Biblical Judgment, Settled Science: Complete, Unabridged Guide to The Curse of Doug Flutie
Doug: 3:16 –“For the Flutie so despised Wade Phillips that he sent his one and only Curse. And that whosoever believes in it will never hire Wade Phillips, and shall have an everlasting chance to contend.”
By Kerry J. Byrne (@footballfacts)
Cold, Hard Football Facts Extra Large Medium
It’s been yet another year of misery for doubting Thomas NFL franchises foolish enough to employ Wade Phillips.
Most notable among these sorry winter souls are the snakebitten Dallas Cowboys, the sad-sack Buffalo Bills, the ravaged Atlanta Falcons and, most certainly, the dumbstruck Houston Texans, the stupidest team in football.
Phillips is, of course, is the NFL-lifer buffoon behind the worst coaching decision in the 94-year history of pro football, and the architect of a supernatural force so powerful it should be spoken of only in hushed, reverent tones:
The Curse of Doug Flutie.
Religion and science are often seen as being at odds with one another. But some phenomena transcend the debate and are proven true by both religion and science, each a unique expression of the human quest for answers to the Big Questions of our miraculous existence.
The Curse of Doug Flutie is one such phenomenon.
This time of year think of Phillips as the Ebenezer Scrooge of the NFL, his teams visited each season by a shackled Jacob Marley of misery called the #CurseOfFlutie.
Only, in this case, there is no past to repent the way there is in the whimsically haunting Charles Dickens Christmas fairy tale. And the apparition in this case is not borne of its own terrestrial guilt, but of egregious wrongs visited upon it in an Earthly pro football life.
The history has been cast. It cannot be remade. The Curse cannot be undone.
The all-powerful Curse of Doug Flutie is karmic retribution from the great spiritual beyond for the fact that Phillips benched the pint-sized hero passer before the 1999 playoffs when both were with Buffalo, despite the fact that the Bills had gone 10-5 with Flutie at the helm.
The Bills have never been back to the playoffs. But that fact is only the tip of the iceberg of misery brought upon the NFL by the captain of the HMS Titanic of coaching decisions.
Don’t even bother rearranging deck chairs. Teams that hire Phillips will watch their ship sink into the abyss of gut-wrenching defeat.
The Curse of Doug Flutie is no longer just an entertaining storyline of unique coincidences that have plagued a long list of pro football franchises. The Curse of Flutie is now Gridiron Gospel, to use the language of the Christmas season.
Or, to steal a phrase from the arena of political debate, the Curse of Flutie is “settled science.” Reasonable minds no longer question its existence. Put another way: only a flake would doubt the #CurseofFlutie.
Phillips made the worst coaching decision in NFL history back in 1999. The Curse of Doug Flutie has continued here in 2013 to haunt every single franchise for which the coach has since plied his coaching craft.
2013: A Season of Painful Misery for Curse of Flutie Victims
Wade Phillips has worked for five different NFL franchises since taunting the football fates back in 1999. All five are suffering – yet again – here in 2013.
ONE - Phillips was the head coach of the Buffalo Bills from 1998 to 2000.
The 2013 Bills are poised to yet again finish in last place in the AFC East. Three different quarterbacks have started games for them, two of them rookies, and they had a combined one NFL start between them before this season. The team’s collective passer rating of 73.8 is 28th in the NFL.
TWO - Phillips was defensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons from 2002 to 2003.
The 2013 Falcons have suffered one of the worst collapses in NFL history, from 13-3 and the NFC’s No. 1 seed in 2012 to 4-10 and scraping the bottom of the NFC South in 2013.
THREE - Phillips was defensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers from 2004 to 2006.
The 2013 Chargers need a Week 17 win and more help than the orphans of Calcutta to reach the playoffs, despite a brilliant season by QB Philip Rivers.
FOUR - Phillips was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys from 2007 to 2010.
The 2013 Cowboys are haunted by the worst defense in franchise history. They face a do-or-die Week 17 game against the Eagles and Nick Foles, the hottest QB in football.
And then we learned Monday, as if the Curse of Flutie was anticipating this story, that Cowboys QB Tony Romo, one of the most productive passers in the NFL, is injured and might miss the de facto playoff game.
As Romo and so many others prove, the Curse of Flutie is a master of ironic sadism, always unleashing its power at the most inopportune times.
FIVE - Phillips has been the defensive coordinator of the Houston Texans since 2011 and was named interim head coach after Gary Kubiak was fired in Week 15.
The 2013 Texans are the only team to fall farther and collapse harder than the Falcons this year. They harbored Super Bowl dreams at the start of the season. The Texans today are 2-13 and on the cusp of securing the No. 1 pick in the 2014 draft.
