Durability most important stat

PERRY LEFKO -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

He obvious numbers only partially reveal the success of Anthony Calvillo.

Heading into tonight's game at the SkyDome against the Argos, the Montreal Alouettes' quarterback has a chance to become only the fifth player in Canadian Football League history to throw for 6,000 yards. He needs 313 yards to reach that mark, and you can be sure he and his head coach Don Matthews will do everything possible to make that happen.

SILENCE CRITICS

This is the Als' last game before playing host to either Toronto or Hamilton in the Eastern final on Nov. 14, so it's incumbent upon Montreal to finish off strongly and, in the process, make a statement. They rebounded from three consecutive losses to win their last game emphatically and silence critics, naysayers, nitpickers and media evil-doers.

But back to Calvillo. This will be his 18th start of the season, the fifth consecutive year he has done that.

And that is really the most relevant stat of all.

For any team to have success, it must have continuity at the quarterback position, as the Argos can readily attest. Since the departure of Doug Flutie after the 1997 season, the Argos have not had one player consistently play the quarterback position, either because of injury and/or inconsistency, combined with changes in football operations.

When Matthews took over as the Als' head coach in 2002, he declared Calvillo as his undisputed starter and allowed him the luxury of calling his own plays.

Few would have thought early in Calvillo's career he would have been in such a position.

He made it as a starter with the now-defunct Las Vegas Posse as a rookie in 1994 and continued that role with Hamilton in 1995. But following the 1997 season, Calvillo looked hopelessly lost mechanically.

Searching for a quarterback to replace Flutie following his departure to the National Football League, Matthews had little interest in Calvillo, who signed as a free agent in Montreal, principally to back up Tracy Ham. Matthews signed a proven veteran, which is part of his managerial style, in Kerwin Bell, and proclaimed the quarterback would throw 40 touchdowns and 5,000 yards.

The plan backfired when Bell suffered a hand injury in pre-season and Matthews was forced to struggle with rookie Jay Barker.

Calvillo, meanwhile, gradually improved his game to the point he came of age as a quarterback when Matthews began his Montreal stint.

Matthews, for the most part, has employed a wide-open passing attack in Montreal -- certainly since the departure of running back Mike Pringle after the 2002 season.

In their last game, the Als became the first team in CFL history to have four players with 1,000 receiving yards each in a single season.

That is a testament to coaching, recruiting and, most important, pass protection -- and that shouldn't be overlooked because it's another key facet in Matthews' blueprint for success.

But none of that would matter if Calvillo didn't have the ability to make plays.

MAKES PLAYS

He is not the flashiest player at his position and he doesn't gun his passes or throw perfect spirals, but he gets the job done. And on the occasions when the pass isn't there, he moves the chains well with his feet.

While he has taken some physical shots, he has overcome the aches and pains and started every game.Edmonton's Jason Maas is the only quarterback this season to start in all 18 of his team's regular-season games.

Calvillo will equal that tonight. And that's the key stat of all.


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