball quickly. It’s a couple steps and it’s got to be gone. If you don’t have a quarterback who can read it properly the guy is going to get hit a lot.? Goodbye, Andre.

The Canadian game may actually be more complicated for a quarterback than the NFL or NCAA.

Cleo Lemon, in his first training camp with the Argonauts after eight seasons with four NFL teams, says with one fewer down with which to work “there’s definitely more pressure. One small mistake and it’s a turnover or you’re kicking field goals or punting — instead of scoring touchdowns.?

In Montreal, Popp has watched for three seasons as Calvillo, the future CFL Hall of Famer, has been mentor to Chris Leak, who led the University of Florida Gators to a national title and Adrian McPherson, a superstar at Florida State.

There are those in the U.S. who simply cannot understand how either could be playing behind a guy from Utah State, who once auditioned for a pro-quarterback job in a Las Vegas parking lot and whom they’ve barely heard of but, says Popp:

“The CFL game is different especially for the quarterback. When you get under centre in major college or the NFL, there’s only one guy who can be in motion. Everything is pretty stationary and you can predetermine and make your decisions based on where people are placed on the field. When you snap the ball, you know where you are going with the ball. “In the CFL you have to do a lot of reads on the run. I don’t care how long you’ve played quarterback, the issue is a lot of times guys come to our league and they have NEVER seen anything like this. “They get under centre, there’s four guys in motion. There’s four DBs running all over the place and the ball is snapped and now they’re trying to figure out what the coverage is (zone or man-to-man). “A lot of guys get eliminated right there because they can’t handle it.?

There are moments in football, as in life, that do not make sense. So, looks can be deceiving. Successful college quarterbacks aren’t necessarily great quarterbacks. As Popp notes, “There are a lot of college quarterbacks every year who get drafted but can’t play in the NFL or the CFL.

“Some guys play for such great schools that their weaknesses are covered up because their teams were so strong,? says Popp. It likely didn’t hurt Tee Martin in 1998 when he led Tennessee to its first national title since 1951 to have Jamal Lewis in the backfield or Peerless Price and Jeremaine Copeland at receiver.

Players such as Crouch or Harris may have looked the part of a CFL player but Dunigan suspects that what separates the successful quarterback from those who fade into footnotes has less to do with speed, agility or physical talent — and more to do with what’s between their ears. “I’ve thought about this for 27 years since coming up here. Being a quarterback in this league is a job. I’m not saying those guys didn’t treat it as one. But it’s an approach. “Some people seize opportunities and others don’t. What’s missing? I don’t think you can categorize all those guys as missing the same thing. But, with each one, something was missing.

“The best way to describe their lack of success is to describe what it takes to be successful. You look at someone like Damon Allen, (Tommy) Clements, Tracy Ham, (Dave) Dickenson, Calvillo, back to Condredge Holloway and Warren Moon; these guys brought some athleticism with them. Their arm strength varied, but every one of those guys had a sense of toughness. “They were physically tough, but what set them apart was their mental toughness, their willingness to learn and understand the mental aspect of the game.?

When it comes to a CFL quarterback the only sure bet is that there is no such thing as a sure bet. It was May of 2005 and Barker, then in his first season scoping talent for the Stampeders, had earlier seen Gesser at Washington State tie with Carson Palmer for Pac-10 offensive player of the year honours. “I liked him so much I traded a first-round draft pick to get the rights to him,? says Barker. “I thought he’d make a great CFL quarterback.? He started the season as Henry Burris’ backup, started two games and finished the season with four touchdown passes. He was also intercepted five times, completing 23 of 42 passes and the next season was in the Arena Football League. Today, Gesser is head football coach of Eastside Catholic School in Sammamish, WA. Carson Palmer is in the NFL and Barker is a smarter, more cautious man.

“The only way you can tell if a player can be successful here is to bring him up and let him play. (Vince) Ferragamo was a very successful QB (in the NFL) and couldn’t do it up here. “Akili Smith was a quarterback who with his skill set I thought would be very successful here. Maybe kicking around the NFL a few years he hasn’t had success and he comes here and things go wrong, maybe he questions how good he really is and it all caves on him. “You just don’t know how a guy is going to react mentally and what he is going to do when he comes up here. “From a scouting perspective it’s impossible to know who is going to be successful.?

I would love to see the experiment (detailed below) again. CIS football is light years ahead of 1980 whereas I would think that the American programs were quite mature at that point. They've always treated it like a business while we dabbled as student/athletes. I think we've become much more serious about the athlete part since then. There's a fair bit of mythology surrounding American sports, let's face it for various reasons they are not as dominant (like the Russians/Soviets) as they once were. Canadian junior football teams are going down there and beating them at their own game.

