CFL toying with rule changes to increase scoring

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CFL toying with rule changes to increase scoring

[b]Former CFL commissioner Mark Cohon wasn’t kidding when he said last November the league would look at ways to increase scoring in the off-season.

Several sources have told QMI Agency in recent weeks the CFL is toying with a handful of new rules, most of which would lead to more points being put on the board. Most of the proposals, which the competition committee will discuss and vote on next week in Toronto before the CFL combine, involve special teams.

Even if new rules are passed next week, the CFL’s board of governors would still have to approve them in April or May. That has some coaches worried that so many big changes would be happening too close to the start of the season.

There’s no arguing that many games last season were an offensive bore, with total points per game going from 52.4 to 45.5 and offensive points dropping from 48.7 to 37.7 from the year before. There have been several theories as to why this happened, from a rash of quarterback injuries to Canadian talent being spread too thin due to the addition of the expansion Ottawa RedBlacks.

It appears the CFL isn’t going to wait to see if last season was an anomaly, because there are some significant rule changes being bandied about.

The most intriguing one appears to involve the punting facet of the game. There has been endless debate about the five-yard halo that surrounds returners and leads to a glut of no-yards penalties, and there apparently was talk this off-season about getting rid of it. Instead, a proposal expected to be discussed next week will call for the punt team to remain behind the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. That would give the accepting team a little more time to set up a return.

It also looks like the league will try to entice its teams to go for a two-point convert more often than not. The competition committee will discuss moving the point after attempt back, possibly as far as the 25-yard line, which would make it a 32-yard attempt. Meanwhile, the two-point convert line of scrimmage would be moved up two yards to the three-yard line.

Another source said the league is looking at instituting a 30-second play clock that will begin as soon as the ball is spotted on the line of scrimmage instead of when the referee signals for it to start. That would likely make the CFL game a little more speedy than it already is. Good news for offences. Bad news for defences.

There is also talk the league will look at allowing called or potential offensive pass interference to be reviewable as well next season. Currently only defensive pass interference can be challenged by coaches.


The CFL confirmed Thursday its draft will be held May 12, which had long been rumoured as the big day anyway.

It’s good news for CFL teams, which will have more time to determine if Canadians hoping to get to the NFL have a legitimate shot at making a roster down south. Since the NFL moved its draft up a week this year to have it conclude on May 2, it means there will be 10 days between the NFL’s and CFL’s. Last year the gap was only three days.

NFL teams sign a barrage of free agents in the days after its draft, and that often includes Canadian players who are eligible for the CFL. Not only will CFL teams know who signs south of the border, but those players might also take part in mini-camps — and maybe even get released — before the CFL makes its picks.

CFL teams also can usually find out how much guaranteed money a player receives from an NFL team, which is a good indicator of their chances of sticking around until training camp in July.


Speaking of the draft, it appears the rich will only get richer on May 12.

The two Grey Cup finalists from last year, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders, have the most picks in what many are calling the deepest draft in years. The Tabbies lead the way with nine selections in the seven-round draft, while the defending Grey Cup-champion Stamps are next with eight.

What makes Calgary’s draft look even better is the fact it has five picks among the first 27. The Stampeders are already the cream of the CFL crop when it comes to Canadian talent, and it should only get better on draft day if not through picks, but trades as well.[/b]

The extra point proposal seems a bit bizarre to me.

The punt rule might work - eliminating a lot of those intentional no yard calls especially on bouncing balls where there was only a five yard penalty. A punt returner should have some room still after fielding the ball after a couple of bounces even.

The 30 second clock from the time the ball is placed at the line of scrimmage? Is that actually speeding the game up? Would the referee normally wait more than ten seconds after the ball was placed before blowing the whistle to start the 20 second clock? I'm not sure about that. I would have to watch some videos from previous games to see how long after the ball is placed before the ref blows the play in to see if that is actually speeding the game up. The NFL uses 40 seconds from the end of the previous play, maybe the CFL should do something like that perhaps with 35 seconds if they wanted to speed things up.

