Doug Flutie: I want to thank Mr. Kraft and Bill for giving me the opportunity to do this here and to come down and for your generous donation and being a part of that with the foundation. More importantly than all that was bringing me back here for one more year, to New England, to have the opportunity to have my daughter, in her senior year of high school, to be with her friends year-round. To be able to watch my nephews play ball. All of that was very important to me. Those of you who know me know how attached I am to this area and how important that is in my life. Along those lines, yes, I am officially retiring today.
For me, I'd like to look at it as moving along in my life and looking forward as to what is coming. I wanted to approach it all along that I was planning on taking a job with the networks and we'll announce that in a bit. That's kind of the way I wanted to direct it initially, but everybody wanted to hear that 'are you retiring?' thing, so we took this approach in going to announce it.
Looking back for me, it's been 21 years. I've had more fun, and enjoyment, at this game than anything else. I just love playing football. I love competing -- all of you who know me, the basketball and whatnot-- I enjoy playing. It's still a game to me. The game has changed over the years. The last 3-4 years it really haven't been a lot of fun. Bill, putting that dropkick in for me to do, kind of put the fun back in the game; to me that's what the game is all about. It's about competing out on the field, finding a way to win, and having fun doing it. That's been my approach throughout my life and the way I've approached this game. I'm just a big kid. I think that's pretty evident in the fact that... I joined a men's baseball league with my brothers this spring. That kind of indicated [what I was doing football-wise]. I had told them all along 'when I retire, as long as I can still walk, we're going to do this.' That's what I'm all about.
I look back and it started out with the USFL. Donald Trump gave me the opportunity to play with Herschel Walker in the same backfield. On to the Chicago Bears to play for Mike Ditka and that great team they had. Coming back to New England and had the opportunity to play with a guy I still consider a friend -- and talk to every now and then, not as often as I would like -- Steve Grogan. I had the opportunity to learn under Steve and all the guys we played with in the late 80s. That's why it's fun for me to see the old [Patriots] helmet up here.
Then I went to Canada. I'll tell you what, I had more fun playing football in Canada in my career, especially my last two years in Toronto. There were great players and great coaches, all along the line up there. Guys like Pinball Clemons to play with, Don Matthews coaching us, a guy named Allen Pitts in Calgary had 2,000-yard receiving seasons. I had the opportunity to play with my brother for a year up there. All those types of things that meant so much to me. It kind of re-instilled my confidence in myself at the quarterback position, which allowed me to come back [to the NFL] to Buffalo, and step on the field in my first year and make it to a Pro Bowl, and had the honor of playing for Bill Belichick in the Pro Bowl. Like [Bill] said, Eric Moulds, I'll tell you what, that was a fun year. Throw the ball up to Eric. It was a great group of guys in Buffalo that I played with; A.J. Smith and John Butler brought me there, and gave me the opportunity to get back to the NFL.
At that point, I was saying 'Okay, I'll give it a shot.' I was ready to retire after Toronto. I said to my wife 'I'll give it two years.' Here it is eight years later, actually almost nine years later, and I'm finally retired -- because I enjoyed playing the game and you keep going. Having the chance to play with Drew Brees and for Wade Phillips in Buffalo, and also having Wade out in San Diego, it was a lot of fun every step of the way for me. To finish it up by coming back here was very special for me. Then having the dropkick.
When I tell these stories, I did play for three different teams up in Canada and we bounced around a lot. I don't know a lot of families that could have endured the travel and the moving and bouncing around. My wife and I have been together since we were 15 years old. I love her dearly. Everyone says there is a woman behind every man, all that stuff, and I'd be lost without her. She was there every step of the way. Every step of the way. Traveling around, with the kids as they got older in school age -- Alexa and Dougie. It's a strain on them as well. I talked to Alexa today and she said 'You don't have to do this. You can play one more year. I'm 18 years old and I can be a Patriots cheerleader next year and you can still play.' They've been supportive. My wife would never, never be the wife that said 'I want you to retire.' She made a point to make that perfectly clear in the last few years. Then as I'm coming down here today she said 'Are you sure you want to do this? What am I going to do? I'm not going to go to a game if you're not playing.'
