We here in Canada love to sneer at the fact that punts in the States aren't necessarily returned. Yet on punts we here in the CFL allow plays that are even more boring, that being punts that fly out of bounds inside the fifteen.
I'm proposing that the rule on punts be changed so that any punt that goes out of bounds must first bounce off a returner or the field of play before going out of bounds unless punted right through the endzone. Punts that sail out of bounds even inside the fifteen would draw a penalty. Forcing all punts (except those punted far enough to sail past the end line) to be theoretically returnable would not only make play more exciting but would eliminate the very subjective guessing by officials as to precisely where the punt sailed out of bounds.
Or if you really wanted to go completely crazy and make a fully rugby-style rule, then do the following two changes:
Needing to run a "motion" play like a standard snap from centre or option pitch, except that the ball is either pitched to the punter (who has to kick it on the fly) or the Centre snaps the ball to the punter, but he's positioned where a QB or direct snap RB would be (or a QB after he's dropped back) instead of now where he's a way back from the action - this would force him to think about angles and location instead of merely hoofing the ball for distance.
Get rid of the 100% specialist punter - make a rule that he MUST have another duty on the team (e.g. special teams blocker/defender). If Johnny Hekker can throw TD passes, surely a big punter can serve as an emergency fullback? This would reflect rugby origins in while each team has a designated kicker, that's not their total role - they also have a field position to play.
Also, am I right in thinkng back in the old days (we're talking when @PatLynch was middle-aged era) teams didn't have specialist punters at all? So you'd have a random player also given the "punt duty"?
No doubt there will be responses along the lines of "It'll wreck the quality of punting!" or "What about the poor Long Snapper!"
If you're going to a game to admire the punting, you are simply odd.
Who apart from the most hardcore fans even knows the name of their team's long snapper, let alone wears his replica jersey in the stands?
I've proposed this a number of times over the years.
I generally think that Canadian football rules, being a product of successive revisions to address very specific and often unrelated issues, ends up being needlessly complicated and sometimes inconsistent.
Case in point: Illegal kicks out of bounds.. as you have brought up..
Kickoffs cannot go out of bounds via the sidelines in any which way.
Punts cannot exit the sidelines in flight from outside the 15 yard line but can bounce out legally.
Other kicks presumably can go out of bounds any which way.
For simplicity lets just make a blanket rule where all kicks in the game of football must first land in the field of play or touch a player before going out of bounds or otherwise exit through the endzone to be legal.
This will save paper and encourage returns while making the game easier to understand and sell.
Like I mentioned to Balticfox, I am a proponent of keeping the overall aesthetic of the game while simplifying and streamlining the rules. I think football has become a tad chaotic with the rule-set overall.
I wouldn't be opposed to the game attempting to migrate back a little to its rugby origins but instead of mandating more and more roster rules, I'd roll back roster sizes and roll back on unlimited substitution if we wanted to have non-specialists kicking and punting.
The game might be sloppier in a way, but more free flowing, creative and easier for new fans to learn.
I don't like rewarding the defending/return team for failing to protect their goal. I'd like to see a touchback result in scrimmage from the 1-yard line. Or force a re-kick from 10 yards farther back. Or allow the defending/return team to surrender a rouge and scrimmage from its 40-yard line.
What don't you like about my suggestion then? Are you simply a fan of easy and often coffin kicks?
Punts that simply sail out of bounds are second only to the Victory formation when it comes to boring lack of action. Not to mention that the ref's judgement is the be-all and end-all when it comes to determining the outcome of the play.
Much as I admire a good coffin corner kick OOB, there's something to be said for keeping the ball inbounds & giving the returners a fair shot at a return every time. Keeping the ball in play just seems to be the logical thing to do. I'm ok with the status quo, but wouldn't object very heavily to a rule change here.
There's plenty wrong when it just sails out of bounds. It's boring. And for the refs to determine exactly where the ball sailed out of bounds is a ridiculously difficult and thus inaccurate judgement call.
Why are you singlemindedly assessing the question from the standpoint of the punting team? Are you a punter yourself by any chance?
The reasons for my suggested rule change are obvious. Preserving the principle that all kicks/punts that don't sail through the back of the endzone should theoretically be returnable is in the best interests of the CFL. Since making all punts/kicks returnable would add a further element of excitement to the game, it's good for maintaining/generating fan interest. And the league is in the business of selling tickets to fans.
Sure my proposed rule change would make the job of punters and coverage teams more difficult, but nobody ever promised them it had to be easy. The bottom line is preserving excitement in the game and punts sailing out of bounds are anything but exciting.
Watching a ball sail out of bounds somewhere in the general vicinity of the seven yard line does nothing for my game experience. It's right down there with standing in line at the urinal.
And with a Canadian football field being 65 yards wide with each hash mark now 28 yards from the nearer sideline, any punter who finds landing his punts in bounds a challenge should be sent packing immediately.
A ball sailing out of bounds on a kick play, intentional or not, is considerably less boring action than a pass intentionally thrown out of play by a quarterback avoiding being tackled for a loss. QB's should be penalized 15 yards for throwing the ball directly out of play in the air, with no exceptions like there is now. If there are to be no excuses for wayward kicks, there should be no excuses for QB's not keeping the ball in play. Perhaps other than a 15 yard penalty to the QB's team, the penalty for a pass landing untouched in an out of bounds location could be ball placement from where the ball was passed. That penalty against the QB's will reduce the amount of boring ending of scrimmage plays greater than penalizing kicks out of side bounds.
I'd be in favour of a rule to cover both instances. Something like "when a player from Team A throws or punts a ball directly out of bounds when no other eligible player from Team A was within 10 yards (5 maybe?), a 15-yard penalty results".