Bo Levi Mitchell could be unanimous MOP, but five other outstanding seasons fell short

Bo Levi Mitchell no helmet
Bo Levi Mitchell no helmet

Can Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell pick up a rare unanimous Most Outstanding Player award Thursday night? (

Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell goes up against Ottawa receiver Ernest Jackson for the CFL’s Most Outstanding Player award at the Shaw CFL Awards Thursday, and Mitchell’s almost certain to win. Jackson had a fine season, making 88 catches for 1,225 yards and 10 touchdowns in 17 games, but that’s only the seventh-highest receiving total this year. Jackson wasn’t even the best receiver this year (better candidates there are Edmonton receivers Adarius Bowman and Derel Walker with 1,761 and 1,589 yards respectively, or B.C. receiver Emmanuel Arceneaux with 1,566) or the best player not named Mitchell (Edmonton quarterback Mike Reilly and B.C. linebacker Solomon Elimimian, among others, would have more compelling arguments); he’s just an option here thanks to the divisional structure of the CFL’s awards. That could pave the way for something rarely if ever seen in the CFL: a unanimous final vote for MOP. Some voters always seem to go for the underdog, though, so a unanimous vote isn’t a sure thing. Here are five great CFL seasons that appear not to have led to a unanimous MOP win (searches on those awards don’t mention unanimity).

Milt Stegall, 2002: Current TSN analyst Stegall had an incredible year in 2002 for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, recording 1,862 receiving yards (the fifth-highest single season total) and posting a still-standing CFL record of 23 receiving touchdowns. He led the league in a huge amount of categories, including touchdowns, receiving touchdowns, yards from scrimmage, receptions, receiving yards, 100-yard games, average yards per catch (minimum of 50) and non-kicker scoring. However, he wasn’t the unanimous MOP thanks to going up against Montreal quarterback Anthony Calvillo. 2002 wasn’t Calvillo’s greatest season – it’s his sixth-highest yardage total, one of his lowest completion marks at 59.4 per cent, one season that didn’t land him in the record book, and one where he had only 27 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, far from his best years. But a season where you throw for 5,013 yards will get you some votes. Voters do tend to incorporate team success as well, and Calvillo’s Alouettes were in the Grey Cup (where they’d eventually beat Edmonton in memorable fashion), while Stegall’s Bombers fell in the West Final.

Mike Pringle, 1998: Pringle had some incredibly dominant seasons where he didn’t win the MOP, including 1994 (when he set then-CFL records with 1,972 rushing yards and 2,414 yards from scrimmage, but lost to Doug Flutie). He won his first MOP in 1995 while leading Baltimore to the Grey Cup, and then had an even better year for Montreal in 1998, setting a still-standing league record with 2,065 rushing yards and tying his own yards-from-scrimmage mark with 2,414. That easily could have been a unanimous year, as the West nominee was directly-comparable Calgary RB Kelvin Anderson, who had a solid year with 1,325 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, but nothing near Pringle’s. However, Pringle’s Alouettes lost to Hamilton in the East Final, while Anderson’s Stampeders would go on to win the Grey Cup.

Doug Flutie, 1991: In only his second season in the CFL, Flutie threw for a still-standing single-season record of 6,619 passing yards for the B.C. Lions. He also had 38 touchdowns against 24 interceptions and a 63.8 per cent completion mark. However, Flutie’s Lions finished third in their division and fell to Calgary in the West semifinal, and East nominee Robert Mimbs had a great season for Winnipeg (who at least made the East final before losing to the famed 1991 Argonauts), leading the CFL with 1,769 rushing yards (still in the top 10 rushing seasons of all time) and setting a record with 2,207 yards from scrimmage (now third all time, thanks to Pringle in 1994 and 1998). That likely helped Mimbs take some votes away.

Michael “Pinball” Clemons, 1990: Clemons put up an incredible 3,290 total yards for the Argonauts in 1990, with 509 rushing yards, 905 receiving yards, 831 yards on punt returns and 1045 yards on kick returns. That makes him one of the very few players to win a MOP based largely on special teams play; another Argonaut, Chad Owens in 2012, is another example. Clemons could have picked up a unanimous win that year, as his opponent was Craig Ellis; Ellis had an excellent season for Edmonton, continuing his transformation from running back to slotback and finishing with 106 catches for 1,654 yards and 17 touchdowns, but none of those stats are historically great. Not all voters appreciate the value of special teams performance, though, and Clemons’ case was more that he did everything well rather than he excelled in one area. That can be a tougher sell. Ellis’ Eskimos also made the Grey Cup (which they’d lose to Winnipeg), while Clemons’ Argos fell in the East Final.

Sam “The Rifle” Etcheverry, 1954: Etcheverry’s 1954 season, which even predates the official 1958 formation of the CFL, is one of the most remarkable in the annals of Canadian football. At a time when most teams relied heavily on running the ball with offences that would be unrecognizable in the modern CFL, Etcheverry and the Alouettes (including star receiver/defensive end Hal Patterson, who’d win his own MOP in 1956) operated a passing-based offence that would fit right in with some of today’s teams. Etcheverry threw for 586 yards in one game that year, a record that stood until Danny Barrett posted 601 for B.C. in 1993 (Matt Dunigan also beat Etcheverry’s record with 713 yards for Winnipeg in 1994). Etcheverry also picked up 3,610 passing yards on the season, a record for both the CFL and the NFL at that time. Etcheverry’s CFL record stood just two years before he beat it himself with 4,723 yards in 1956, which would stand until 1981. However, he faced tough MOP opposition that year from Edmonton’s all-around star Jackie Parker, who threw for 558 yards and two touchdowns, ran for 925 yards and 10 more touchdowns, and added nine catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns. The two would face each other in the Grey Cup, where Parker’s Eskimos edged Etcheverry’s Alouettes 26-25. Parker would go on to win three MOPs in 1957, 1958 and 1960, and he definitely played spoiler in 1954.