Now we're at the point, and I am at the point, where I enjoy watching my nephews play ball, actually more than stepping on the field myself. I love watching my daughter's dance recitals; she's doing an internship with Boston Ballet. Her life is starting to take off. I am at a different point in my life, where I'm enjoying that stuff more than my own. It's just been a fun run for me.
All the players, all the coaches, everyone that's been involved. I'm very appreciative. To the fans, the amazing thing in my career, since Day 1, I've always felt like I gained strength from the fans being behind me. Mr. Kraft read off about the home record and at Foxborough and the winning. I always felt like the critics were out there, and they were in big numbers, and the jury was always out, and I said to this day 'I'm going to announce my retirement and they'll say 'See, I told you he couldn't do it.' The fans were the ones that had no doubt in my abilities and the things I would do on the field, and they enjoyed watching me play. I definitely always gained my strength from the fans. Walking out on the field, knowing they were anticipating something great happening, and that we would win, no matter what the situation. They didn't give up faith, and you knew you had an opportunity. I kind of felt that obligation to them, that I'd have to pull a rabbit out of the hat or find a way to win. There is a song by Lynyrd Skynard. Johnnie Van Zandt wrote the lyrics. One verse of the song called 'Lucky Man': 'I want to thank you for the time that you've been with me. I hope it meant as much to you to share these memories. There is a guiding light that always seems to be shining. If I did it all again, I'd be happy until the end. I'm a lucky man.' That is exactly how I feel. Every word of that whole song. So much of it, I hope the fans enjoyed it as much as I did. Thank you.
Q: Now it can be told, how tall exactly are you?
DF: 5'9 and 7/8ths. [Laughter]
Q: [Laughter] Your final career playing weight.
DF: 178. It's been there for I don't know how long. I started out at 176. I guess I've gained two pounds over the years.
Q: What are your plans for next year?
DF: I am planning on taking a job with ABC/ESPN to do college football. We just have to dot the I's and cross the T's. We've basically comes to an agreement on that I will be in studio on Saturdays for ABC and potentially in studio during the week with ESPN and also potentially do some games.
Q: I spoke to your dad a month ago and he told me that you told him that you felt that you'd lost a step. Were you afraid of that becoming a problem backing up Tom Brady and possibly having to go in for him?
DF: If I step on the field I want to be me. I want and I need to be able to do the athletic things that I do in order to be successful. There's no doubt. This year coming back I had two knee scopes over the last two years and there were good weeks and bad weeks. It was like 'Geez I hope I don't have to play this week.' That type of feeling was from an athletic standpoint. Then all of a sudden there would be a couple of days in practice during the week where I feel great and the amazing thing is over the last month, we have a road race coming up this weekend for the foundation, and I started doing some more jogging and picking it up a little bit so I can run the road race. It's been the first time in about a year and a half that I've been able to run and I feel great again. It was like, 'Well maybe I shouldn't retire.' All of a sudden the legs are back. I had a scope in the middle of last offseason and then the whole year throughout all of football season I babied that knee a little bit because I didn't want to beat it up and I needed to be ready on Sunday. So, for the first time in quite a while I've been able to train hard over the last month.
Q: You won the Heisman trophy and have won several championships in the Canadian league. Do you regret not having won a Super Bowl?
DF: I definitely don't regret anything. It would have been nice. It would have been a feather in the cap to have an opportunity to win a Super Bowl and to be a part of that. I've been on a couple of playoff teams that had good opportunities and we didn't get it done. This year for example, this year past season, the way this team was playing at the end of the year, I thought we had a legitimate chance and we made mistakes in Denver and we came up short and that happens. It's the fight, it's the battle that makes it all worthwhile.
Q: You said there were certain weeks where you may not have been able to play. How much of the season were you wishing you were out there?
