Winnipeg Blue Bombers’ quarterback Zach Collaros has become the runaway favourite to win his second consecutive Most Outstanding Player award with only six weeks remaining on the CFL’s regular season schedule.
The 34-year-old has thrown for 3,578 yards, 28 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions through 14 games this season. He leads the league in passing yards and touchdown passes and his team, despite a surprising loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats this past week, remains easily atop the West Division standings at 12-2.
It’s worth noting that B.C. Lions’ quarterback Nathan Rourke would almost surely have won this year’s M.O.P. award had he stayed healthy, though that shouldn’t delegitimize what Collaros has accomplished. This award is given to the player with the best season, after all, not the best month or two.
Only four players in CFL history have ever won back-to-back M.O.P. awards, which would put Collaros in some pretty exclusive company. Below are each of those four players along with some background information on their award-winning seasons. They are listed alphabetically by last name.
The Birmingham Rifle threw for 4,252 yards when he won his first M.O.P. award in 1980, which was over 1,000 yards more than second-place Warren Moon. He also threw a league-leading 28 touchdown passes along with only 12 interceptions and rushed for four touchdowns along the ground.
His numbers improved the following season when he won his second straight M.O.P. award after throwing for 4,796 yards, which again was over 1,000 more than the next leading passer (this time it was B.C.’s Joe Paopao). He also threw a league-leading 32 touchdown passes to 15 interceptions.
Brock’s passing yards total from 1981 set a new single-season team record, which stood for 21 years until Khari Jones broke it in 2002. He remains easily Winnipeg’s all-time leading passer with 29,623 yards, sitting almost 10,000 ahead of Jones, and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
The six-foot-one, 200-pound passer wasn’t named M.O.P. until his tenth CFL season in 2003 and didn’t win the award in back-to-back years until he was well into his late thirties in 2008 and 2009. He threw for 16,163 yards, 106 touchdowns, and 33 interceptions and rushed for 556 yards and five touchdowns over his three M.O.P. seasons and led the league in touchdown passes in each of those years.
Calvillo was not named M.O.P. when he recorded career-best numbers in quarterback rating (111.1) in 2000 or passing yards (6,041) in 2004 as the awards were instead given to Dave Dickenson and Casey Printers, respectively.
The three-time Grey Cup champion was a first-ballot inductee into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2017 and retired as professional football’s all-time leading passer, though he has since been surpassed by Drew Brees and Tom Brady. He now serves as Montreal’s quarterbacks coach and de facto offensive coordinator.
What is there to write about Flutie’s CFL career that hasn’t already been written countless times? The former Heisman Trophy winner won an unprecedented six M.O.P. awards as a member of the B.C. Lions (1991), Calgary Stampeders (1992-1994), and Toronto Argonauts (1996-1997) and firmly established himself as the best player in the history of the league.
The Boston College product threw for 35,607 yards over his six M.O.P. seasons along with 238 touchdowns and 131 interceptions. He also ran for 3,710 yards and 58 touchdowns. He led the CFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns in each of those seasons with the exception of 1992 when he fell just shy of Saskatchewan’s Kent Austin.
Flutie’s four straight M.O.P. awards are impressive enough but it almost surely would have been seven had he not torn a tendon in his elbow in 1995. The threw for 2,788 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions over ten starts that season, recording the best quarterback rating (102.8) of his career.
Widely considered one of the greatest CFL players ever, Parker was named the league’s M.O.P. three times in the span of just four years (1957, 1958, 1960) for his play at a number of different positions.
The six-foot-one, 190-pounder threw for 4,671 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 37 interceptions over his three M.O.P. seasons while rushing for 1,790 yards and 27 touchdowns, making 40 receptions for 822 yards and seven touchdowns, recording two interceptions, making 13-of-23 field goal attempts, and punting 57 times for an average of 39.8 yards. This is the type of individual stat line we will never see again in professional football.
Parker won three Grey Cups with Edmonton, though they all took place before his first M.O.P. season. He was a first-ballot inductee into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1971 and received a number of other accolades including membership in Edmonton’s Wall of Honour, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, and the College Football Hall of Fame.
Other players who won multiple Most Outstanding Player awards in non-consecutive years are Henry Burris (2010, 2015), Russ Jackson (1963, 1966, 1969), Ron Lancaster (1970, 1976), Bo Levi Mitchell (2016, 2018), and Mike Pringle (1995, 1998).