Reform CFL rules to improve running game

Want to start a campaign to have two rule changes introduced in Canadian football that would significantly improve the game?

Here is what I propose:

  1. In the early days of football, there were no hashmarks. By the 1950s, hashmarks had been placed about 15 yards from the sidelines. The position of the hashmarks was later moved to 24 yards from the sidelines, where they now sit. The hashmarks should be moved back to 15 yards from the sidelines.

  2. Blocking was introduced very early in the history of North American football, but blockers could not use their hands when contacting an opposing player. About 25 years ago, blocking with the hands was made legal. Blocking with the hands should be prohibited. Unlimited blocking should be permitted on the field, but no hand contact.

The intent of the two existing rules which I propose to change was obviously to facilitate the passing game, which has now completely overshadowed running. The net result of the rules now in place is that most blocks are essentially holding, while the running game has become unimaginative and slow. The basic structure of the game has changed... for the worse. The game has become one-dimensional.

In the 1960s linemen weighed 250 lbs maximum and were fast and athletic, running plays were explosive, with complex blocking assignments requiring pulling linemen, traps, and downfield blocking, often bringing a guard or tackle from the left side of the line to the far right, end sweeps, options (with double options). Plays developed faster, because running backs lined up less than 4 yards behind scrimmage and plunged through a hole that was calculated. Fewer game interruptions because fewer holding penalties.

In the present day game, linemen often weigh up to 350 pounds and cannot run more than a few yards at a lumbering pace. There are no dramatic, explosive running plays, end sweeps, precision blocking. Blocks are static, without collisions, as all the big men need to do is push their opponents with their hands (or hold them, which is more often the case). Running plays unfold slowly because running backs line up 7 to 10 yards behind scrimmage, receive the ball 5 yards behind, and must often come to a halt and change directions before they reach the line of scrimmage (the "cut back" is a necessity made into a virtue). When a running play ends, everyone is standing up holding on to each others' jerseys. The game is constantly being interrupted for penalties, and the pace of the game in general is sluggish because linemen cannot run on and off the field, or even from the huddle to the line of scrimmage.

In short, the game has gone down the tubes. It's time to rejuvenate it.

Of course, many people will object that the NFL introduced the present rules, so we should keep them. There is no reason why the Canadian game cannot differ from the American on these points, as it does on others. The improvements I propose will make the game more exciting to watch and play, because all players will need to be more athletic and skilled.

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Sorry but I dont agree with any of them.

I don't like either changes either.

I bet if you go to 13th man and pm Kanga, he would love to hear about rule changes. In fact, he's the Rule Change King!

no thanks

....better go back to leather helmets as well, those fandangled plastic ones with guards over the face are for sissies....and while we're at it let's get rid of seatbelts, hell, in MY day you went through your damned windshield if you didn't know how to drive and we liked it that way, and what's with flame-retardant pajamas too?! if you dropped a cigarette on yourself well damnit you just burned up y'hear! and we LIKED it like that......., excuse me, changed in a old cranky guy for a sec or, leave the game the way it is, passing is exciting....Knute would agree.....

Both terrible ideas. I enjoy the passing game.

yes totally. don't change it at all....

keep as is.

hashmarks are good where they are!..

boy.. this post got shot down pretty fast eh?

I Disagree With Two 'N' Out's Ideas, Passing Is What Makes This Game What It Is. If You Want To Watch Running There's Still Rugby. As For Red And Whites Plans I'm Intrigued. I Think We Should Bring Back The Fear Of God Into People When They Drive, Much Like The Passengers In My Car.

If the only grounds for rejection of the reforms is fear that the passing game would suffer, I respectfully disagree. Indeed, with more mobile quarterbacks, the passing game would also be improved. The rules now in place favour "pocket passing" which is appropriate to the small US field. These rules should never have been introduced in Canada, where the field favours more mobile quarterbacks like Flutie. Why do you think he was so successful here? Both the running game and the passing game would change for the better.

And R&W, how many times did you go through the windshield? :wink:

Hmm... 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 do admit that these changes alone don't constitute the significant drop in scoring this year so alot of credit had to go to definsive coordinators & players alike in finding solutions to previously potent offensive schemes.

If making the CFL classically entertaining is a matter of getting every game 1.5 more passing & 1 more kick return TD, then a number of things can be done:

  1. Completely outlaw contact after 1 yard on recievers. 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 its not a result of CLEARLY playing the ball then call pass interferene. The NHL has to force a change in reffing culture, I'm sure the CFL can do the same.

