The league needs to address a number of issues to return the entertainment value of its games to pre-2006 levels. It’s the idea that a CFL game will give the consumer a back and forth contest with a number of big plays that kept the league afloat through the worst of times. On the CFL forum, I suggested a number of tweaks to address this issue. I’ve ordered these in terms of importance. Despite this I’m perplexed as to why the league has not addressed the items I’ll discuss later on in the list pertaining to the rouge and kick returns in general.
From the discussion on the CFL forum:
The league definitely changed from 2005 to 2006. Only two things stick out to me as having been significantly different. Those things of course were the change in blocking rules on kicking plays, instant replay as well as a changed game ball. Being in an aerospace undergrad, I have to say; those stitch-on laces can definitely have a significant impact on the flight of the ball.
I will admit that these changes alone don't constitute the significant drop in scoring this year so a lot of credit had to go to defensive coordinators & players alike in finding solutions to previously potent offensive schemes.
If making the CFL classically entertaining is a matter of getting every game one and a half more passing & one more kick return TD, then a number of things can be done without drastically changing the game:
Completely outlaw contact after 1 yard on receivers. I understand interference as it exists is already technically defined as such but referees have to call it this way. No contact what so ever unless the defender is CLEARY playing the ball. Even if contact is accidental, if it’s not a result of CLEARLY playing the ball then call pass interference. The NHL has had to force a change in officiating culture, I'm sure the CFL can do the same. With that said, some would like to see this limitation applied only after 5 yards like the NFL. I think that would hamper the passing game even further as the rule is defined in the CFL as 1 yard presently and passing is still down.
Uncatchable pass interference penalties should be assessed as “illegal contact on an eligible receiver? and result in a 10 yard penalty. It was my understanding that this change was made a couple years ago but it seems the refs or league went back on it & failed to penalize interference calls if they were found to be "uncatchable".
Strictly call "illegal contact on eligible receiver" penalties with the gravity described in point #1. The feedback from receivers seems to be that this penalty has not been called especially when it occurs away from the play. The problem is that these contacted receivers may turn out to be offensive lifeboats on plays that would otherwise end in a sack, hurried interception or pass out of bounds.
Eliminate the requirement for 2 eligible receivers set, one of each on either side of the ball the line of scrimmage. This will throw a kink into defensive reads especially if more receivers can explode out of the backfield quickly across the line of scrimmage in a blink before the snap.
Allow blocking from the side on kick returns only if its near the play. Blindside shots should still be outlawed as unnecessary roughness if its completely away from the play.
Keep the ball's surface single layered. No stitch on layers for stripes. If they want to mitigate the slipperiness of paint, find another solution, perhaps a sticky paint? Removing the stripes all together really doesn’t make a difference to me. However slippery the old stripes were, the new balls don't seem to have the degree of control the old ones did.
Make the rouge applicable only on kicks that are "returnable", that is, kicked balls into the end zone that touch the goal area or a return team player. This will eliminate the possibility of a game being decided by a punt through the end zone with no chance of return and reinforce the original purpose of the rouge to encourage the return game.
8 ) Award scrimmage at the 20 yard line for simply bringing the ball out of the end zone on kicking plays as per the CIS. This should reinforce the original intent of the rouge as to encourage the return. Without the fear of relegating the offense to scrimmage close to the goal line will bring kick returners to flight speed exiting the end zone. From here it would leave the possibility for a lucky block to spring the returner well beyond the 20, perhaps even a score. It provides the possibility for an exciting play that seems to have disappeared in recent years.
- Extend this concept of “returnability? to all kicks from scrimmage. There have been mullings over whether or not to outlaw kicks out of bounds. Coffin kicks should still be rewarded but only on the condition that the kick was returnable. Again this means that kicks from scrimmage will all be required to at least land in bounds before bouncing out or making contact with a return team player. I’m not sure how to sanction this either with a penalty of yardage added to where the ball went out or bringing the ball up to the 45 as per kickoffs or forcing a re-kick from further back. A return team option on either of the possibilities might be the best.
I think those rule changes will go a long way in returning the CFL's entertainment value to pre-2006 levels. I don't think the league should be scared of change when necessary. Football itself was only born out of slowly altering rugby over the last century.
I'll be very interested to see what the competition committee proposes & the BOG passes this off-season.