Ideal Hybrid US/Canadian rules *FUN* discussion

I don’t see how having Canadian-style live punts would change much if US-style fair catches were in place.

It seems to me that the only time the punters or any other onside players have a chance of recovering a punt is when the returners let the ball bounce around hoping to trap a punting-team player into a no-yards call.

Was there a time when points could only be scored by kicking the ball through the posts, and not by carrying it over the goal line?

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.

The roots of rugby and soccer are common. The two codes split when different organizations formed and one preferred allowing the ball to be carried where the other barred the handling of the ball.

In either sport the original goal was to direct the ball through the goalpost assembly which originally had no crossbar. At some point in the rugby code, a free kick on goal was awarded for carrying the ball over the goal line. This is the origin of the touchdown and convert. Eventually a system of points were established. The carrying of the ball over the goal line was given some value but initially less so than a kicked goal. Both in rugby and its North American descendant gridiron football, gradually more points were assigned to the touchdown while the points for the goal were reduced to the current ratio of 6 and 1 for gridiron or 5 and 2 for rugby.

Kicks on goal from the field in the general run of play eventually came to be the 3 points you see today. Hence the term “fieldgoal”.

I wonder if the purists of the day complained about the rule changes. “Any idiot can carry the damn ball over the line. Heck, my grandma could do it! Kicking it is the real skill, and should be worth more points.”

I can pretty much guarantee a lot of people felt that way. It is very easy to think the way we do things is the only/best way, and people are naturally resistant to change. A whole new sport had to pop up pretty much for it to happen. Once it was a separate sport, changes happened fast as everyone was looking for changes to improve things.

The irony, of course, is by definition in order to improve something, it must change. But of course not all change is an improvement.

p.s. - if you think trolling is a modern day phenomenon we only have first downs in football because of an epic troll. At this moment I cannot look up the exact story so I will summarize here. Walter Camp’s Yale team was the dominant football team in existence when this happened. At the time, you had unlimited downs to score, and only gave up the ball on a turn over. A vastly inferior team played against Walter Camp and his Yale team and took them to a tie by essentially snapping the ball and falling forward, keeping possession for so long that Yale had no real chance to score. 0-0. Well that didn’t sit well with camp so the next off season he proposed the limited downs with possession unless you move the ball 10 yards. If anyone is interested in the full story (And I may have some details wrong here), I can dig it up and post it. A similar bit of trolling by two teams caused Hockey to add icing, I believe. But I am not as up on Hockey history as I am football.

Why not give the defensive team the choice between where the return of the INT ends OR the position of the line of scrimmage from where the play started ?

That’s a great story I’d love to read if you can find the link.


Here is one version. I am about to leave the office and drive so I can’t find the more in depth one I read previously, I will look later

Also in 1880, Camp introduced—and put through—American football’s most radical and far-reaching departure from Rugby. He got the tangled “scrum? replaced by an orderly, artful “scrimmage,? where one team was given possession of the ball to start with and could run off set plays until it fumbled, kicked, or had a pass intercepted (only laterals allowed). In a scrum the ball was (and in Rugby still is) rolled in by an official under the feet of the close-ranked opposing rush lines, who then wrestled to get the ball out to their running backs. Camp’s scrimmage provided an orderly and honorable outlet from the struggling mass by putting the grounded, motionless ball into play by the offensive “snapper-back? (center), who toed it or touched it with his foot and then handed it to the “quarter-back,? who then had to pass or hand the ball to another back before moving forward himself. It was soon found that a weak team, if it never kicked, passed, or fumbled, could hoard the ball indefinitely from a strong team, and thus obtain a dull, scoreless tie. After Princeton did this to Yale in ’80 and ’81 in what became notorious as the “blocked games,? Camp in 1882 invented the yards-and-downs system. Now a team had to yield the ball if it did not gain five yards, or lose ten, in three plays from scrimmage. In case of ties, touchbacks behind the goal line for “safety? (to retain the ball and bring it out to the 25-yard line) would count against a team resorting to them.
This was taken from and you can find more information on camp at this following page:

In the early days of Canadian rugby football, games were scored using the challenge system. In the challenge system the team with the most goals won the game. If teams were tied in goals then the tie-breaker went to the team with the most trys.

There were 2 ways to score a goal. One was to kick a goal from the field. The other was after scoring a try a team had the chance to convert the try into a goal by kicking the ball through the goal posts.

One of the reasons for a change to a points system was that a team could win games that it did not deserve to win simply because it possessed a player who could kick goals. It was also argued that rugby football was a team game and a try required more of a team effort than kicking goals.

Something I love about Canadian football and gridiron football in general is that it is a product of exactly the kind of thinking this thread asks for:

“How do you like your football?”

The answers to many of the points the OP brings up have come about in actual Canadian football gradually through the last 150+ years. Even in today’s version there are vestiges of the game’s roots.

