By the time last season finished with another Most Outstanding Player award and another Grey Cup, Flutie was virtually creating the Argos offense to suit his style. He was even making up plays in the huddle, taking advantage of tendencies he noticed in the defense. He was, O.K., making it look easy.
He had proved as much as he could prove. Labatt Breweries, which owned the team, had been sold, and the new owners were going to sell the team. The million-dollar contracts were going to disappear. It was time to go.
"There wasn't a lot of interest when I put out his name [in the NFL]," says Mula, "but I liked the way A.J. Smith, the personnel director in Buffalo, said no. I called him and I called him again, and the 'no' finally became a 'yes.' "
"I've always been a believer in Doug," Smith says. "I just needed to get authorization. I was up front with Doug. I told him we were talking with other people, but I also wanted him. I know he'd like to be the Number 1 guy and on paper he's Number 2, but I told him that Rick Mirer was Number 1 and got a lot of money in Seattle, and look what's happened to him." I said, 'Just keep doing what you're doing and only good things can happen.' "
The deal was done.
The most important event in Flutie's brief stint in Buffalo occurred at the public signing of his contract. He had been to a minicamp and had reported weekly for strength training and classroom work—"Looks good, great, much stronger arm than I expected," said first-year coach Wade Phillips—but the signing was where an idea was born. The idea might outlast anything he does on the field.
"I took him to the side and said, 'You know, my job isn't to give away your money, but it might not be a bad idea to donate half your [$50,000] signing bonus to Hunter's Hope, the charily for [former Bills quarterback] Jim Kelly's son,' " Mula says. "I thought it would be a good way to start in the community. Doug liked the idea, but then he had an idea about what to do with the other half. He wanted to start a charity for his own son, Dougie."
"I probably never would have thought of it, if it weren't for Jim and Hunter," Flutie says. "It just clicked."
Dougie, who is six, is autistic. In the past 3½ years he has gone into an autistic shell that defies easy treatment. He will probably never speak, and every physical action has to be learned and relearned through constant repetition. With firsthand knowledge of the expense and the amount of attention and care that is involved, the Fluties—who also have a 10-year-old daughter, Alexis—wondered how other people in the same situation could cope. How could they afford all this? The Douglas Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism could help.
"Do you know who it helped first?" Flutie says. "My wife and me. She was the one who said it—this is Dougie's legacy. This is why he's the way he is. This gives a meaning to everything. There is a purpose. The purpose is that he will help a lot of people."