The former NFL quarterback reflects on his time with Tom Brady and New England, and looks ahead to the 2021 season.
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When asked to compare himself to a current-day quarterback, Doug Flutie gives an interesting answer.
The obvious comparison would be Kyler Murray, who, at 5ft 10in, most resembles Flutie in a physical sense.
But the 21-year NFL and CFL veteran chooses instead to focus on the aspect of his game that sometimes got buried under all the questions about his height: his athleticism.
“I love watching Patrick Mahomes, because he validates all the stuff that I tried to do,” says Flutie.
“I was a shortstop in baseball, so I threw side-arm passes, jump passes. Just get the ball to the receiver however you can.
“But the thing that he does, that I did exceptionally well in Canada and transferred somewhat to the NFL, was when they’d overload blitz you. Everybody’s been coached all their life to get rid of the ball, but what Patrick Mahomes can do, because he’s so darn athletic, is drift and give ground.
“He can buy that extra second, second-and-a-half, not scrambling, but drifting away from the rusher coming at him, and still throw a corner route, still throw a post route, still throw a go route.”
“Being able to still throw the ball up the field, even though there’s an unblocked guy coming at you, it creates so many issues for a defense.”
As someone who was deemed too short to become a successful quarterback at the professional level, Flutie had to innovate throughout his career, and he likes seeing current players doing just that.
“I love anybody that is a little bit unorthodox, anybody that doesn’t fit the mould,” he says.
“I get very excited about the athletic guys that can do things that throw a wrench into the defensive system.”
Since Flutie retired in 2006, following a career that saw him win three Grey Cups, three Grey Cup MVP awards, six CFL Most Outstanding Player awards, NFL Comeback Player of the Year and a Pro Bowl appearance, football has changed a lot.
Gone are the days when people believe quarterbacks have to be 6ft 4in to succeed. Now, players are judged on their skill and athleticism, not their height.
“The fact that Kyler Murray was a top draft pick says a lot,” says Flutie. “I think they’re realising that with the offenses today, the athletic guy at quarterback is an asset, that the height is really not that big of an issue.
“I think I’d get more of an opportunity in today’s game. I had a chance to start when I was in Buffalo, and things went really well, but I would become a franchise guy now. This is our guy for a 10-year window, let’s go. And that’s the frustrating part for me and my career.”
Flutie isn’t one to dwell too much on what could have been, though.
He got to play alongside some of the all-time greats during his career, and there is one in particular he still looks out for.
“I get really excited about Tom Brady,” he says. “I played one year, my last season, with him in New England. And when he made the move to Tampa, I was really intrigued.
“Of course, he knew what he was doing. He went to a team with a great defense. He had weapons around them, he didn’t have to be the entire show, although he always is. And he goes somewhere to win the Super Bowl.
“So now, I’m just intrigued again. Can he do it again? They’re reloaded. They’ve got all these weapons. That’s pretty exciting for me to see what’s going on there.”
Unfortunately for Flutie, Brady didn’t win one of his seven Super Bowls during their season together in 2005, something he readily admits was on his mind.
“It’s amazing to think that Tom had already won two Super Bowls,” he says. “Tom was one of the reasons I went to New England. It was home, but I’m thinking ‘I’ve got a shot here. Tom will win me a Super Bowl.’ He was already that guy.”
“But we got beat out in Denver. A guy dropped a punt that never fumbles a punt his life, and Tom actually threw a pick down on the goal line that gets returned 99 yards. Stuff that never happened to the Patriots happened in that game.
“I went to New England thinking get the pompoms out, cheerlead for Tom and have him win a Super Bowl ring before I retired. That’s what I was hoping for.
“But it’s amazing to think back in ’05 that Tom Brady was already a legend.”
As well as keeping a close eye on one of his old teammates, Flutie is also excited about one of his old teams ahead of the 2021 season.
“I’m also really intrigued with the New England situation,” he says. “Mac Jones, I think is a very mature young kid that’s come in as quarterback. And as soon as they drafted Mac, I was like, ‘He’s going to start day one. You watch.’
“Everyone was like, ‘No, no, no, no. Cam’s this, Cam’s that.’ I love Cam [Newton]. I loved the way he played last year, as far as how hard he played. He ran with the ball, he did everything he could.
“The problem is, he’s not throwing the ball the way Cam should be able to throw it, or used to be able to throw before his shoulder surgery. The whole mechanics were different. And that’s why I said Mac will have to start week one, because they couldn’t throw the ball last year, they couldn’t throw touchdown passes.
“So, that’s really exciting to me, because New England made a point this year to sign free agents to get a situation where they can be successful again. And now I think they have the quarterback, the question is can a rookie jump in and be up to speed and do all the things he has to do?
“I think out of all the rookie quarterbacks out there, Trevor Lawrence and Mac Jones are the two guys that can do it in their rookie year and be successful.”
Doug Flutie’s perfect quarterback
“Let’s go Drew Brees. Drew and I spent four years in San Diego together. He had the tightest spiral, he was accurate with the ball, he didn’t have the strongest arm in the world, but he put the ball where he wanted to put it all the time.
“You can throw receivers open, you really can. The ball position is so important. Drew was really good putting the ball in position, putting it on the front shoulder, back shoulder, just knowing exactly where to put the ball.”
“I’ll go back to John Elway. He was ridiculous, he could break fingers. The problem is he didn’t throw the ball with touch often enough, but to have that in the tank if you need it, just in case you ever need it.”
“I’d like to go with Patrick Mahomes. I was going to say Kyler Murray. I was going to say some smaller guys like Michael Vick. But the difference with Patrick Mahomes is that part of the athleticism is throwing the ball off balance, falling away, jump passes, looking away, all that stuff.
“That’s all part of athleticism to me. The ball can come out whenever he wants it to come out. He doesn’t have to be set, he can be between steps and the ball is out.”
“Tom Brady. Just because of his knowledge of fronts and defences and picking up blitzes and manipulating his offensive line, as well as coverage and game planning. I’ve never been around Peyton Manning, but he was very similar. I spent my time around Tommy, so I’ll say Tom Brady.”
“I’ll go Brett Favre. Brett’s one of those guys who validated the way I played the game. He played with injuries, he played through stuff, he started no matter what. And my attitude was you never let your backup get on the field. If you can walk, you’re playing.
“Brett was that way and epitomised it, and I just I loved the way he played the game.”