Naturally, the QB position suffered the brunt of the Curse: Texans QB Matt Schaub not only sucked this year (record four straight games with pick six), he was also injured, likely ending his career with the Texans.
And those are the Flutie Curse victims just here in 2013. Below is the Complete and Unabridged Guide to the Curse of Doug Flutie.
It’s a look at how the Curse has haunted every organization that has employed Phillips since the day that he benched The Great and Powerful Flutie before the 1999 playoffs.
1999-2013: Cruel and Sadistic History of the Curse of Flutie
Doug 2: 9-11 – “And Lo, an Angle of the Flutie appeared; and they were sore afraid. And the Angel said unto them: Be fearful. For behold, I bring you bad tidings of great misery, which shall be to all people who work with Wade Phillips. For unto you is born this day in the City of Music a Curse, which is the Curse of Flutie.”
The Curse of Flutie’s pattern of operation is easy to diagnose. Any team that employs Phillips is doomed to sufferable miserable defeat(s), usually:
- involving a catastrophic and unexpected team collapse
- a crushing big-game defeat amid unusual circumstances
- or, most notably, a humiliating failure or injustice at the QB position
1999 Bills, Birth of the Curse
With a playoff spot wrapped up, the Nebuchadnezzar of the NFL exiles Flutie to the role of Babylonian back-up before the final game of the regular season, under the devious ruse of giving him some rest and backup Rob Johnson some reps.
But Phillips then installed Johnson as the starter for a playoff game in Tennessee, unleashing forces beyond the control of mere mortals.
The Bill lost to the Titans in a manner so shocking and painful it’s known only as the "Music City Miracle."
The Miracle is made possible by Phillips’ indefensible decision, a poor day by the inexperienced replacement QB Johnson (10 of 22, 131 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, 64.8 passer rating) and a vengeful Curse.
Zero playoff appearances and just one winning record (9-7 in 2004) in the 14 seasons since Phillips benched the Earthly form of Flutie. In other words, Flutie was the last QB to lead Buffalo to a double-digit win total.
The Bills are 88-136 (.393) since that fateful day, including a nearly statistically identical 6-9 (.400) record here in 2013.
Coincidences don’t last 14 years, folks. A force beyond the scope of mere mortals to comprehend is at work.
Phillips unfortunately rebounds from his demise in Buffalo as the DC in Atlanta. Behind a great season by exciting first-year starting QB Michael Vick, Atlanta goes 9-6-1 and then pulls off a bit of history.
The Falcons beat Brett Favre and the Packers in the wildcard round – the first home playoff loss in the history of Green Bay football.
But the Curse of Flutie was merely setting up the Falcons just to knock-a, knock-a, knock-a them down, down, down down.
Vick is ineffective the following week, and his early pick-six provides the Eagles all the points they need to forge a 20-6 win.
Matched a then-franchise record with 12 regular-season victories but fail to win a playoff game after losing to the Jets in the wild card round. QB Drew Brees actually plays well (31 of 42, 319 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT).
But the Curse of Flutie was just having a little fun at his expense: the Curse blows in an ill wind that forces Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding to miss an easy 39-yard field goal in overtime. The underdog Jets pull out a shocking 20-17 victory in San Diego.
Posted a franchise-best 14-2 record, led the NFL in scoring (492 points) and captured the AFC's No. 1 seed.
Fail to win a single playoff game.
Quarterback Philip Rivers plays poorly (14 of 32, 230 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT) as the Chargers lose at home to the Patriots, 24-21.
It should be noted that 2006 was Rivers' first season as the starting QB in San Diego, after the franchise chose to stick with him and jettison Brees to New Orleans
Brees, freed from the shackles of the Curse of Doug Flutie, promptly led the 2006 Saints to the first championship game in franchise hsitory and, in 2009, led the team to its first Super Bowl victory with an MVP performance, while setting numerous franchise and league passing records along the way.
The Curse of Flutie is indeed Good and Beneficent, showering those who honor it with Great Wisdom.
Lost face-of-the-franchise quarterback Michael Vick in a shocking dog-fighting scandal that rocked the sports world.
It should be noted that the Curse of Flutie loves puppies and coddles them in his all-compassionate arms from the Great Beyond. He takes no responsibility for the downfall of Vick in the Falcons.
But admit it is beyond bizarre that one of the most popular quarterbacks in football would suffer one of the ugliest and inexplicable downfalls in history.
Reached the AFC title game for just the second time in 25 years – but draw a miserable fate. The Chargers must travel cross-country to face the 16-0 Patriots.
The Chargers lose, 21-12, behind injured QB Philip Rivers (0 TD, 2 INT) and fail to score a single touchdown.
The Curse of Flutie laughs a maniacal laugh.
Matched a franchise record with 13 victories and captured the NFC's No. 1 seed.
