Flutie retires, to work as analyst for ABC, ESPN

Updated: May 15, 2006, 8:57 PM ET
Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Doug Flutie retired Monday, ending a 21-year career in which the undersized Heisman Trophy winner threw one of college football's most famous passes and played a dozen seasons in the NFL.

Flutie's replacement?
The retirement of Doug Flutie on Monday afternoon left the New England Patriots without a proven veteran backup to starter Tom Brady, and with three young reserves who have thrown a total of only 24 passes in NFL regular-season play.

Don't expect the Patriots to go to training camp, however, with such a hole in the depth chart.

Despite its strong feelings about the potential of second-year veteran Matt Cassel, the 2005 seventh-round choice who appeared in two games as a rookie, the New England personnel staff almost certainly will more closely scrutinize now the meager list of veteran quarterbacks still looking for jobs. Given the hints during this offseason that Flutie was considering retirement, and the thoroughness of the New England scouting department, it would be surprising if that process wasn't already under way.

Coach Bill Belichick historically has preferred to have a veteran on the roster for insurance. Before Flutie in 2005, it was Jim Miller who filled the security-blanket role in 2004. Before him, it was Damon Huard.

Brady has started 78 straight regular-season games since replacing the then-injured Drew Bledsoe for the third game of the 2001 season, and leading New England to three Super Bowl victories. During the streak, Brady has also started 11 playoff contests.

Among the veteran quarterbacks still available: Tony Banks, Jeff Blake, Kerry Collins, Ty Detmer, Jay Fiedler, Craig Krenzel, Tommy Maddox and Shane Matthews. The Pats staff might be most familiar with Jay Fiedler, from his tenure with the Miami Dolphins, and his previous starts against New England. The 10-year veteran is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery that cut short his 2005 season with the New York Jets, but is expected to be able to work out soon for teams interested in him.

Cassel, who turns 24 on Wednesday, played at Southern California, where he was a backup to Heisman Trophy winners Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart before being chosen with the 230th overall selection in the 2005 draft. He appeared in two games last season, against San Diego and Miami, and completed 13 of 24 passes for 183 yards, with two touchdown passes and one interception. His 24 pass attempts were actually 14 more than Flutie logged.

The only other quarterbacks on the roster are undrafted free agents Corey Bramlet of Wyoming and Todd Mortensen of San Diego State.

-- Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com senior writer

"It's just been a fun run for me," the 43-year-old Flutie said.

Flutie finished his career with one season with the New England Patriots, for whom he threw 10 passes in five games but was able to play near his home in Natick and close to Boston College, where he won the Heisman in 1984.

"To finish it up by getting back here is very special," he said at a news conference at Gillette Stadium, home of the Patriots.

Flutie's next job will be as a college football analyst with ABC and ESPN. He'll work in the ABC studio during Saturday's college football games and on ESPN studio shows, and might be an analyst at some games.

Flutie spent 12 seasons in the NFL and played in the U.S. Football League and the Canadian Football League. He won the CFL's Most Outstanding Player award six times and the league's Grey Cup championship three times.

The Patriots listed him at 5-feet-10, but he said Monday he actually was one-eighth of an inch shorter.

"Like some of us," said Robert Kraft, the Patriots diminutive owner, "he was vertically challenged and he never let it slow him down."

Flutie finishes with 14,715 passing yards and 86 touchdowns in the NFL, spending most of his time as a backup. Last season, he converted the league's first drop kick for an extra point since the 1941 NFL title game.

"If that ends up being my last play, it wouldn't be bad," Flutie said after the game, a mostly meaningless regular season-ending loss to the Miami Dolphins.

His college career was also punctuated by a play that endures as one of the most memorable in the sport. He won the 1984 Heisman after connecting with Gerard Phelan on a desperation 48-yard touchdown pass that beat Miami as time expired.

But Flutie started only six games in the last four seasons, the first three with San Diego.

"If he knew he was going out there to play and start, he would not retire. It would be an easy choice for him," Phelan said Monday, but "Sundays are frustrating."

Flutie left BC as the school's passing leader with 10,579 yards, and he remains a hero on campus; his Heisman is the centerpiece of the school's new Hall of Fame. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in the 11th round in 1985 but chose to play for the USFL's New Jersey Generals, owned by Donald Trump.

He then joined the NFL, but his freewheeling style and short stature were a poor fit for its conservative schemes. He played five games for Chicago the next two seasons and 17 for New England from 1987-89.

Doug Flutie, Bill Belichick
AP Photo/Steven SenneDoug Flutie made his mark as a kicker in his final season, thanks to coach Bill Belichick.

Only in the CFL, with its wide-open game, did he truly find success, throwing for 41,355 yards and 270 touchdowns in eight seasons with British Columbia, Calgary and Toronto.

"His accomplishments up there are more than legendary," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Monday.

He joined Buffalo in 1998 and played more regularly -- 39 games over three years. He started all 16 games for San Diego in 2001 then spent the next three years as backup to Drew Brees.

Last April, Flutie signed with the Patriots for a second time.

He made his biggest splash with his drop kick.

"I think Doug deserves it,'' Belichick said after the game," sensing that the play would be Flutie's football finale. "He is a guy that adds a lot to this game of football, has added a lot through his great career -- running, passing and now kicking."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press