DF: Everyday. Everyday you want to be the guy on the field. It's very difficult and maybe that's why over the last three or four years the game has not been as much fun for me, because you have to work just as hard as anyone else and be ready to play. And the preparation is a part of this game. And you just don't quite have the emotional attachment if you're not the guy on the field. You still feel the pain of a loss and you still feel the excitement of the win, but that emotional tie with the other players on the team isn't always there when you're not in the battle fighting with them. And that is why, when we did do with the dropkick and I went on the field, to see the reaction of the players and the guys around you. The ball went through --first of all the guys didn't stop talking about it for the three weeks before it, ever since we talked about potentially doing it-- and then to have it go through and to see the reactions on their faces, smiles, coming to the sideline, seeing the smile on Bill's face and Tom Brady, made that whole season worthwhile to me, just to be a part of it. I mean I got on the field a couple of times and completed a few passes here and there, but it really felt like I was a part of the team by the end of the year and with that dropkick to see their reaction, it made me feel good.
Q: You mentioned all of your critics, was there ever a point to your career when you said 'I've finally proven them wrong?'
DF: If I ever do that, I guess I'll let my guard down and won't work as hard. I think coming back from Canada in '98 and having the year we had in Buffalo and going to the Pro Bowl, if that date in silence [the critics] it never would. I think I came back from Canada with a fresh new outlook and really didn't care what they thought as much. At that point it was all gravy. Honestly, at 35 years old I was ready to retire and decided 'Let's give it a shot-- two more years.' And then two more years became four more years, became six, eight years later. That was my approach, was, 'Let's just go back and have some fun for couple of years and I'll call it quits.' I didn't imagine things we take off the way they did, but I definitely had a different outlook coming back from Canada. Canada put the fun back in football for me no doubt about it.
Q: When did you actually make the final decision?
DF: Actually, I pretty much knew at the end of the season what I wanted to do. Because I felt like I was a little beat up and I did want to get back here to New England and play one last year here and be around and all that. Then I went to Bill and Bill and I talked at the end of the season and I said I really am thinking about calling it quits. Like I said with my knee I was afraid to train hard. Now I'm training as hard as I ever have. I feel good again on it. But at that point, Bill's reaction to me was 'Take your time. At the end of the season is not the time to make those decisions. Just take your time. Let us know what you're thinking and just keep me informed. I'll talk to you again in another month and down the road and you just let me know.' So my approach to potentially retiring was, 'Let's wait and I'll talk with some networks.' I had six different football teams from three different leagues give me calls and also talked with three different networks. Just let the chips fall where they may and see how everything falls and when I have something in hand then we'll make the announcement. There was no need to rush anything.
Q: Was there any desire to go back to Canada and get one last year there?
DF: There is a lot of desire to go back to Canada and play one more year. There's no doubt. I've had to have about 20 people talk me out of that one. [Laughter]. I have said it throughout my career, maybe they do or don't know me, I don't know. But I enjoy the game. I enjoy playing. It's a fact that it's the NFL and it's so many people watching and it's on the big stage or the CFL, that doesn't bother me. It could be in the backyard as far as I'm concerned. I have a lot of friends up in Canada. It really would have been an enjoyable way for me to go out. The problem there for me was, 'Can I play an 18 game season and do the things that I would need to do to win for 18 weeks and then go into the playoffs and all of that?' Because I don't know what my average was, but I probably averaged four or five-hundred yards rushing every year up there. That's part of that game as a quarterback. I would really have to be 100 percent healthy to take that on and so that's kind of what held me back.
Q: Why broadcasting and why college football?
DF: Broadcasting is a great way for me to stay around the game and be a part of football still. It's something that I have done off and on in the past. College football seems to be the better fit for me. I enjoy the game. The college game, there is an affiliation with myself and the college game, whether it's from back in the Heisman days or the Miami pass and all of that is how people seem to view me. I just know that I enjoy the college game more right now. I don't know. The pageantry of it, whatever it is. There's a lot of cynicism in the NFL and surrounding it and I don't want to have to be one of those guys who is always looking for the negative and ripping people to make a name for myself in the media. I want to be able to just relax and enjoy doing the games and enjoy the young kids coming up and the freshness of it. So college football is a better fit for me I believe.
Q: You've done that before right?
DF: Yes, I did it my first year out of school. It was after I played in the USFL, the following fall I worked for ABC. I've done some games off and on for CBS.
Q: Can you spell out what made the Canadian game so much fun?