The 2007 Cowboys then failed to win a single playoff game – just like the 14-win Chargers of the year before.
It was the first divisional playoff loss by an NFC No. 1 seed after 17 straight wins. Quarterback Tony Romo plays poorly, completing just half his passes and suffers key sacks late in the game, a 21-17 loss to the rival Giants. His final pass in the end zone, in true #CurseOfFlutie fashion, was intercepted.
Romo is a particularly sad and largely innocent victim of the Curse of Flutie.
He has been one of the most productive passers in NFL history, a fact which usually assures teams of great postseason success. But he is consistently paired with terrible defenses. And he has suffered an odd number of well-publicized gaffes, despite an otherwise sterling statistical resume.
Keep in mind Romo’s first full year was a starter was 2007 – Phillips’ first year as head coach in Dallas. The Curse of Flutie, in all its tolerant magnanimity and largesse, does not discriminate against its victims.
The marquee Cowboys have won a single playoff game since hiring Phillips as head coach in 2007 and have not even reached the playoffs since 2009.
That streak is likely to continue this year with Romo suddenly out for the b
ig 2013 finale: inopportune QB injuries are a particularly vindictive trait of the Curse of Flutie.
Made the playoffs after an 8-8 season, the Curse's vindictive little way of filling the organization with false hopes.
Playing without injured star LaDainian Tomlinson, the Chargers rush 11 times for 15 yards in a 35-24 playoff loss at Pittsburgh.
Closed out the regular season with 11 straight wins to go 13-3 – the Curse of Flutie merely setting up San Diego like little bowling pins of pigskin.
The Chargers earned a first-round bye and a home playoff game against the 9-7 wild card Jets. Rivers passes for 298 yards, compared to just 100 for Mark Sanchez. Those numbers add up to a sure victory in most any circumstance.
But the Chargers lose 17-14 thanks to an 0-for-3 effort by kicker Nate Kaeding – a particularly tragic victim of the Curse of Flutie.
Kaeding was drafted by the Chargers in 2004, the same year it hired Phillips as DC. He would hit just 8 of 15 field goals in his postseason career, a dismal .533 rate by today’s NFL standards.
The Curse of Flutie celebrates San Diego’s ignominious demise with a road trip to Tijuana.
Won the NFC East with an 11-5 record, a talented offense and the league's No. 2 defense (15.6 PPG).
Lose to Brett Favre and the Vikings 34-3 in the divisional playoffs behind an ineffective effort from Romo (0TD, 66.1 rating) and a career playoff performance by Brett Favre (4 TD, 0 INT, 134.4 rating).
The Curse of Flutie did a little jig at the irony of one of the league's best defenses suffering so miserably at the hands of the aging, mistake-prone gunslinger Favre.
It was the last postseason victory of Favre’s career and his only 4-TD effort in the playoffs.
The Chargers finish the year No. 1 in total offense and No. 1 in total defense. Despite their territorial proficiency, San Diego wins only nine games and fails to reach playoffs.
The Curse of Flutie celebrates with fish tacos and a bottle of Stone Ruination IPA.
A season of high hopes, followed by miserable failure. Dallas fires Phillips after a 1-7 start; then go 5-3 the rest of the way as a middle-fingered scoreboard salute to the architect of the Curse.
The Curse of Flutie brushes up Phillips' resume and sends it via Pony Express to the unwitting Houston Texans, who make the mistake of answering the mail.
Began the season 3-0, highlighted by a signature win over the dominant division rival Patriots.
But success is never meant to be again in Buffalo, not as long as the Curse of Flutie roams the Earth: the Bills went 3-10 the rest of the way and, of course, finish in last place in the AFC East.
Remorseful Bills fans suffer nightmarish visions of Rob Johnson and his Olivia Newton-John-style 1980s headband trotting out onto the field during the team’s ugly second-half seven-game losing streak.
Everybody's preseason favorite to win the AFC West went just 8-8 and failed to reach the playoffs.
The division instead goes to Tim Tebow, the contemporary version of Doug Flutie, and the 8-8 Broncos. The pivotal game of the year: Denver’s come-from-behind 16-13 victory in overtime at San Diego.
The Curse of Flutie offers the SI Cover Curse a course on weaving false hopes.
The typical high hopes in Dallas were met yet again by underachievement on the field. The 2011 Cowboys, like the 2011 Chargers, end their season of high hopes at 8-8 and fail to reach the playoffs – though they did lay waste to Buffalo 44-7 in Week 10.
Forced to make a choice between one of its victims for another, the Curse of Flutie will always hand Buffalo the cruelest outcome.
The 44 points were the most scored by the Cowboys since Week 1 of the 2007 season -- the team's first game with Phillips as head coach.
Yes, the Curse of Flutie works in mysterious ways.
