This post intrigued me, so if you would not mind me taking a stab here.
For some background, I am a football strategy fanatic. I also love the history. Walter Camp is probably my favorite player of all time. I also know a bit about Rugby (15s and 7s), and Aussie Football. I enjoy the NFL and I enjoy the CFL. I can’t say I prefer one method of play over the other, they each are…different.
So what you are talking here, is a complete hypothetical and pretty much the invention of a new sport, or new offshoot. That can be fun food for thought. Keep that in mind when I describe what I would likely do. I know what my choices are would not appeal to everyone and is a pretty radical change. This version of the game is all about field position.
Field Size - American length, Canadian width and end zones. 12 players a side.
Play Clock- 10 or 15 second play clock, during which the game clock only runs during the play. There would be a 2 minute break (for TV commercials and strategies) before each drive. The game would be played over two 15 minute halves. Stay with me a little bit here.
I am an NFL Sunday ticket subscriber. Every Monday I get the alert that shortened games are available and I can go in and can watch every snap from an NFL game in 30 minutes. Literally you see all the plays, it only takes 30 minutes. Pretty much 90% of the game the video cuts from shortly after the tackle, until a second before the snap, but they even have time for a couple replays and such. So the entire action is about 25 minutes.
The ultra fast play clock means a drive strategy would have to be formed before the drive and you would have no time for substitutions. More on substitutions and team count later
Kicking Rules- Mostly Canadian. No Kickoffs. An offense would start a drive on their own 35. 5 yard halo only before the ball hits the ground. Once on the ground, if an offside member of the kicking team touched the ball, it would be illegal touching, granting the ‘receiving’ team a free down play from scrimmage. Any kick that goes out of bounds would result in the ball being marked at the point it went out of bounds, then moved 5 yards as a penalty to the kicking team, and then the receiving team would get a down free play from scrimmage.
Remove place kicking entirely. Everything would be a drop kick or a punt. A drop kick through the uprights is 3 points as normal.
The Rouge- This would stay and be incredibly important, actually. If a punt or kick goes out of bounds, out of the sides of the end zone the above rules would apply. The ball would be marked, marched 5 yards and then a down free play would be run. This means that this play could be run from 12 yards deep in the end zone, meaning if the offense does not advance out of the end zone on that play, it is a safety.
Safties- Would be worth only 1 point. Similar to the Rouge.
Downs- Canadian. Note on “Down Free Plays”, they don’t set the 10 yard down markers. So in above cases that a punt was out of bounds, a down free play would be run. The following play would be 1st and 10.
Team Size- A team would consist of 18 players. 12 on the field, 3 backups/reserves, and 3 emergency players. Players cannot be substituted during a drive. If a player is injured, the play clock would be stopped/reset, to allow a substitution. The injured player would not be allowed to return that drive. If one of the emergency players were brought in for someone, for any reason, the player they are replacing could not return that match.
Lowering the player count to 18 does a number of things here. First it emphasizes well rounded athletes that can run, block, kick and tackle since they are playing both ways. It also means salaries for players only need to be split 18 ways, allowing the players to be paid more.
An injured player not returning during a drive also means the player has more time to be evaluated without feeling pressured to get back on the field so quickly, and would dissuade faking of injuries to get your gassed team a breather to regroup.
One Yard Neutral Zone- This is a tough one. I like it in the CFL, as it changes line play and makes the focus (mostly on defense) on more athletic quicker players. It comes with it’s own need for some quirks though - such as placing the ball at the 1 yard line even if you advanced the ball to the 1 inch line. In the CFL I think I would like to see a rule that the one yard neutral zone is either 1 yard, or the distance to the goal line, whichever is less. Then, don’t push back the offense team to 36 inches out if they made it to the 1 inch line.
One thing I think gets overlooked in the CFL is the advantage the offense gets with this one yard neutral zone. It balances out only 3 downs, and makes running the ball in a 3 down system more viable. It also makes 3rd and short sneaks much more common because the buffer makes it easier to convert a short distance.
