January 5, 2015

Stephen: 2014 Stamps among best ever?


Once the public celebrations ended and the pace had slowed, a debate begun among Calgary Stampeder fans.

Where did their 2014 Grey Cup champions rank among the long list of great Canadian Football League teams?

The win totals suggest the team is among the greatest ever. 

Calgary won 15 regular season games and captured two post-season matchups as well. Only the 1995 Baltimore Stallions won more.  They won 15 regular season games and added three playoff wins. Given the current playoff format, it is unlikely that total will ever be equaled.

There have been a handful of other teams who have captured 17 wins. The 1996 and 1997 Toronto Argonauts come to mind, while, more recently, the 2009 Montreal Alouettes achieved the same feat.

What may distinguish this Stampeder team from those teams, is the way they achieved the total.  Few teams have ever succeeded with a revolving door of talent like the Stampeders faced in 2014.  

They used two starting quarterbacks and barely slipped up.  The team also started four different feature running backs, including the top Canadian, Jon Cornish.  They also had to constantly juggle their receiving group to account for injuries and ratio issues. Despite those challenges, the Stampeders had the top-ranked offence in the league in 2014.

Other teams have won 15 games, but it is unlikely they had to deal with the constant series of high profile injuries the Stamps dealt with in 2014.

Calgary has had some other very successful teams. The 1993, 1994 and 1995 Stampeders each won 15 games. Despite having superb talents such as Doug Flutie, Allan Pitts and Dave Sapunhis, they failed to win the Grey Cup, advancing only once in 1995. 

Adding to the discussion of rankings of the most successful teams is the 1948 edition of the Calgary Stampeders.  That team went 12-0,  en-route to the Grey Cup. 

It can be argued that the Stampeders succeeded in a shorter schedule, with different competition.  All valid comments, but no one approached their level of success.  Remember, in 1949, the Stampeders started off the year with 10 consecutive victories, so this was one of the great powerhouses of the mid-20th century.

The best way to decide which team is the greatest, is to reflect on the history of the Canadian Football League.  The CFL, as we understand it today, was formed in 1958.  Different events have re-shaped the league since that time but that marks the start of the current league.  Prior to that date, the league consisted of two distinct governing bodies who came together only at the Grey Cup.

With that in mind, it is probably safe to award two honours to various Stampeder teams.  

The 2014 version of the Stampeders can be considered the greatest Stampeder team of the Canadian Football League era.  Their 17 total wins will be a tall task for any future team to equal.

The 1948 version of the Stampeders can be considered the greatest team outside the Canadian Football League era. Going undefeated in a season is a remarkable achievement.

Both can take their deserved places among the Canadian Football Legaue’s greatest teams.