The Curse of Flutie forces Atlanta management to foolishly mortgage the future and trade five draft picks for wide receiver Julio Jones, when the team had tons of holes on defense.
The 13-3 Falcons of 2010 responded with a disappointing 10-6 in 2011 and then a colossal choke job in the playoffs.
The Falcons offense was shutout in a 24-2 loss to the Giants in the wildcard round. Matt Ryan was ineffective while Giants QB Eli Manning (3 TD, 0 INT) produced one of the best days of his career.
On pace for their best season in franchise history and the No. 1 seed in AFC, the Texans lose QB Matt Schaub after Week 10.
Schaub was only in the middle of a career season, with a 96.8 passer rating and an epic 8.5 YPA – Super Bowl-caliber numbers.
The Texans make it to Week 14 with a 10-3 record and a dominating defense. But fighting for wins with third-string rookie QB T.J. Yates at the helm of the offense, they are playing pigskin poker with the chips stacked in favor of the Curse of Flutie Casino.
Houston soon folded, losing four of their last five games, including a defeat to the Ravens in the AFC divisional playoffs.
The Curse of Flutie celebrates the demise of another Wade Phillips QB with a road trip to Galveston and a fried seafood platter at Gaido's.
Doug 4:8 – "And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Flutie rose up against Ryan his brother, and slew him."
The Falcons are 13-3 and the best team in the NFC. They host the 49ers in the NFC title game and storm out to a commanding 17-0 lead.
The game is all but in the books.
But remember, miserable gut-wrenching collapses are a hallmark of the Curse of Flutie. And this time it orchestrated a doozie.
Atlanta’s five second-half drives go like this: interception, fumble, punt, failed fourth down and expiration of time in the fourth quarter, 35 yards from a game-winning score.
Falcons QB Matt Ryan was brilliant in the first half (18 of 24, 271 yards, 11.3 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, 151.2 rating), one of the best halves of his career.
But by now you know the inevitable painful QB downfall was imminent: Ryan was less than ordinary in the second half, with his team just 30 minutes away from a trip to the Super Bowl (12 of 18, 125 yards, 6.9 YPA, 0 TD, 1 INT, 63.4 rating).
Even Curse of Flutie fellow Boston College brother Ryan is not immune to vengeful retribution. Ryan’s Falcons are just 1-4 in postseason play.
The Houston Texans are riding high fine as wine having themselves a Big & Rich time. They are 11-1, easily the best team in football to that point, and a statistical juggernaut and look like easy sure-fire AFC champions.
The Curse of Flutie worked with NFL schedule makers to throw a bit of a Dougie wrench in Houston’s Super Bowl aspirations: a visit to Gillette Stadium, which is only a short distance from Flutie’s hometown.
Phillips and the Texans are embarrassed in primetime on national TV that night, losing 42-14. As a result of that loss, the Texans were forced to return to Foxboro for the divisional playoffs, where they were embarrassed once again, 41-28.
It’s worth noting that our Aggrieved Pigskin Protagonist played his very last football game in 2005 at Gillette Stadium – executing the NFL’s only drop-kick extra point since World War II in that career finale.
The Curse of Flutie deserves an Under Armor contract, because nobody protects his house with more delicious irony.
The Curse of Flutie was not through mocking Phillips’ talented and promising Houston employer.
The Texans raced out to a 2-0 start
The Texans, who were 11-1 entering Foxboro last December, are 4-17 since that encounter. The best team in football last December is the worst team in football this December.
A nearly unprecedented reversal of fortune is not the work of mere mortal hands. It can be explained only by forces of the Great Beyond.
The Statistical Signature Of The Curse Of Flutie
Doug 5:10 – “Blessed are those who are persecuted, for theirs is the kingdom of Flutie.”
Football fans have two choices: they can believe in the Curse of Flutie or they can wallow in their ignorance and misery.
Before you decide, consider the statistical signature from the Gridiron Gods to affirm the Curse:
In Flutie's last game in a Bills uniform in 2000, he pitched the proverbial perfect game, completing 20 of 25 passes (80 percent) for 366 yards, 14.6 YPA, 3 TD, 0 INT, and a perfect 158.3 passer rating.
It was and remains the only "perfect" passing game in the history of the Buffalo franchise. Jack Kemp never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Joe Ferguson never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Jim Kelly never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick never posted a perfect passer rating for the Bills.
Only Flutie has accomplished this feat ... and then he never played another down in a Buffalo uniform. It was a fitting middle-fingered statistical salute to the organization, and the coach, that wronged him so badly in 1999.
Today Flutie's earthly body works the broadcast booth analyzing college football and running his charity, the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism. He occasionally walks on water.
But his aggrieved spirit roams the NFL, seeking vengeance upon Phillips for the worst coaching decision in the history of football.