They say you can never come home again, but Doug Flutie is about to do it for the second time.
The Patriots signed the 42-year-old veteran quarterback to a one-year contract Friday, thus adding a veteran presence to the backup spot behind Tom Brady. It marks the second stint with the Patriots for the Natick native and former Heisman Trophy winner out of Boston College.
"We are pleased with the signing of Doug Flutie," Head Coach Bill Belichick said in the team's release announcing the move. "He brings us additional veteran experience and depth at the quarterback position."
Flutie's arrival gives the Patriots much-needed game experience at a position that had virtually none prior to the move. The group of Rohan Davey, Chris Redman and rookie seventh-round pick Matt Cassel has a combined six regular season starts – all for Redman, and he didn't play at all last year while rehabbing from shoulder surgery.
"I'm very excited about being back in New England," Flutie said via conference call late Friday afternoon. "I'm happy to have the opportunity to fill a role they seem to be in need of. Last year they had Jim Miller as a veteran quarterback, and they definitely were in search of one this year. Hopefully I can fulfill that role."
It appeared as if the veteran would be filling that role elsewhere. He reported that four other teams were interested in his services, and as late as Friday morning it appeared all but certain the New York Giants would sign him. Flutie played three seasons at BC under the watchful eye of Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who served as the Eagles offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach from 1981-83. He also played four years for Giants offensive coordinator John Hufnagel in Calgary of the CFL when Hufnagel held a similar position for the Stampeders.
Those factors, plus the recent hip surgery New York's scheduled backup Jim Miller underwent, appeared to make the Giants a shoe-in to get him. But Flutie said he and Belichick had ongoing discussions pretty much from the moment he was released by San Diego March 13.
"Bill and I had a professional relationship over the years playing against each other," Flutie said. "He'd tell me after games what a pain in the neck I was to defend and I've always had an admiration for the way he'd defend me. Being at home was important to me and the opportunity to do that outweighed all the other options."
In addition to his NFL options, Flutie seriously contemplated returning to Canada, where he was one of the league's most decorated players ever. The Hamilton Tiger-Cats made him what Flutie referred to as a "very serious offer" and the thought of re-joining his brother, Darren, was tough to pass up. Ultimately he decided the Patriots offer was the only one worthy of taking over playing with his brother.
Flutie hasn't played much over the last three seasons, appearing in just 10 games during that span. But he has 66 career starts in 87 games played with 86 touchdowns against 68 interceptions over 11 NFL seasons. He last started on a regular basis in 2001 for the Chargers. In 16 starts he completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 3,464 yards with 15 touchdowns and 18 interceptions for a Chargers team that finished 5-11.
Since then he's been exclusively Drew Brees' backup, a role he says he's become more comfortable with in the recent past.
"I can't wait to get in there and learn the offense and contribute in any way I can," Flutie said. "I really think my best role is coming off the bench, even though I have had some success as a starter. My best success has been coming off the bench to relieve a guy that's either struggled or got banged up.
"The role I'm filling is that of a veteran quarterback with this team. They felt the need, just like they had last year with Jim, to bring in a guy that's a veteran, and if the situation calls for it and they need to send someone into the game. My role may be in the classroom; that may be my biggest contribution."
Flutie's first go 'round with New England came back in 1987-89. His best success playing for his hometown team came in 1988 when he started nine of the 11 games he participated in, completing 51.4 percent of his throws for 1,150 yards and eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Despite those numbers, the Patriots won six of his nine starts.
Flutie's 11-year career includes stints with Chicago (1986-87), Buffalo (1998-2000) and San Diego (2001-04) in addition to his previous stop in New England. His career began in 1985 with the New Jersey Generals of the USFL, but his greatest professional success came north of the border during his record-setting eight-year run in the CFL.
He played for the B.C. Lions (1990-91), Calgary Stampeders (1992-95) and the Toronto Argonauts (1996-97) in Canada and was part of three Grey Cup winning teams. Flutie was named the league's most outstanding player a record six times and was MVP in all three Grey Cup victories.