NFL Global Junior Championship
IFAF U-19 World Cup

Now back to the story

[i]There is probably only one decent account of this on the web, it has become so obscure. The Can-Am Bowl was played at a time when American college programs could hardly get bigger and Canadian programs were nowhere near what they are now. I would hasten to say it would be very interesting to see this replayed with the vast improvement and professionalizing of Canadian university football programs.

The game was played with Canadian rules as the Americans had home field advantage plus the fact that everybody thought Canada would get killed otherwise.

I recall watching this and was amazed how competitive the Canadian team was when everyone thought they would get smoked. The Americans didn't score an offensive touchdown, our defense was very good. IIRC LB John Priestner (Western) was drafted by the Colts (Baltimore) and went to camp on the strength of his performance at this game. With that I give you...[/i]

Can-Am Bowl I, 1/8/78
Tampa Sports History, January 14, 2008

On Jan. 8, 1978, Tampa Stadium played host to an event unprecedented in the history of football. The Can-Am Bowl, an All-Star game pitting collegians from the United States and Canada against each other, was especially unique since the game was played by Canadian football rules. For one afternoon, top seniors from major American universities would play football against the top seniors and underclassmen from Canada. The city of Tampa, of all places, served as the battleground to finally settle the age-old debate of football superiority between these two border nations.

Actually, the disparity in football talent between Canada and the United States could not have been greater at the time. Team Canada just hoped to field a competitive team, while the American athletes hoped to avoid the humiliation of an upset loss to the Canadians. Jack Zilly, coach of Team USA, cautioned against underestimating the team from Canada, but added, “It would be embarrassing to go back to Tennessee, Alabama, Stanford, or where the players are from, if you have been beaten."

Increasing the angst of the Americans were the quirky Canadian rules. For example, teams would have only three downs to gain 10 yards, meaning "every offensive play in Canada is designed to go 10," according to Sam Bailey, the Can-Am Bowl’s executive director and former University of Tampa head coach.

Additionally, the field would be lengthened from 100 to 110 yards and widened from 53 to 60 feet. Larger fields meant larger teams as well, with the addition of one offensive and defensive player to each side of the line of scrimmage. It wasn't uncommon for a Canadian offense to feature four -- yes, four -- running backs on a given play. Throw in unlimited motion in the backfield, and one can imagine the headaches experienced by American coaches readying a game plan for their team of collegians, -- who had played football their entire lives by completely different rules.

"With the rules as we have them set up," Bailey said, "it should make for a good, competitive game, the kind fans like to see. After all, football is football."

In a surprise to no one, the United States prevailed over the Canadians by a score of 22-7. Rather than being a wide-open shootout, however, the game was a defensive struggle. In fact, Team Canada, not the U.S., was be responsible for the only offensive touchdown of the game, a 1-yard run in the fourth quarter to avoid a shutout and cap the game's scoring.

The U.S. put up the majority of its points on a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns. In the second quarter, Vanderbilt cornerback Bernard Wilson picked off a pass by Acadia University’s Bob Cameron and returned it 44 yards for the game's first touchdown. Wilson’s score followed a U.S. field goal and two "rouges," one-point bonuses awarded to the kicking team for tackling a returner in his own end zone on a kickoff or punt. Colorado State punter Mike Deutsch recorded two rouges in a span of two minutes and two seconds for the Americans.

"On the first rouge, I didn't know at first I had scored a point," he said. "I knew something had happened and then they flashed the point on the scoreboard. All I could say was wow.?

Georgia linebacker Ben Zambiasi added to the Americans’ lead with a 10-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter. The extra point put the U.S. ahead 22-0. Coincidentally, Zambiasi went on to have a successful 11-year career in the professional Canadian Football League. An eight-time CFL All-Star who played in four Grey Cup championship games and won one, he was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2004. And Cameron, Canada’s beleaguered quarterback that day, eventually won three Grey Cups and still holds the CFL record for most career punting yards.

Another interesting tidbit about the game was not apparent at the time, but the American squad featured two athletes who became well-known to Tampa football fans: Missouri’s Jim Leavitt and Bruce Allen from the University of Richmond. Leavitt, now head coach at the University of South Florida, made his mark in college as a linebacker. Allen, son of Hall of Fame Redskins and Rams coach George Allen, shared punting duties for the U.S. squad and connected on field goals of 23 and 25 yards.