DF: The Canadian game, just put it this way: I was calling my own plays, running my own offense, putting in everything. In the NFL, I have a radio and a helmet and being told what to do, when to do it and how to do it. It's the structure so much of the NFL game that takes a lot of the fun out of it. Right or wrong, that's just the way this game has gone. If the radio went down in the helmet, it would be a mess out on that field right now. With the amount of information that gets fed to the quarterback on any individual play, it's very difficult. There are signal things put into place and all of that for the game, but it would definitely handcuff an offense, no doubt about it.
Q: What condition is this team in as you leave it?
DF: I don't need to comment on this team. Looking forward I don't know. I don't know. I know that I played with Tom Brady and I thoroughly enjoyed that and it was a great privilege for me to play with the guys in this locker room. I thoroughly enjoyed this year. I have a great deal of respect for all that they have achieved over the last four or five years. I'm not concerned with them moving forward. They'll be just fine.
Q: When Drew Brees became the starter in San Diego, did you start to get the idea that you might not get a shot to be a starting quarterback?
DF: I didn't worry about that and I really didn't care. I loved playing with Drew Brees and having the opportunity to work with Drew and see him develop over his first couple of years there. He got a terrible break at the end of last season, but he has landed on his feet down in New Orleans and I'm anticipating him having a great year this year. Drew and I are very similar personalities. We enjoy competing and playing and I don't care whether it's throwing the ball, rolling the ball, whatever we are doing, we're kind of competing at everything and I loved playing with Drew.
Q: What are you most proud of?
DF: I think, looking back at it, I'm proud of the fact that I've been with my wife for as long as we have and our kids and our family, especially in the lifestyle that the NFL presents a lot of times... and along those lines, it's the longevity and being able to be an athletic quarterback and play this game for 21 years. It's doing something over a long period of time... to look back and say, 'Every time I stepped on the field I gave it everything I had.' There isn't a single time that I'll look back and say, 'I wasn't prepared for that game,' or, 'I didn't quite give it all I had.' That to me is one of the things that I am most proud of, is the fact that when I stepped on the field... I think it was pretty obvious that whatever I had, I was giving it out on the field.
Q: Your high school goes undefeated this year. Your nephew was the quarterback. How thankful were you for the opportunity to be there?
DF: No doubt about it that was a big thrill for me. My daughter is cheerleading on the sideline. My nephew is playing quarterback. He's playing for a state championship. And I was able to be here to see all of that, which 30 years down the road, it's priceless. You can't put a number on that. That's the type of stuff that, you know, I saw my daughter's first soccer goal. I saw her first dance recital and her last one is coming up this weekend. All those things. Just to be around and see the kids and be part of something that actually I was out of the loop with, especially my nephews for I don't know how long. I hadn't seen them play since their Pop Warner days. It meant a lot to me.
Q: If Gerard [Phelan] drops the ball, what would that have changed?
DF: That would just make it the drop kick.
I honestly don't think it changes a lot. I think the Hesiman voting was -that was something that always irritated me over the years- people thought I won the Heisman because of the pass in Miami when basically the voting was in before that game ever happened. The contract with Donald Trump probably still would have happened and then you move forward. I think there might have been a little less fanfare, and maybe I could have had a normal career [whereas] everywhere I went it seemed like they wanted to throw you in right away and you had to perform right now or... there was going to be a decision made on my career with every game I played, where young kids come in as quarterbacks [now]... although, the game is different now. They have all this offseason stuff and the kids are way ahead of where we were coming in our first year or two... but it just felt like I couldn't just become a backup, take a few years to develop and then become a starter somewhere. That wasn't going to happen with my career.
Q: Is there one play in your career from Canada that jumps out to you that one ever talks about?
DF: The one moment that really defined my career in Canada, we were playing in what would be an AFC or NFC Championship Game. It was the Western Final to go to the Grey Cup against Edmonton and we got the ball back with 1:16 to go and needed to go 80-something yards. We put a drive together, we hit a couple of big plays to Allen Pitts and I wound up running the ball in for the touchdown with maybe eight seconds left. Then we kicked the extra point to take the lead and win that game and go onto our first championship. That was the game, and I've said a lot, I've been asked about that kind of scenario, that is the game that kind of got me over the hump up there. I won my first championship and my first ring. I was as proud of that as anything I've accomplished in the NFL or my college career.