While I support the idea of making kicked converts more difficult, I don’t like the different line of scrimmage for one and two point converts. What if a team wanted to fake kicking the convert and go for two points? Would they need to make a 25 yard play to get it into the end zone? And would that still only be worth two points, or would team get more points for the more difficult play?

Restricting the coverage team from crossing the line of scrimmage until the ball is punted would pretty much eliminate fake punts. And it would also be the final nail in the coffin for the quick kick, making it illegal unless all receivers stay behind the line of scrimmage for a few seconds after the snap, which would tip off the defence. So much for the element of surprise.

Not sure about the thirty second play clock, although I suspect it would work out.

Fully in favour of being able to challenge offensive PI. Hopefully they also allow the review official to rule either way, no matter which team threw the challenge flag and why. For example, the call on the field is no penalty on an incomplete pass. The offence challenges, saying there was contact, looking for a defensive. The review official determines that there is indeed contact, but it was actually initiated by the receiver, and overturns the on-field no-call, penalizing the offence on their own challenge.

Now if they could just replace the review official with someone actually willing to overturn the on-field PI calls and no-calls…

Good point about fake punts and quick kicks. Always exciting when someone tries those plays, even if it's rare.

As for the 30 second play clock ... it's hard to see how that would increase scoring. Unless I'm missing something, this would result in fewer offensive plays each game. Plays might be closer together, but more time would run off the clock in situations where the clock keeps running. (Maximum of 30 seconds, instead of maximum of 20 seconds.)

As far as the punting, please no. It would ruin fake kicks and make onside punts next to impossible. How about instead, loosen blocking rules on kicks, like while the ball in in the air during a kick or how long a receiver can jam at the line on a kick.

As far as the convert, leave it alone. The Overtime rule is enough on the convert.

Don't mind the 30 second play clock on bit. Anything that forces players to undergo a bit more cardio and a bit less raw explosive strength will help reduce concussions, speed up play and I would assume lead to more exhausted lineman which I would think favours QBs and offence.

As far as PI review, I fully believe any call should be reviewable but you only get a max of three challenges. So yeah, no problem there.

If they want to increase scoring, what they should do is stop letting DBs mug receivers downfield before the ball is even thrown.

Or at least stop letting Montreal do it.

Or maybe loosen up the no yards rule so a player inside the five yards is only penalized if he is making a play on the returner, or is affecting the returner's options. If he backs away or runs past the returner without causing the returner to stop, then no penalty. Unfortunately, this would introduce another judgement call for the officials, but better that than a flag on every punt.

Totally agree, although there would have to be a penalty for frivolous challenges used to get an extra or extra-long timeout, e.g. challenging the spot of the ball after a two yard run on first down.

:lol: Suuuuuure, and Hamilton's DBs never play aggressive man press. You have fun in your homer world.

If they really want to increase scoring, they should do two things:

  • Mandate a minimum number of national starters on defense – let’s say, at least 2.
  • Change one of the DI spots to be only offensive – currently teams are using the extra spot to dress an extra D-lineman to keep the rotation fresh
  • Reduce the number of national starters from 7 to 6

Works for me, considering that the Cats already have 3 Cdn starters on the "D" with Laurent-dt,Stephen-cb and Butler-s not to mention a potential 4th starter at the other tackle position with Bulcke and Gaydosh in the mix. As for reducing the number from 7 to 6 Cdn starters the Cats have enough Cdn depth to potentially have as many as 8 or 9 national starters this season. :smiley:

Or let teams decide how many nationals/international can play. If a team wants to have 20 Canadians, let them.
I doubt that will happen, but a reduction in Canadian starters by 2 and increase in internationals by 2 would make sense.