Twenty-five years later, however, the game is more likely to be remembered for the steady downpour of rain than for any on-field performance. An 11,000-strong crowd attended the game, but by the end the rain had driven away all but a few thousand -- mostly Canadian -- diehards.

"What do I remember most about the game? The rain was the biggest problem," Sam Bailey recently recalled. "It wasn't totally unsuccessful, but it didn't do as well as we thought we could."

The game continued in various incarnations for three years after the first Can-Am Bowl, eventually turning into an exhibition between two Canadian squads.

In 1986, however, Tampa Stadium became a big-time bowl destination as host of the Hall of Fame Bowl, the first major college bowl game to be played in Tampa.

Here is my contribution from a source that would know, re the NFL/CFL debate. He has forgotten more about football than anyone here would know. Doug Flutie played in the CFL almost 20 years ago when Canadian talent was nowhere near as good as it has become due to the "professionalizing" of many Canadian college football programs since his heyday, so the caliber of the Canadian trained player has gotten better

‘You couldn’t tell me winning a Super Bowl would feel any nicer’
In eight CFL seasons, Doug Flutie was named Most Outstanding Player six times. He played in four Grey Cups, winning three. TSN voted him the greatest player of all time. Here’s why Canada’s brand of football is No. 1 in his heart
Doug Flutie SI MMQB July 2014

I miss playing in the CFL, no doubt about it. Boy, it was a lot of fun. People in America have no clue what goes on up there, or about the quality of football we had. That’s what made the experience for me. Most of the guys were NFL-caliber talent, but were undersized or just didn’t fit the mold in one way or another.

My CFL career started in 1990, with the BC Lions, and I didn’t know what to expect. But I could tell I was going to be viewed as a backup in the NFL, and you only have so many years to play this game, and I wanted to play. So I figured I’d give the CFL a whirl. When I first went up to Canada, I thought I’d put in two years up there and then try to get back to the NFL. But I enjoyed it so much, I wound up making a career out of it.

The game in Canada was more exciting, more explosive, more wide open. It was what the NFL is now becoming. We were going no huddle, over the ball, from the time I got up there. No-back sets, six wide receivers, throwing the ball all over the field. There is a 20-second clock between plays rather than 40. It just creates a pace that the NFL is now realizing to be more exciting—and actually more effective. The NFL is turning into a no-huddle, up-tempo, fast-paced, throw-the-football type of game now. The CFL has been that for the past 30 years.

By the time I finished up in the CFL, I was basically my own offensive coordinator, calling all the plays on the field. We had our playbook, but I had my ideas from watching film during the week of game-planning and seeing things on the field. My whole theory at quarterback was to keep my receivers from having to think too much. Let them just be full speed and go. Rather than making them read everything on the fly and then adjusting, I would give them a route and they would just run it. I told them, “I’ll deal with the pressure, I’ll deal with the hot reads, I’ll build something in where I’ll get rid of the ball quickly.?

When I played in Toronto, we were playing a regular-season game against Edmonton, and I called a quarterback draw. The running back, Robert Drummond, was going to run a swing route to try to pull a linebacker with him. But the linebacker lined up on the edge, and it was an all-out blitz, so there was nothing in the middle of the field. It was either going to be a touchdown or we were going to be stopped at the line of scrimmage. Drummond was faster than I was, so just before the ball was snapped, in the middle of my cadence, I said, “Hey, just jump in and take the snap direct and run the draw.? He busted it for like a 70-yard touchdown.

Another time, we were going into the Grey Cup against Saskatchewan in 1997, and they had been giving us headaches with their zone blitzes. Instead of changing all of our pass protections and really worrying about it, I built in a hitch screen. Every time they came with a blitz from one side of the field, I would just turn and throw the hitch screen. They tried to zone blitz three or four times in the first quarter, and we averaged like 18 yards a catch off this silly little hitch screen to a back or wide receiver. And they quit doing it. We just lit them up. We scored a mess of points and had a really efficient day.

To do that in the NFL, though, it would probably have to be a coordinator’s idea. And then you would have to clear it with the offensive line coach, to make sure you can block all this stuff. Then you would have to execute it a couple of days in practice, and if it looked OK, it would make its way into the game plan. In the CFL, I was in a position where if I saw something in the middle of the game, I could just put it in without having to ask anybody. As long as you keep it simple enough, guys can just react and go. The NFL, for years, has been a copycat league. A coach would have to see something be successful elsewhere before he was willing to try it—and the league has been very slow to change because of that.