Q: Describe your feelings for the NFL now.
DF: I'm just very thankful. When I think of the NFL, to me, I'm very thankful it's given me the opportunity to have security for my family for the rest of my life. It's given me the great thrills and being a part of it, it's not a right to play professional football. It's a privilege. Especially in the NFL. To have the opportunity to come back and play, A.J. Smith and John Butler, giving me the opportunity in Buffalo and that kind of created these last eight years for me.
Q: Are there some aspects of it that you hold in contempt or at least disdain?
DF: No, not disdain at all. I just kind of roll my eyes once in a while wishing the game could be more fun. It's such a grind, the season. We're in here 6:15 in the morning working out. Seven o'clock meetings, meetings through the afternoon, every day and as a quarterback there are no days off. It's just a grind and it's a lot of work and I wish the game could be fun again somehow. It's fun on Sunday. It's always fun on Sunday, but the workweek is a lot of work. That's just the nature of the game.
Q: Is it a grind because you are no longer a starter?
DF: You ask any starter, and it's a grind for them too. It's more of a grind for them because they have the weight of the world on their shoulders as well. That's part of what makes the NFL starting quarterback so great, is the ability to handle that grind, to handle that pressure and be consistent week in and week out. It takes a special person.
Q: You've watched guys like Michael Vick and Donovan McNabb come into the league. Did you ever think to yourself, 'I was kind of ahead of my time,' with you being a mobile quarterback?
DF: I kind of feel that a little bit. I think back to when I got my opportunity. I think that's the reason I got my opportunity to come back to the NFL in 1998, was the success of Kordell Stewart or Randall Cunningham, guys that were the mobile guys that started to have some success with all the blitz-zones that came into play, which created some havoc for the stationary quarterback. I think that kind of opened up that door back up for me a little bit.
Q: Was there ever a coaching system that you looked at from outside the NFL and said, 'Boy that is where I could really flourish?'
DF: I don't know. I don't know if there is a specific system. I know the things that we did in Canada that I always leaned on in pressure situations. I think the difference was that by calling my own plays for those years, I knew what to stay away from and I knew what I did well. I knew what I struggled with. I knew what I did well and I only called plays that were easy for me. It made the game seem a lot easier. In the NFL systems, in San Diego, we'd drop back, we threw the ball down the field. I loved that system. I loved the system we had in San Diego. I loved the system we had a Buffalo. Buffalo was a five-step drop, get the ball out of your hand, more of a West Coast style. And it was five and the ball was out. San Diego, we held the ball a little bit longer, put the ball up and down the field, although we did have a lot of quick rhythm stuff. Then here, I felt like we held the ball more than any other team that I [was on]. We did a lot of double moves and let guys work to get open and things of that nature that Tom does extremely well. I think for me it was more difficult, honestly. It was a little more difficult for me to stand in their, hang onto the ball, let a guy work [to get] open because for me, now the rush is getting closer and it starts to look like a wall. Whereas, when I hit that back foot, I want the ball to be gone, whether it's five or seven steps, I don't care. If it's an 18 or 25-yard route, I don't care. But, I want it to be something a little more timing oriented and that was always easier for me and a lot of that had to do with vision.
Q: With all the offenses that you've been in and all you've seen, and like you said, more mobile quarterbacks, it seems as if the coaches are struggling how to get these guys to be the best that they can be.
DF: It's a tough battle. I said to my buddy David Archer who is a quarterback in the CFL and does radio for Atlanta. David was asking me my take on Michael Vick and why he started struggling again. I said, 'The problem is, is he's learning the offense.' When I first went to Buffalo, and I was making plays left and right because it was not necessarily just one and done, but it was an area read and done. It's like now you get a little later in that offense, a couple of years into it and it's, 'Okay, hit the check down.' Okay, if Michael Vick hits to check down it's a 3-yard gain, if he hits them. Actually check downs are tough throws for guys our height because you're going around people. You're trying to get it from me to you with somebody between us. So, instead of hitting the swing or the check down for three or four yards, Michael Vick, in year one, takes off and makes a big play or scrambles and gets five to 10 yards, or pulls up and hits somebody on the move. And what happens is, there is a learning curve, and as you learn the offense... I think first these guys that are really good athletes are going to start to regress the better they get within their progression reads but then they will turn it back up on the upswing at some point. They have great athleticism. They need to be able to make plays and just be athletes at times and what happens is when you become so structured, if you're fighting to please everybody and to try to show that you can do this, and I went through a lot of that in my career. I felt that in Buffalo...
