- FREE AGENCY
Before I get any further let’s all give one more round of applause to Ottawa REDBLACKS kicker Lewis Ward for setting the all-time CFL record for consecutive field goals at 69. From the second game of the 2018 season until this past Saturday night he made every regular season field goal. In that time span he blew past previous record holder Rene Parades’ 39 consecutive made kicks and Adam Vinatieri’s NFL record of 45 straight.
Unlike Vinatieri, who played his home games in a climate controlled dome with nary a breeze to knock a field goal off course, Ward did it outside in Ottawa. Ward kicked in all the dreadful weather conditions that come with playing in Canada at night in November. He deserves to be congratulated for setting a record that I doubt will ever be broken. It’s not as if Lewis barely edged out Parades from the record book. Ward put hundreds of yards of distance between himself and now a very distant second place number.
But I got to thinking, what is the ultimate CFL record that is both highly unlikely to ever be eclipsed and is exciting? No offence but field goal No. 41 in the second quarter in Montreal may be noteworthy, but it won’t stir up much emotion. Game winners and 50-plus yarders are memorable but the record is also filled with plenty of professionally executed mid-game kicks that are soon forgotten except for die-hard fans and those who bet the OVER.
As an employee at TSN I did not have to look far for my answer. On a Thursday night in 1994, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers beat the Edmonton Eskimos 50-35 on the strength of Matt Dunigan’s glorious right arm and his 713 yards passing. Lemme repeat that number. 713 YARDS PASSING! Just like in Ward’s case, Dunigan’s number is so much further ahead than the former record holder. In this case it was Danny Barrett and his “measly” 601 yards set just one year earlier. Quick aside, I feel so bad for Barrett. You know he must have thought to himself that his 601-yard record would last for ages. It didn’t even make it a calendar year.
The tough part of this piece is there is no complete footage of Dunigan’s night. However I did obtain the next best thing thanks to the magic of my best friend on the internet, YouTube! I found footage of a TSN Halftime show between the BC Lions and the Ottawa Rough Riders where a very young Gord Miller and his sultry eyes did a feature on Dunigan’s record breaking night.
Here are the highlights:
1. (Opening intro) Back in 1994 we were all good with a 36-second halftime intro featuring multiple shots of drums, saxophones, horns and guitars being played with black and white CFL action going on. In today’s on-demand/digital age we would have already changed the channel while smarmily tweeting out about the intro. It was a simpler time.
2. For many of the younger readers you may have been confused by Ottawa’s team name, but yes we did used to have two teams employing “Rough Riders” as their nickname. Hey, you try to come up with eight completely different names. It’s impossible. Just like you can tell how old a tree is by its rings, you can roughly figure out what year any CFL footage is from by the proper identifier of the Ottawa franchise.
Here’s a quick guide:
“Rough Riders” = 1931-1996
“Renegades” = 2002-2005
2005-2013: Just grumble about the Gleibermans and let’s all just collectively continue to forget we had to go that long without a team in our capital. Let’s just move on.
“REDBLACKS” = 2014-Present Day (Or the “Caps Lock Era”).
3. (0:54) Our first highlight is Dunigan putting up the ball well over 50 yards as he hits Alfred Jackson in stride. Now that is how you throw the deep ball! Eskimos defensive back Charles Wright was beat on that one.
4. (1:03) Back to Jackson, this time an absolute laser of a throw. Dunigan is the reason we created clichés like “on a rope” because that is exactly what that pass was. After catching the slant Jackson sped right through the middle of the Eskimos’ secondary.
5. (1:13) Yet another deep touchdown pass to Alfred Jackson. I feel bad for Charles Wright, who had excellent coverage but Jackson manages to tip the ball to himself and step into the end zone. This was part Dunigan’s arm strength and Jackson’s hand eye coordination. Jackson would finish the day with a mind-numbing 308 yards and four touchdown catches. If Fantasy had been a big thing in the CFL back then I guarantee you we would have this game playing constantly on a loop.
6. Matt Dunigan’s interview with Gord Miller. This is the only disappointing part of the video as Dunigan does his best Ricky Ray impersonation and refuses to give himself even a little credit. He went “full quarterback” lauding the work done by his receivers and his offensive line. Gord did his best, even asking if Dunigan could one day hit 800 yards as surprisingly it actually took the Bombers awhile to get going on offence. Naturally Dunigan did not take the bait, instead doubling down on a steady buffet of “we’re just trying to win games.”
Yes, Matt is correct, it does help when you have two future hall of fame offensive tackles in Miles Gorrell and Chris Walby protecting you, but would it have killed him for a brief pat on the back? You tried, Gord.
If you are looking for more video, the best I could find is this one, which also commemorates Dunigan’s aerial wizardry featuring many of the players and coaches from that day and a couple other highlights.
I have to admit that while I admire the precision of today’s passing game and the intelligence that goes into putting together the modern passing attack… damn do I miss the deep ball. Yes, it is often reckless and you won’t complete 74 per cent of your passes launching 50-yard bombs but wow is it fun to watch. Today’s game is so much more about short passes and bubble screens with every quarterback completing 72 per cent of his passes. Analytically it makes sense — smart coaches and accurate passers know how to move the chains — but the old man in me misses 25 years ago when Dunigan never even hit 60 per cent of his passes but so many of his throws were an adventure.
Speaking of quarterbacks, the other record that I have a hard time seeing surpassed is Anthony Calvillo’s career passing number of 79,816 yards. Damon Allen played till he was 44 and still finished more than 7,000 yards behind Calvillo. Meanwhile, recent retirees Ricky Ray and Henry Burris both couldn’t come within 16,000 yards of the Montreal hall of famer. To put Calvillo’s passing totals in a modern context; Bo Levi Mitchell has exactly 25,000 yards passing and is 29 years old. He would have to average 5,400 yards for the next 10 years to challenge Anthony. Considering Mitchell has never hit 5,400 yards in a season I think it is safe to say that record is indeed safe. But much like Dunigan’s record, I would love to see someone challenge it.