  2. Uncatchable pass interference penalties should be assessed as illeagle contact on a receiver and result in a 10 yard penalty. I thought 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".

  3. Strictly call "illeagle contact on eligible reciever" 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.

  4. Eliminate the requirement for 2 eligible recievers 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.

5)Allow blocking from the side on kick returns only if its near the play. Blindside shots should still be outlawed as uneccessary roughness if its completely away from the play.

6)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? However slippery the old stripes were, the new balls don't seem to have the degree of control the old ones did.

7)Make the rouge applicable only on kicks that are "returnable", that is, kicked balls into the endzone that touch the goal area or a return team player. This will eliminate the possiblility of a game being decided by a punt through the endzone with no chance of return and reinforce the original purpose of the rouge to encourage the return game.

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 neccesary. Football itself was only born out of slowly altering rugby over the last century.

I'm even open to experimenting with wider hashmarks but I think we'd need to see it in practice in exhibition games before approving a change like that. I could almost see it opening up that wide side in terms of the passing game drawing safeties out wide & opening up seam routes. It could also proove too tempting for wide-side sweeps putting more emphasis on the running game. I really don't know what that would do other than make field goals more challenging.

I'll be very interested to see what the competition committee proposes & the BOG passes this offseason.

Interesting thread... I'll add my name to the list saying "no" the the changes suggested by twonout.

I like the idea of eliminating jamming receivers downfield (say 5yds+ from the line of scrimmage). Contacting a receiver before the ball has been thrown should be flagged; the current rules should be used when receiver and defender are fighting for the ball. There is going to be some contact and jockeying for position - the current rules are fine.

I agree with joetavdav that side blocks on kick returns should be allowed again as long as the blocks are not blindside shots away from the play.

Very interesting observations and suggestions from joedav. Unfortunately the objections to moving the hashmarks or banning blocking with the hands from others seem to lack any supporting arguments, so it is difficult to discuss the issue in concrete terms. I will say, however, that no trial period is really necessary in either case, as these rules were actually in force for several decades of the last century, at least until the early 1980s. When new rules came in sometime around that time, the character of the game was gradually altered. One of my college classmates played centre for Ottawa back in the 1970s. He probably didn't weigh more than 250lb, but he could pull and lead blocking on sweeps and rollouts or downfield. A modern centre doesn't move more than a few yards from the point of scrimmage. Want to see how the two rule changes will play out? Watch any game from before about 1985.

twonout wrote:

The intent of the two existing rules which I propose to change was obviously to facilitate the passing game, which has now completely overshadowed running. The net result of the rules now in place is that most blocks are essentially holding, while the running game has become unimaginative and slow. The basic structure of the game has changed... for the worse. The game has become one-dimensional.

How in the friggin name of helll can the game be one-dimensional as you say when year after year there is at least one or two players over 1000 yards rushing? Do you watch the CFL? And running unimaginative and slow? Right, guys like Roberts and Smith and Edwards are "slow". What the f? Unimaginative, running? Have you not see on 2nd and 8 teams doing draw plays and crossbucks and reverses?

Hi Earl. Thanks for your feedback. Indeed, I have been watching the CFL for about 50 years, and thank you for asking. I did not say the running backs were slow. The plays are slow, and for the reasons I gave: backs line up and receive the ball far behind line of scrimmage, and generally stop at the line to change directions while the linemen are all locked in a love embrace that is supposed to be a block. I could count the number of reverses run in the CFL this year on one hand and have a few fingers left over to pick noseberries. An imaginative running game is one relying fakes, pitches, sweeps, pulling linemen, traps, double teams, downfield blocks and lightning speed of execution, all combined with QB rollouts, moving pockets, bootlegs, halfback passes, flickers, and ball trickery.

Interesting comments.
I think I agree that tweaking the rules to bring back pulling guards and sweeps is a good idea.
I think that maybe all that is needed though is to just "reinterpret" some of the holding rules as they currently exist.
I always find it extremely frustrating when a big run is called back because of a holding penalty, and then you watch the replay and see a guy tugging a sweater ten yards away, or after the RB is long through the hole.
There was a time when refs were taught to only call holding if it affects the play.
Now they seem to like to call it randomly.
So by all means, lets tweek the blocking rules to aid certain types of running plays.
And widening the hash marks sounds interesting. I have to think about that--I see an advantage on the wideside of the field, but a disadvantage on the short side.

