Do Quarterbacks Need NFL Experience to Win the Grey Cup?

Do Quarterbacks Need NFL Experience to Win the Grey Cup?
By Nate Hamilton
Fact Checked by Jim Tomlin

The Canadian Football League (CFL) is gearing up for another season in late May 2023. Thanks to the CFL's presence, Ontario sports betting will likely see additional action ahead of the NFL season.

Though the NFL is king, the CFL has plenty of talent in its own right. There have been many CFL quarterbacks to lead their team to a Grey Cup victory. has gathered data using and Grey Cup information on Wikipedia to determine just how much NFL experience plays a role in the success of a CFL quarterback. We looked up the NFL experience of every Grey Cup-winning quarterback since 2000. We removed repeat winners to produce an accurate average of NFL experience among the QBs.

Our definition of “NFL experience” is that quarterbacks needed to be on an active roster or practice squad for a complete season.

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Average NFL Experience Of Grey Cup-Winning QBs

NFL experience should be a massive help for any quarterback to be more successful in the CFL, right? We dive into the statistics to answer that below.

Player NFL Yrs Grey Cups
Ricky Ray 1 4
Anthony Calvillo 0 3
Bo Levi Mitchell 0 2
Zach Collaros 0 2
Henry Burris 2 2
Damon Allen 0 2

As you can see from the table above, there is a grand total of just three years of experience in the NFL among six CFL quarterbacks. Each has won the Grey Cup multiple times.

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Ricky Ray Leads Since 2000 with 4 Grey Cups

Ricky Ray has won the most Grey Cups at quarterback since 2000. With four Grey Cups and just one year of NFL experience, Ricky Ray is leading the narrative that the NFL experience is not the end all, be all to becoming successful in the CFL.  

Ray was undrafted by the NFL after his college days ended in 2000. He had a shot at the San Francisco 49ers roster after attending training camp but did not make the team. In 2004, Ray left the Edmonton Eskimos and signed with the New York Jets. He never saw the field, though he dressed for six games. Ray’s request to be released was granted by the Jets and he returned to the Edmonton Eskimos. 

Though Ray technically has 1 year of the NFL under his belt, he never experienced it in a meaningful game. His experience in the CFL is what led to his success in the league.

Anthony Calvillo’s Achievements More Impressive?

If it wasn’t already clear, NFL experience has little to no impact on the success of CFL quarterbacks. Anthony Calvillo is the perfect example of this. Since 2000, Calvillo has won the second-most Grey Cups (3) and he had no time in the NFL. 

Calvillo had a great career in the CFL. Not only is he the league’s all-time leader in passing yards, but he led all professional football in all-time passing yards from 2011 to 2020. His personal performance led to Grey Cup victories in 2002, 2009, and 2010. Calvillo also won the Most Outstanding Player Award in the CFL in 2003, 2008, and 2009.

Anthony Calvillo retired in 2014 and went on to coach on various levels for the CFL.

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Other CFL QBs With One Grey Cup Since 2000

The following CFL quarterbacks have won one Grey Cup each:

  • McLeod Bethel Thompson (0 years of NFL)
  • Mike Reilly (1 year of NFL)
  • Darian Durant (1 year of NFL)
  • Travis Lulay (1 year of NFL)
  • Marcus Crandell (0 years of NFL)
  • Dave Dickenson (2 years of NFL)
  • Kerry Joseph (5 years of NFL)

The list above includes seven CFL quarterbacks who have each won a Grey Cup. The seven have a combined 10 years of NFL experience. Half of those experience years belong to Kerry Joseph, who has five under his belt and played four seasons in a part-time role with the Seattle Seahawks from 1998 to 2001.

At the end of the day, we’ve broken down 13 different CFL quarterbacks. The total number of NFL experience years among the 13 QBs is 13 years. Six of these quarterbacks have no NFL experience and they have a total of 11 Grey Cups among them. 

To answer the question “Do quarterbacks need NFL experience to win the Grey Cup?” the answer is a resounding no.

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Nate Hamilton
Football Betting Analyst and Fact Checker

Nate Hamilton is a senior football betting analyst for He spends his time immersed in analytics, stats, and betting lines. Nate has been a notable voice in the world of the NFL, and football in general, for over a decade producing valuable content for several leading sports media outlets around the country.

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