The 1989 Edmonton Eskimos are the greatest CFL team in regular season history. But the Calgary Stampeders are on the verge of passing them. Those Eskimos finished with an all-time best record of 16-2 before the 9-9 Saskatchewan Roughriders eliminated them in the West Division Final. A great regular season team, but one without a Grey Cup. The Stampeders have the opportunity to earn a better regular season record, and to win it all this year. Does this mean they are the greatest CFL team of all time?
The Calgary Stampeders Could Be the Greatest CFL Team of All Time
What makes this Calgary Stampeders team so special is the fact that they have only a single loss. No team has ever finished a season with one defeat. They do have one tie, so they cannot surpass the Eskimos win total in 1989. However, they could still finish with a better overall record. And this is nothing new to the Stamps – they have four 15-3 records in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2014 – but never reached the 16-win mark. Two wins in their final two games could write them into CFL history.
They also hold the longest winning streak over a single season. Their 13-game winning streak surpassed the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 12-game streak in 2001. Two other teams have 14-game winning streaks over the course of two seasons. The Stamps hold the all-time highest winning streak of 22 games in the 1948 and 1949 seasons. Even the 1989 Eskimos couldn’t conjure up a streak of more than seven games. Calgary is stamping their name in the record books with their 2016 season.
The Stamps are an offensive machine. Led by quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell and running back Jerome Messam, the Stamps have scored 30 touchdowns through the air, and another 20 on the ground. But these numbers don’t come near some of the league’s records. The 1994 Stampeders scored 82 touchdowns, 52 of which were passing, adding to 698 points versus 547 points so far for the 2016 Stamps.
Scoring was much higher in the 1994 season, 155% higher than last season. The 1994 Stamps scoring average, at 38.8 points/game, was only 13% more than the Stamps’ current 34.2 points/game. That’s a sign that the current Stamps are more potent offensively.
Another useful comparison for the 2016 Stamps is the 1989 Eskimos. Scoring in 1989 and now is about the same, but those Eskimos put up 37 passing and 32 rushing TDs for 644 points. That’s probably why they have the best CFL regular season record.
Individual records are also a big story for the Calgary offence. With 5,127 passing yards, Mitchell could still hit the 5,800 mark in his final games against the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Alouettes. That would put him in the top-ten for most passing yards in a single season, but still many yards away from Doug Flutie‘s 6,619 yards for the 1991 Stamps. Tracy Ham had 4,366 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Eskimos in 1989, although that team was defence-oriented.
Messam’s 1,051 rushing yards aren’t record-shattering either, but for a league that is shying away from the running game, his numbers are impressive. He has scored 11 rushing and one passing touchdown, and no running back has hit 15 total touchdowns since Avon Cobourne did it in 2009. Messam has the opportunity to hit that mark this year.
One problem with crowning the Stamps the greatest CFL team ever is the fact that their defence is not dominant. Yes, they are great, but not 1989 Eskimos, 2009 Alouettes or 1997-98 Argonauts great. They have allowed an average 21.2 points per game for 339 total, behind the mark set by the 1989 Eskimos (16.8), 2009 Alouettes (18.0) and the 1997 Argonauts (18.2).
They’ve made just nine interceptions – only the Roughriders have fewer – and are second in the league with 20 forced fumbles, but lead the CFL with 48 sacks. The 1989 Eskimos – regarded as the best defence in CFL history – had 37 interceptions and 55 sacks.
The 2009 Alouettes, who finished 15-3, are the most recent comparable team to this year’s Stamps. Those Alouettes scored 600 points and allowed 324 points, and overall, both teams produce similar numbers offensively and defensively. That Alouettes team won the Grey Cup, and have easily been considered the best team of the 21st century. That was until these Stamps came around.
In a forever-changing league, it’s hard to compare teams from the past and present. Some CFL records have a top-five all from the same era just because that was how the game was played. On paper, the Stamps may not seem like the greatest CFL team ever to play, but there is no denying they deserve to be up there with the late-1980s Eskimos, the early-1990s Stamps, the late-1990s Argonauts and the 2000s Alouettes.
One way to measure two teams from different eras is simply by watching them, seeing how they play on the field as a whole. The Stamps are simply dominant on the field, despite not setting records. Sometimes it’s not all about numbers, stats and points.
Don’t forget the greatest dynasty is the 1980s Edmonton Eskimos. These Stamps are far from a dynasty, but are one of the best single-season teams ever.
The 2016 Calgary Stampeders are on their way to become the greatest CFL team in history. They just need to win a Grey Cup.