September 15, 2020

Top 10 Exclusive : Quarterback Sack Kings

Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle Doug Brown (97) holds back Montreal Alouettes center Luc Brodeur-Jourdain, (58) during 1st half CFL action at Molson Stadium in Montreal Sunday, September 18, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Peter McCabe

The Winnipeg Football Club has 90 years of history to celebrate, dating way back to the days of leather helmets and the Great Depression.

Over that time there have been countless great plays authored by superstar players… and average Joes, too. There have been memorable games featuring iconic moments and, dating back to 1930, this franchise has captured a Grey Cup championship 11 times.

Each week cracks open the record book, dusts off the archives and dives deep into our collective memory banks for our Top 10 Exclusive list.

This week: Top 10 Quarterback Sack Kings

Many of the Blue Bombers’ 11 Grey Cup championships were built on the backbone of a dominating defence, including the 2019 squad that surrendered just 39 points through three playoff games.

Critical to any good defence is the pressure it can generate on an opposition quarterback. And if they can get to him and bring him to the ground before he is able to find a receiver, well, even better.

This week we look at the all-time quarterback sack kings in Bombers history. Worth noting – the CFL didn’t start registering a sack as a statistic until 1981, meaning a lot of the Bombers’ defensive greats from the era before that are not on this list:

  1. Tyrone Jones, 1983-87, 1989-91 – 98 career sacks

We lost Jones much too young, as he died of cancer in 2008 at just 46. A member of both the Canadian Football Hall of Fame and Winnipeg Football Club Hall of Fame, the flamboyant and brash Jones consistently got after the quarterback in his eight years as a Blue Bomber.

He had 17.5 sacks as a rookie in 1983 (back then the CFL used the half-sack total when two players shared a sack) and then 20.5 a year later. He reached double-digit sack totals in six of his eight seasons in Winnipeg – the only two years in which he didn’t, Jones was limited to nine games.

  1. Tony Norman, 1980-86 – 59 career sacks

A three-time West Division All-Star and a member of the WFC Hall of Fame, Norman stood 6-5 and not only used his large wingspan to knock down passes, he often wrapped them around QBs before slamming them to the turf.

  1. Doug Brown, 2001-2011 – 52 career sacks

Jones was a rush-end/linebacker type and Norman was an end. Brown wreaked all of his damage from the defensive tackle position, which makes this total even more impressive. Also a member of the CFHOF and WFC HOF.

  1. Elfrid Payton, 1991-93, 2000, 2004 – 47 quarterback sacks

Nicknamed ‘SWAC’ – he played his college ball at Grambling, in the Southwestern Athletic Conference – Payton did three separate tours with the Bombers. He holds the club record for most sacks in a season with 22, set in 1993, and that year was the East Division’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player. He first left the Bombers after 1993 for the Shreveport Pirates, to be closer to his home in Gretna, Louisiana and twice returned to Winnipeg later in his career.

His 154 career sacks ranks second on the CFL’s all-time list to Grover Covington, who had 157.

  1. Gavin Walls, 2005-09 – 47 quarterback sacks

Walls came to the Bombers in 2005 after a stint with the Scottish Claymores of NFL Europe and made an immediate impact. He had 12 sacks in his first year and was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie. He was traded to Montreal in 2010, but was injured and never did play a game with the Alouettes before retiring.

  1. Michael Gray, 1987-93 – 43 quarterback sacks

The CFL’s top rookie in 1985 while with the B.C. Lions, Gray was selected by the Ottawa Rough Riders in an equalization draft in 1987, but released in June of that year. The Bombers eagerly added him to an already-formidable defence and Gray was a superb fit. Best known for his ‘Immaculate Interception’ late in the 1988 Grey Cup, Gray was inducted into the WFC HOF in 2006.

  1. Tom Canada, 2004-08 – 41 quarterback sacks

He was an instant fan favourite – not just because of his surname, but because he had a joy for life that was infectious. Canada was the Bombers’ Most Outstanding Rookie in 2004, a year in which he had seven sacks and posted a career-best 12 sacks in 2007. He was traded to Hamilton for Zeke Moreno during the 2008 season, but the deal was voided because it was discovered Canada had an enlarged spleen at the time. He was then released in the winter of 2009.

  1. James West, 1985-92 – 37 quarterback sacks

James ‘Wild’ West arrived in Winnipeg in 1985 as an already established star, having been named to the CFL All-Star Team in 1983 as a member of the Calgary Stampeders. He found a home in Winnipeg, and was part of two Grey Cup championship teams in 1988 and 1990. He is another player who is a member of both the CFHOF and WFC HOF.

  1. Stan Mikawos, 1982-96 – 33 quarterback sacks

Mikawos was not only one of the longest-serving Bombers, but one of the most durable and most consistent. Like Doug Brown, Mikawos got after the QB from the defensive tackle position and was an adept run stopper, too. He was inducted into the WFC HOF in 2000.

  1. Paul Randolph, 1988-95 tied with Jamaal Westerman, 2015-17 – 32 quarterback sacks

Randolph, inducted into the WFC HOF in 2002, was a hard-hitting linebacker who quietly got his work done in the shadows of Tyrone Jones, James West and Greg Battle.

Westerman was only a Bomber for three seasons, but they were certainly impactful. In his first season with the club he was named the team’s Most Outstanding Player, Most Outstanding Canadian and Most Outstanding Defensive Player in a year in which he posted 17 of his 32 career sacks.