On to some of the other suggestions
This isn't touch football.
Just letting receivers run by their man would result in lots of scoring. But it would be dull.
Oh, another guy wide open--TD!!! Snore!!
Again, all that is necessary is more consistancy in the interpretation of the rules as they stand, not any real changes.
And as far as I know, the "uncatchable ball" concept no longer exists.
If a receiver is interfered with, in the refs opinion, he can choose illegal contact or interference. Whether the ball is catchable might affect his judgement, but it is not a rule.
The only real difficulty with interference today is the inconsistancy of the refs.

Get rid of the stitched striping.
Change the blocking rules on kicks--back to the way they were if needed.
The rouge is fine as is.

Lots of talk about a penalty for punting out of bounds.
I think a 5 yard/10yard option for the refs might work.
Some people want 15, but that is too much.
And when a guy shanks the ball for a 25 yarder, adding a 10 yard penalty might just be a little extreme as well.
Give the refs some latitude on this issue.
And something must be done to A). discourage safeties, and B). to end the silly penalties on the play.
Maybe add the yardage to the impending kick-off.

Just say "no" to those changes...if I wanted to see more running in football I'd watch the NFL. Passing is what makes the CFL more exciting. If you implemented those changes we'd need another down too.

If you want to make some positive changes,

  1. Get rid of the single point for putting the ball through the endzone, that is truly the stupidest thing I've ever seen. Being rewarded for missing a field goal....dumb!

  2. Get rid of the no-yards rule. This is the only rule where the NFL has it right. Signal fair catch or take your chances. Kicking is about field position management, kick too far and the other team starts on the 20 anyway.

The biggest problem with any rule changes is the fact that CFL officiating is Mickey Mouse at best. Jake Ireland and Ken Lazarus can't see the replay screen 6 inches in front of them, much less play action. The referrees need better training and apparently stronger glasses.

The rouge is fine, thanks. You are being rewarded for gaining field position, not missing a field goal.
Perhaps we should get rid of fieldgoals themselves?
Imagine, being rewarded for failing to score a touchdown!!

The NFL kicking rules are arcane at best, stupid at worst.
I doubt you will find many fans of the CFL that will concur about how wonderful the fair catch rule is...I for one think it is stupid.

One thing I would like to see to discourage field goals would be to move the goal posts to the back of the end zone. Then on 3rd and a yard from say the 30 where it would be a 56 yarder, teams might try for a first down which would make it more exciting than always going for a field goal there.

To those suggesting the present contact on recievers is fine merely because football is a tough-man's sport:

There are still going to be big hits and great blocking & tackles on passing plays. Eliminating contact before & while the ball is in the air will but emphasis on skill and open up the passing game just enough to add that extra long bomb or TD grab per game that the league's missed out on this year. The rules are already defined this way but the refs let alot more contact go than is defined. On passing plays, the defenders should be allowed to play the ball, nothing else until someone gets to that ball be it an offensive or defensive player. Every player is entitled to his own space on the field so a reciever charging through or tripping over a defender isn't going to be interference. It won't result in the rediculousness of every receiver being open every play.

I really think in doing this you lose a miniscule amount of physicality & exchange for an appropriate amount of offensive entertainment and I really think its a strong possibility that the league is going to do this next year.

Moving the goalposts to the back of the endzone is something I've warmed up to only if the rouge is redefined as being applicable only on kicked balls that are returnable in the endzone. Otherwise the rouge really would become a reward for failure as opposed to incentive to bring the ball out of the endzone.

To that effect: it seems in the modern era of the CFL, the rouge has lost its purpose as incentive to get out of the endzone. Teams will almost always choose taking the rouge instead of trying to bust a return for fear of being tackled at the 6 yard line.

--Maybe instead of placing the ball at the 35 following a rouge, place it at the 20 where now there is the potential for more field position running it out as opposed to taking the rouge.

--There also exists the option used in the CIS where getting it out of the endzone will place you at the 20 automatically while taking the rouge will place you at the 35. Anything that gets the returner to run toward the opposite end might break out an opportunity for a big kick return.

Comming back the the goalposts at the back of the endzone thing that would kill as many drives without points as it would extend only to see another fieldgoal. I think it would hamper scoring more than it would encourage it.