There has to be a place in Pro football for Doug Flutie. If there isn't, then something is wrong with the sport. In the New England Patriots' last five games, all of which he started, plus a sixth in which he relieved quarterback Tom Ramsey and led the team to victory, the Pats have gone 4-2. Before Flutie took over, they were 1-3.
People keep mentioning that he's only 5'9�". But let's not forget that Flutie is the alltime collegiate total-yardage leader, winner of the Heisman Trophy and a fantastic-finish specialist. The word "intangibles" might have been invented for him.
I remember talking to an NFL scout in early 1985, after Flutie's senior season at Boston College. The memory of the last-second bomb to Gerald Phelan that beat Miami was still fresh. "Name a quarterback under six feet who ever won a championship," the guy said. "Super Bowl or, before that, NFL or AFL. Name one."
"Name a guy over 6'3" who ever won one," I said.
Well, he couldn't, although he would have one now—6'4" Doug Williams, MVP of the last Super Bowl. It's a fact. Going back to the first T formation quarterback on a title team, Sid Luckman of the Chicago Bears in 1940, until last season, champion signal callers fell between 6' and 6'3".
But that doesn't mean little guys can't play. Eddie Le-Baron, who was only 5'7", was a highly productive quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys in the early '60s. At 5'10", Frankie Albert of the San Francisco 49ers was one of the great stars of the old All-America Football Conference and then of the NFL. He was a super scrambler with a wonderful grasp of the game—a "magician" who made things happen. Such phrases have been applied to Flutie so frequently that he's sick of them.
Ever hear of Davey O'Brien? O.K., so he wasn't really a T quarterback—he was more of a single wing tailback, a run-and-pass guy—but he stood 5'7". All O'Brien did for the Philadelphia Eagles as a rookie in 1939 was to set NFL single-game and season passing records. Then after two years he quit football and joined the FBI.
The point is, these guys could play, and so can Flutie. His whole mentality is geared to figuring out ways to beat you. Here's the mind of Doug Flutie at work: "I've got a bunch of plays I'd like to try someday, plays you've never seen but which could work."
Plays? What plays?
"O.K.," he says. "There are two seconds left, and you're down by a point or two and you're near midfield, out of field goal range. You've got time for one play. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you'll see one of those Big Ben things. That play has little chance of success. What I'd do is throw to a receiver around the 25 or 30, in the middle of the field, and then have him drop-kick a field goal on the run. It's legal. You can drop-kick the ball at any time."