Grilled, with a nice chianti

I would like to take my shot at these questions and like several others before me, offer a few new or different suggestions;

Field size and goal post location: Canadian. The width to allow more room for wide plays. The length to retain the distance that a team has to advance the ball to allow a reasonable shot at a filed goal. In the American system of the goal posts at the back of the endzone at team has to get to about the 33-yard line to attempt a 50 yard attempt. If they stated at their own 35 they needed to advance the ball 32 yards down the field. In the Canadian game, a team starting at their own 35 has to advance the ball about 32 yards down filed to get the same opportunity of a 50 yard filed goal (ball scrimmaged from the 43-yard line). Yes this logic does not hold true for touchdowns, where you need to get an extra 10 yards due to field length, but I can’t have it both ways and the Goal Posts belong at the goal line.
Play clock: I would like to see a bit of a hybrid here. Start the play clock as soon as the ball and yard markers have been set or reset or in the case of an injury/TV timeout, as soon as play is whistled in. Currently the play is often not whistled in until all of the substitutions are made and it can be up to 45 seconds of clock time between plays. I would change the paly clock to a 30-second clock however.
Kicking rules: Canadian but with a few modifications.
Retain the 5 yard halo but adjust the penalties; 5 yards if the ball bounces – 10 yards if in the air but the offending player is attempting to get out of the 5 yard halo – 15 yards if in the air and no attempt to get out of the halo. Other punt return penalties such as player interference and deliberate attempt to injure remain as they are.
All punts and kick-offs must land in-bounds regardless of field position, BUT both may go out of bounds after bouncing with no penalty. The receiving team to obtain possession at the point the ball went out of bounds. The penalty for going out of bounds in the air would remain the same as currently for kick-offs and punts between the 20’s. The exception to this is kick-offs going out of bounds in the end-zone. A rouge would be scored similar to a punt into the endzone.
NEW – on kick-offs after a field goal or touchdown the kicking team would have the option to move the ball to the 45-yard line and declare that they were attempting a non-scrimmaged field goal. No on-side kicks would be allowed if this was being attempted however the ball would be live and recoverable once it had crossed the opponents 25 yard line. If the ball was successfully kicked through the uprights, 3 points would be awarded and the receiving team would scrimmage from their own 35 yard line. If the ball went wide or short, the receiving would have the option of returning the ball and scrimmaging from the point of yards gained via the return or immediately downing the ball by taking a knee as soon as possession is gained (NO ROUGE FOR BEING WIDE OR SHORT IF THE BALL ENTERS THE ENDZONE) and then scrimmaging from the opponents 45 (where the ball was kicked from). This could add a lot of excitement and strategy especially if one team was trailing by 4 or 5 points late in a game. It would add some high-risk/high reward.
Rouge: Canadian. Retain as this is a reward for the offensive team being able to legally advance the ball into the endzone without scoring a touchdown or field goal and the defending team not being able to return it out of their endzone. A rouge should be scored on any kick-off entering the endzone in play and going out of bounds prior to being touched.
New: Expand this to include the interception rouge as well explained by Jesse above.
Downs: Canadian – keep these as they are.
Neutral Zone: Canadian – keep this as is.
Catch Rules: Canadian – Any part of the body touching in bounds after possession of the ball has been gained. Possession must be retained after first contact with either the ground or an opposing player which ever comes first. If a player has secured possession and a defender makes contact (with the receiver in the air) and the receiver survives that contact with the ball still secured but the ball is dislodged by the ground on the tackle, it is a catch.
Time outs: Canadian – Keep these as they are.
Game timing: Canadian – retain but with adjusted 30 second play clock.
Video Replay: Canadian – Keep these as they are.
Offensive motion and Number of players: Canadian – Keep these as they are. These define our game and 11 players would give far too much advantage to the offense given the field size.
Overtime: Hybrid – Play 2 5-minute halves but have the last minute of each half played under the same clock as the last 3 minutes in regular time. Each team would have 1 time-out per half and all video reviews would come from the booth.
NEW - Penalty yardage: Get rid of the ½ of the distance to the goal stuff but never take the ball closer to a goal line than the 1-yd line. The exception would be pass interference. The penalty for pass interference would be 15 yds or ½ the distance to the goal if the pass attempt was over 30 yards, again never moving closer than the 1 yard line. For example, if the ball was scrimmaged on 40 yard line and interference happened on the 5 yard line the ball would be moved to the 20 yard line. If the interference occurs in goal and the ball was scrimmaged inside of the 15 yard line the ball would be placed on the 1. If it had been scrimmaged on the 17, it would be placed on the 2 and not the 1 yard line.
NEW - Adjusted 1st down markers: If the offensive team scrimmages from between the 11 and 10 yard line such that a first down can be gained without scoring a touchdown. If they advance the ball inside of the 1 yard line without gaining enough yards to get a new set of downs, an measurement will be taken to determine the distance remaining to get the necessary yards. The yard markers would be adjusted to reflect this distance as measured from the 1-yd line for the next scrimmage. For example it is 1st and 10 from 2 inches beyond the 10 yard line. The offense advances the ball 9 yards and 35 inches. It would now be at the 2 inch line but would be moved back to the 1 yd line which is correct as the defensive team should never be forced to set behind their goal line. However, under the current rules the offense would still need to advance the ball 35 inches which in total is very nearly 11 yards. If fact under this scenario they could actually advance the ball nearly 12 yards and not get a first down. The marker should be changed so that they only need to advance that 1 inch. However when it is a First and goal situation, the markers are never adjusted.
This adjustment should also be made for the offensive team starting from near their own goal and are penalized such that they cannot be moved back beyond their own 1 yard line. For example the offense is starting on their own 4 yd line and are penalized for illegal procedure (5 yd penalty) they should be moved back to their own 1 yd line (back 3) and the first down marker should be moved forward from the 14 yard line to the 16yard line to make it truly a 5 yard penalty.
NEW – Coin toss: The coin toss should be eliminated for all games except the Grey Cup. The home team always gets the choice (as if they won the toss) at the start of regulation. This gives true home field advantage and ALL teams get the same number of opportunities throughout the year. If overtime is required, there is still no toss. The visiting team gets the choice (the home team essentially loses it as a result of not being able to win the game in regulation time on their home turf).
NEW – Draft changes: This doesn’t really affect the on field game but could improve things overall given time.
1.)Have CFL teams each “donate? $100,000.00to a pool.
2.)Include Canadian Jr. Teams in the draft as opposed to the current “Territorial Protected Player?. (There have been good quality players come from the junior ranks; Zach Evans, Andrew Harris, Roger Aldag, Bob Poley). Jr players would have to be the same age as university players.
3.)Each university or Jr. team would receive money as development money towards their program for each player selected in each round.
a.1st round - $15K
b.2nd round - $12.5K
c.3rd round - $10K
d.4th round - $7.5K
e.5th round - $5K
f.6th and above rounds - $2.5K
g.Undrafted players invited to training camp - $1K
h.Remaining money in pool donated to Football Canada.
NEW – Canadian QB: These need to be negotiated into the CBA as counting as Canadians somehow.