But for my fictional hybrid I would go with the American rule (Which if you didn’t know, technically is there is an 11 inch neutral zone - the length of a football). Due to the need to be diverse in roles and not be specialized, players will naturally tend to be more quicker and athletic.
Fumble Recovery- Canadian. It is much easier (especially in replay) to determine who last touched the ball than who possessed it, which requires ref judgement.
Catch rules- Wow, this has become a complicated mess in recent years in the NFL. This rule needs to be simplified greatly to make it easier to ref in the heat of the moment. This would take a committee and a think tank to really come up with something but the first rough draft I would propose is:
If the ball touches the ground before being secured by the player, it is not a catch. If the player has hands on the ball and has arrested it’s movement with any part of their body touching in bounds, and they have not been out of bounds previously on that play, and they are clearly trying to secure the ball and not knock it down then it is a catch. If the ball is jarred loose, or they lose control when they hit the ground, that is a fumble.
This is trying to remove judgement from the rule as much as possible and make it clear cut. Easy quick replays will show if it was a catch or not. It may not be popular with some due to it giving a lot of receivers catches for what would now be a drop, and increasing turnovers due to what was once an incompletion now becoming a fumble. But, it needs to be simplified in a bad way.
Timeouts (or Times out)CFL - These should be for strategic changes during a drive, they shouldn’t be a method for delaying the game and time management.
Video Reviews -If I had to pick CFL or NFL, I would definitely go with CFL. Obvious bad calls not being review-able is frustrating. However, I would want it as seemless and in the background as possible. Have video review officials watching video during the entire game and if something is an obvious error, signal a review stoppage and look it over very quickly, and if it isn’t an indisputable error, resume play. Allow a captain or coach on a team to call a time out, and then tell the referee they are challenging a ruling. If the ruling is overturned, they get their time out back.
There would be considerable emphasis put on simplifying rules to try to make the game far more simpler to ref. A missed call should be because the ref wasn’t in position to see, or their view was obstructed by action. Right now in the CFL and NFL there are missed calls simply because the way the rules are written, 2-3 refs can watch the same play and many times have a different opinion on what is legal and a penalty.
Goal Post Location - This is another tough one. I think CFL. Mostly because of other rules in place, this gives teams a bigger incentive to try to drop kick a field goal for 3 - keeping the action more likely in the center of the field.
Offensive Motion- CFL. I think this is needed to give the offense a boost with only having 3 downs. It also makes more interesting high speed multiple direction plays.
The interception rougeI have seen a few people mention this. An interception in the end zone, in my hybrid, would be a safety. If you pick it in the end zone, advance the ball out. I don’t see this as penalizing the defense for defending their end zone, I see it as them giving up only 1 for allowing the other team to advance the ball that far down the field. If it is a hail mary, or some other deep forward pass, then spike the ball rather than catch it.
Players would have to have more situational awareness and make split second decisions to decide to not intercept it, and instead cause an incompletion.
Overtime- I personally prefer old school NFL overtime (15 minutes true sudden death). to either. However, for my hybrid I think I would have to go with the CFL rules if I had to choose between them. Possibly modify it slightly for the new style of game the hybrid created
Salary Cap- I could be way off on how the CFL does it, but I would lean towards the NFL with a slight change. A % of revenue of all teams would be allocated to a league office in order to pay players salaries. This would be divided among the teams, for them to allocate to the players. Cap money not spent would be donated to charities of the player’s union choice.
This would promote parity by not having high revenue teams have a financial advantage over smaller markets when negotiating with players, would encourage teams to spend to their cap on player salaries because the money is coming from a neutral fund, and it is lost if not spent, and would reduce gamesmanship in rolling cap money forward in an effort to gain competitive advantage.
Player unions can negotiate percentages, player rights, terms, etc.
This is a longish list, I feel I missed a couple things when I thought this all up. But for a casual post and not an actual game design document, I figured this would be good enough.
Thanks for reading. This would create quite a different game, and there are a few rules that are not CFL or NFL, so I apologize if I did not follow the spirit of the post.