Glad to see that the CFL has recognized that there was a problem last year. Let's hope they don't bring in more rule changes that involve more reviews, more penalties. I noticed last year when attending a couple of games that the game has slowed down a lot, too many breaks for TV ads, too many penalties, offsides etc. It's hard for the fans to get involved when there are no sustained drives because of all the stoppages.

I think that one of the problems is too many refs on the field and they are calling everything. Why throw a flag and call a penalty when the infraction had no bearing on the play? Why wipe out a great run with a holding penalty when the hold was on the other side of the field? why wipe out a punt return when a hold or illegal bloc has no bearing on the play?
why wipe out a passing play when there is holding or interference somewhere else on the field?

As I mentioned previously (possibly on the CFL forum?), mandating a certain number of national starters on one side of the ball could have the undesired effect or eliminating the national "skills" players on the other side. But I do like the idea of limiting the number DIs on each side. I don't see a huge downside to that, as long as the two numbers add up to more than the total number of DIs so a player like Erik Harris wouldn't be prevented from playing both sides on occasion. (That could probably be gotten around by making one the actual starters the DI instead of Harris even though Harris isn't starting. Brain hurt yet?)

I have stated my objection to reducing the number of national starters in the Pros and Cons thread, but basically I feel that any reduction could eliminate the national "skills" players from the game for pretty much the same reason as forcing teams to play a certain number of nationals on defence. Just my opinion, explained more fully in the other thread.

Anything that improves the game overall and increases the opportunities to score more points I’m in favour of as most fans are but first make sure that every Ref is on the same playing field.

The inconsistency in calls by the referees has been crazy over the last five to ten years, you have to wonder if all Ref’s are reading from the same rules book?

Maybe the new Commissioner should start by sending all CFL Refs to a two week camp training school, prior to each season to make sure everyone is on the same page with rules, changes, updates, safety and so on.

Last year it sounded like the CFL would come down hard on concussions at the start of year but the Tiger-Cats had three players knocked out with concussions before the mid way point of the season and with no penalty infraction and no responce from the league until after the fact in the case of the Odell Willis hit on Zach Collaro’s.

Way to go D&P, now you’ve done it!

How long before Seymour chimes in on the ratio again and again and again. :wink:

I think that the no yards penalty should be 15 yards whether or not the ball hits the ground. To me the cover team ignores the no yards zone (intentionally) when they see the ball hit the ground because they know the penalty will only be 5 yards. If they knew it would be 15 yards they would be less likely to ignore the zone. A modification to this rule could be that if the ball hits the ground and there are already cover players in the zone, as long as they make an attempt to exit the zone the penalty would be 5 yards. They cannot make a play on the returner without incurring a 15 yarder. I think this would be fair. :slight_smile:

Not sure I follow you there Mike with your last point. Are you saying that if defenders are backing away - but within five yards - that they can't make the play on the receiver at all. What if the receiver does a few bobs and weaves - are the guys within 5 yards originally at some point then allowed to proceed to make a tackle with only a five yard penalty because they were deemed to be backing away at first? That would make for some tough judgement calls I think.

I think five yards is too little so maybe 10 yards on balls that have hit the ground and 15 on in the air?

I know, I know, what was I thinking? :lol:

I don't have seymour's absurd, unrelenting hatred towards the ratio. I just feel that with the expansion to nine teams, talent is being diluted a bit. So going to 6 starters would help each team start more quality nationals and fewer decoys.

Not long...

Oh yes... lets force teams to put weaker players on the field on defense so the even weaker offenses can maybe score a few more points! Addition by subtraction... it's the CFL way.
When are you guys going to realize that this league will never reach its full entertainment potential unless and until the best available players, regardless of passport, are allowed on the field at all times, PERIOD?

I'm in ... at least it's a start!