I’ll tell you what drove me nuts more than anything: I went from calling my own plays in the CFL, then back to the NFL for eight seasons, where I had a radio in my helmet and as soon as one play ended, the coaches were talking to you in the helmet for 20 seconds. It took so long to get a play call in, and your first thought was, What is the coach looking for? rather than, What do I want to do here?

During my days with the Buffalo Bills, we were a running, play-action team that played really good defense in low-scoring games. You adapt, and you do it that way. But boy, the mindset was different. When I was in the CFL, I was very aggressive. Aggressive in my play-calling; aggressive in my decision-making. In the NFL, I became much more passive, trying to do what I thought the coaches wanted me to do all the time.

Of course, when you’ve got a Peyton Manning, a Tom Brady or a Drew Brees—a guy who has been in an offense for a number of years—the trust factor goes up. The coaches start letting go of the reins and let quarterbacks have much more of a say. But I never got to that point with an NFL team, where I was there long enough (or starting long enough) to gain that trust. In the NFL, with what’s at stake money-wise and the pressure on coaches, they want total control because their necks are on the line.

In the CFL, it was more of a game. And it was a lot more fun. The length of the workday really helped with that, too. By CBA rule, they could only keep us there 4½ hours. In the NFL, it’s 10- to 12-hour days, every day, and it becomes a grind. I know the NFL is a big business, and it’s getting more complicated and tougher, but the burnout level, especially for quarterbacks, is crazy. I just wish there were some way around that, to somehow keep the fun in the game.

I was actually, for a while, making more money in the CFL working a 4½ hour workday than I would have in the NFL with a 12-hour workday. And I was in total control of the offense. You can see why I enjoyed it so much. I’d go in around 10 a.m., watch some film on my own and do some game-planning, grab lunch, and then start the day with the team at 1 p.m. We’d end by 5:30.

I’m pretty sure the trajectory of my career would have been different today. I would have been in a position to be more successful in the NFL running some of these current styles of offenses, and I think an NFL team would have been more open to turning me into a franchise guy if things went well. I was always viewed by NFL teams as a band-aid: A guy who could help us win, keep us competitive, and while he’s doing that, we’re going to go find our franchise quarterback. It has turned into a little bit different mentality now with the success of guys like Brees and Russell Wilson, and the success of the spread offenses in the NFL.

But the CFL gave me so much. When I left Toronto for Buffalo, I was 35 and I was ready to retire. I figured I’d come back to the NFL for maybe a year or two, just to prove I could do it. I ended up playing another eight years. That was just crazy. The CFL gave me the opportunity to be a starter, regain my confidence, and then come back and be a starter in the NFL. And, I got to play eight games with my younger brother, Darren. We were both with the BC Lions in 1991.

Another thing I’ll always remember is how fanatical the fans are up in Canada. Especially in some of the smaller markets, this is their football and they love their teams. You can draw a parallel with just about every city to a team in America. Saskatchewan reminds me a lot of Green Bay. They live for their team. Hamilton, with its blue-collar fans, is Pittsburgh. Calgary would be Denver—you’re at an altitude, and everybody who goes into Calgary to play is out of breath.

Calgary is where I won my first CFL championship, in 1992. We played against Edmonton in the Western final to go to the Grey Cup, and we had to drive the length of the field, into the wind, in the last seconds to win that game. I ended up running the ball in from a few yards out for the winning score. That was my shining moment that season.

Then we played the Grey Cup in Toronto, and I just remember dominating the game against Winnipeg. The last minute or two, I was standing on the sideline with Dave Sapunjis, my receiver and best friend on the team, putting on our Grey Cup champions hats, and playing to our crowd behind our bench. It was just a moment in time for me. You couldn’t tell me winning a Super Bowl would feel any nicer.

Wow. Flutie has quite the ego, but fortunately he's about the only guy whose on-field accomplishments can actually justify such a high self-opinion.

I'm not sure any QB still gets to call his own plays in the CFL, and that's not necessarily a good thing. Totally understandable with some of the younger guys who are still learning. But it always seemed strange when someone like Calvillo was taking direction from a Marcus Brady or a Ryan Dinwiddie.

Bingo. That sums it up pretty much. How many players in the CFL came from NCAA DI schools, many power 5 schools, and were studs in college and are now studs 5 years later in CFL.
Many spent time in the NFL from all different types of schools.
As for the CIS and other small school players in the states who go right from school to CFL take a few years to mature in most cases and then they have breakout seasons. After playing and practicing against other pro men.

Almost every CFL QB were stars at one of the DI levels. Those who are from DII schools for whatever reason were not highly recruited among the all mighty HS scouting services but developed into top QBs.