I love the idea of the league giving back to USport and CJFL for development, but I’d worry this system would create even more imbalance, at least at the USport level. I think we’d be seeing the Lavals and Westerns getting lots of money for their already top-notch programmes, but it’s some of the lower-ranked teams that need it most.

Perhaps instead of awarding the monies you listed above to each USport team, they could put it into a football scholarship fund, and divide it up so that the lowest ranked teams get larger slices of that pie.

1.If an interception occurs in the end zone, and is not returned out, whether conceded or not, no points should be awarded, per present rule, and the intercepting team should have the option to scrimmage either from it’s own 20 yard line or from the last line of scrimmage prior to the interception.

  1. Punt Returns - The No Fun League has “Fair Catch.” Bah humbug! . The “Considerable Fun League” has the 5 Yd restraining zone. Thank you, Santa Claus, but bring us a tweek in the penalty for imposing on that zone. The penalty option for no yards should include the following choices a.) if caught before the ball strikes the ground > 15 yds forward of the spot receiver is tackled, or rekick 15 yds back from previous line of scrimmage. b.) if the ball has struck the ground prior to receiver returning > 10 yd forward of the spot the receiver is tackled, or rekick 10 yds back from the previous line of scrimmage.

If we keep the rule as is, do you think we should then give that same option re: scrimmage to teams who intercept inside the 20-yard line but outside the end zone?

Interesting. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before. 65 yards is a pretty long field goal, but in theory at least, a team would still have life even if they’re down by 11 points with 10 seconds left. (And it’s hard to imagine this option being used other than in absolute desperate situations.)

If the rule is to be kept as is, the option you raise is a moot point, isn’t it?

Time to get rid of penalties measured “half the distance to the goal line”. eg: Offending team is caught holding when scrimmaging from their own 8yd line, penalty enforced would move ball back to their own 1 yd line. eg: “Half the distance” measurement of penalties short changes the non offending team too much. ------------- If you can’t do the time don’t do the crime.

The only rule I would like to see the CFL adopt somewhat from our American counterparts is elimination of the Rouge when the ball is kicked out and never lands in the endzone. That for a rouge to count, a player must be tackled or take a knee in his own endzone.

Missed field goals that sail into the back of the endzone should not be awarded a single point, nor just blasting a punt out the back of the endzone. Force a downing of the ball in the endzone for the rogue, and certainly keep the rouge because the touchback is a cancer on the face of Football. The touchback has made kick-offs in the NFL a nearly pointless exercise.