Two years ago there were 52.4 points a game and traditionally, the CFL has been a high scoring league, but let's blame the rules the we've been playing with for the past 80 years for last year's low scoring. :roll:

All of these ideas are terrible. They are beyond minor adjustments to improve offence, they each create far reaching residual effects on other aspects of the game. I'll go through them in order:

No Yards
The 5-yard halo was never put in to increase scoring, its there for player safety. Its the higher-scoring alternative to the fair catch/downing rule. In a perfect world, there would be no fair catch, no downing, and no 5 yard halo, but these are necessary evils that prevent people from dying on the football field.
Not allowing coverage to run down field until the ball is kicked would reduce the need for the rule, but it doesn't remove it. What about a punt against the wind or a shanked kick? One day you'll have a short kick and someone will get levelled at point blank completely within the rules. Some sort of protection for the returner needs to remain.

Then, as others have mentioned, you remove possibilities for onside punts, you remove possibilities for fakes. You would also end up with less blocked punts as guys would always stay back to block.

And my final point here is important. Is ANYBODY complaining about low scoring on special teams? Special teams is one area of the game that was definitely not responsible for last years low scoring. If anything we're seeing too much of it. Putting more emphasis on special teams is a band-aid to the problem and as exciting as punt returns can be, I want to see games decided by plays from scrimmage, for the most part.

I hate creating this artificial separation between plays. The offence now needs to declare what they're doing up front and you need two different rule sets for each choice.
What about fakes? What about blocked kicks and bad snaps? Now you've gotta run 20 yards to get the ball in? What happens if a 1 point convert is blocked and the defence runs it back? Do they still get two points or just one?
Another difference, which I admit may be kind of cool, the defence might think about returning a missed field goal attempt in a close game.

I'm fine with converts as they are but if people are so desperate to make converts more difficult, I do have a radical idea:
Put the ball on the 23 yard line. Field goal is worth 1, getting the ball past the 20 is worth 2, end zone is out of bounds. Exact same situation as they wanted, but you end up with one natural football play.
Only differences are that the defence will have less distance to cover returning a convert and the offence won't have the goal posts in their way going for two.

30-second play clock
This is the worst idea of the bunch. Has anybody considered the consequences of this? There are so many massive, far reaching effects that this would have on the game. Any change needs to be thought about very carefully.

  1. It will increase the number of plays and make games take much longer. A lot of people don't realize that the game clock keeps running, even before the referee has blown the play in (if its not in the last 3 minutes of a half). On average in the CFL there are about 40-45 seconds between plays. There is actually more time wasted on the game clock on average between plays in the CFL than in the NFL.
    This rule change would mean more plays in a game, and therefore more scoring, I'm not against that, but a lot of those extra plays would be incomplete passes, more plays would mean longer games. People are already complaining that the games take too long.

  2. If a team is down on the scoreboard without much time left and they get tackled in-bounds. With the game clock starting immediately, you'll end up like the NFL, where the offence is standing around watching the game clock run down while the referees try to re-spot the ball as quickly as they can. I hate that.
    Offences will end up burning time outs just the prevent this waste.

  3. Currently in the CFL, because the game clock doesn't start until the play is whistled in during the final 3 minutes, teams can continue to run whatever plays they want to get them the necessary yards. There's not as much need to restrict the playbook in the final minute as there is in the NFL. However, number 2 above would also mean more emphasis on calling plays late in the game that keep the game clock stopped. Out passes to the sideline, that sort of thing. And guess what? That leads to less scoring!

  4. You can now waste 30 seconds in the last 3 minutes. No longer will the CFL be the league where anything can happen in the final minute. Teams will not be able to punt while down on the scoreboard with under 2 minutes left. Games will be more similar to the NFL, where the winner is determined by who burned the least timeouts. :roll:

Anyway. I remember a rumour last year that the NBA was considering 4 point shots. The commish came out and said sure it was discussed, but they're always discussing what-ifs, and that the idea was like many others, something someone blurbed in a meeting but isn't under serious discussion. Hope that's the case with these ones.

Excellent point and I agree completely.