Pivotal Performances: Which QBs have had the best Grey Cup Sunday’s?

TORONTO — Grey Cup Sunday is the day that quarterbacks pen their legacy.  Some are completely unstoppable and others do what they can to manage a game to try and keep their squad in the fight.

Canada’s championship has seen its fair share of phenomenal performances from the game’s most critical position and given that it is Grey Cup Unite, we here at CFL.ca thought we would take a look at the numbers that separate some of the greatest Grey Cup performers ever both in victory and defeat.


Ever since the forward pass was introduced into the Canadian game it has ruled the way, stretching the field and making for some of the most iconic plays in CFL history.  The team that boasts the game’s passing yard leader doesn’t always win the Cup but it does more times than not.

Here is a look at the gunslingers that hold the best mark for single-game passing yards:

Quarterback Pass Yds. Year
Sam Etcheverry 508 1955
Doug Flutie 480 1992
Kent Austin 474 1989
Henry Burris 461 2016
Danny McManus 413 1996
Warren Moon 398 1980
Roy Dewalt 394 1985
Bo Levi Mitchell 391 2016
Sam Etcheverry 387 1954
Danny Barrett 376 1991
Bo Levi Mitchell 373 2017
Anthony Calvillo 371 2003


If the sheer volume of passing yards doesn’t impress you, surely accuracy will.  Some of the league’s all-time best — Flutie, Ray and Calvillo — have made Grey Cup Sunday the showcase for precision passing.  And as more of a focus has been placed on ball control over the last few decades it should be no surprise that the top six in this category all did their work in the last 25 years.

Quarterback Year COMP % ATT COMP
Doug Flutie 1997 78.9 38 30
Ricky Ray 2005 77.8 45 35
Anthony Calvillo 2008 76.3 38 29
Henry Burris 2016 76.1 46 35
Henry Burris 2015 75.9 29 22
Zach Collaros 2014 75.8 33 25


Overtime games in 2005 and 2016 allowed Ricky Ray and Henry Burris to each complete 35 passes, both in winning efforts.  Here is a look at the all-time leaders in passes completed in a Grey Cup game.

Quarterback Year ATT COMP
Ricky Ray 2005 45 35
Henry Burris 2016 46 35
Danny Barrett 1991 58 34
Doug Flutie 1992 49 33
Bo Levi Mitchell 2017 45 33
Jack Jacobs 1953 48 31
Sam Etcheverry 1955 41 30
Doug Flutie 1997 38 30

The aforementioned 2005 Grey Cup game featuring Ricky Ray re-air this FRIDAY on CFL.ca as a part of the CFL in 40 presented by CDIC broadcasts.


Those who have attempted the most passes are not always the victors.  Former Calgary QB Danny Barrett holds the record for most passing attempts in a game by a significant margin.  His 58 pass attempts in 1991 are nine higher than the next pivot and he did so in a losing effort to Toronto.  Even more interesting, he racked up those 58 passes in a closely contested game which is the coldest contest in Grey Cup history; an environment conventional wisdom would make us believe is more conducive to running the football.

In fact, five of the top seven single-game attempt totals have come in losses.

Quarterback Year Attempts Win/Loss
Danny Barrett 1991 58 Loss
Doug Flutie 1992 49 Win
Jack Jacobs 1953 48 Loss
Doug Flutie 1995 48 Loss
Roy Dewalt 1983 47 Loss
Ricky Ray 2002 47 Loss
Henry Burris 2016 46 Win


You will see Anthony Calvillo’s name in a number of single-game categories above but he also bests other QBs in career accomplishements.

Calvillo is the league leader in career Grey Cup passing yards (2,740), 300-yard games (5), pass completions (179) and pass attempts (298).  He did so in eight career appearances in the big game.


Russ Jackson’s 1969 performance when Ottawa topped Saskatchewan earned him sole possession of first place in single-game TD passes with four.  Thirteen others have tied for second with three majors and the list includes Hall of Famers such as Ron Lancaster, Danny McManus , Flutie, Joe Krol and Warren Moon.


It is an accomplishment so nice, Doug Flutie did it twice … in the same game.  Flutie holds the record for most consecutive passes in a Grey Cup game with 12 straight in 1997.  Once his streak was broken he reeled off another 10 straight later in the game against Saskatchewan en route to back-to-back championships with Toronto.

Burris is the only other to crack the top three after he completed 11 straight passes in the 2008 Grey Cup win over Montreal while a member of the Calgary Stampeders.

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