Q: When will you design your own offense?
DF: Probably never. I've seen the coaching job and I don't like it.
I've seen the hours Bill Belichick puts in and coaches across the league. It's just who can stay in office longer and work harder and longer. Like I said, it's not a lot of fun at times.
Q: Would you consult for those guys if they asked you to? Maybe at BC?
DF: Maybe at BC I would so something like that, but I'd be more apt to swing by the high school and coach the high school kids. That's more of my style. I'd swing by. Coach [Tom] Lamb is still over at Natick High. I love being around the younger kids and teaching them and seeing them progress and have it in an atmosphere where you really can see the difference you make in the kids.
Q: Where does Jack Bicknell fit into the picture?
DF: Jack is number one on the list. I thought about that as soon as I finished talking, that I had left Jack and the College years out. Jack Bicknell gave me the opportunity to succeed. He was the one guy...Tom Coughlin was the technician behind it that was coaching me and teaching me. I've learned more football from Tom Coughlin than any other football coach than I ever played for. It was at a time in my life where I was learning the x's and o's of the game and Jack Bicknell on game day was the guy that could take you under his wing, make you relax and let you just have fun. I'd throw an interception or throw a ball into the ground and he'd have a smile on his face and put his arm around you and just kind of say, 'Oh, what the heck was that?' He made it very easy to put bad things behind you and move forward. Those were fun years, playing for Jack Bicknell. I can picture him. I threw a ball down the middle of the field and the receiver didn't go up for the ball because he was afraid to get hit and I turned around and looked over my shoulder and Jack Bicknell just laid down on his back, on the football field, and looked up at the sky and just said, 'I don't want to watch anymore. I don't want to see anymore.' He was the same guy that when we were 1-4 my freshman year, we just got killed by North Carolina, West Virginia and Penn State. He walked into the room and started to lose it and he kicks the projector over. The emotions are always there for all coaches, but Jack Bicknell had the ability to keep his players loose and relaxed. A guy named Don Matthews in Toronto was the same way. Don was the best at that, at keeping his players loose and relaxed. That's when I think guys play their best.
Q: In the history of Boston sports, where do you fit? Where do you want to be remembered?
DF: It's not for me to say where I fit. I just know that I'm lucky to be in this area and lucky to be around such a sports crazy city and the way the people react at the Red Sox games. I'm still like a little kid. When I was 12 years old, all the kids in the neighborhood, 13 years old, we'd jump on the T, head into Fenway, six bucks for a bleacher seat and we were there for batting practice. I'm 43 years old and if I'm going to a game, I'm there for batting practice. That's just the way it is. It's a fun atmosphere in this community and I'm just glad to be a part of it.
Q: Do you have an idea of how much you are going to be able to watch your nephew play at Boston College with your new job?
DF: Probably not very much. Probably not very much. If his career does take off at BC, I may quit and just go watch him play football.
I don't know. I'll deal with it year by year, week by week. His younger brother Brett is going to be coming up to high school next year and I'll probably be missing a lot of those games too. It is fun for me to be around this area and be able to watch all of them play.
Q: How did Tom Brady welcome you in?
DF: Tom was great because during the offseason he and I talked a lot even before I signed and he was 100 percent behind it and wanted me to be a part of that. When I came in, he was just thankful to have a guy there that he felt that he could depend on and also who could kick some information back and forth and talk football in the meetings pretty good. I really had a great amount of respect for Tom Brady before I came here and it's tripled since I've been here. There's no doubt. He is amazing.
Q: Are you going to spend any additional time with your foundation?
DF: I'm going to have plenty of time now during the offseason to do that. Our next event is this weekend. We have the Road Race out at Lookout Farm in Natick. We have a golf tournament coming up on June 27. So, we're going to have a busy schedule with that as well like we always do.
More on Flutie's retirement can be found at the team's official site Patriots.com or on the PI message boards