Training camp has begun, which means the NFL regular season is just around the corner. And with the Canadian Football League already in full swing, I started to think, which is always a dangerous thing. A couple of years ago I pondered adopting a CFL team to root for, and with the end result, I picked the Saskatchewan Roughriders, who have pretty much sucked ever since then (although they are currently 4-0 on the young CFL season).
This time around, I thought it'd be fun to discuss five CFL rules I think the NFL should adopt. Unfortunately, someone else already wrote the exact same blog a couple of years ago. But I read his rule changes and I think 4 of the 5 would be lame additions to the NFL rule book.
So here are my proposed CFL adoptions:
5) The wider field.
An NFL football field is 53 1/3 yards wide. That's such an arbitrary and silly width. Why not 50 yards? Apparently at one point in the 1800s football fields were 140 yards long by 70 feet wide, which makes some degree of sense -- the length is twice the width.
CFL field widths are somewhat arbitrary themselves -- 65 yards. So I'll meet in the middle and go or a 60 yard width, which would again return American football to having a field whose length is twice its width. I don't like the idea of the longer Canadian field (110 yards? Really? Why?), and few Americans stadiums could accommodate the length. But the new width is only adding the equivalent of the white restricting stripe that runs around the perimeter of NFL fields, which would fit in every stadium. It would bring the fans closer to the game. It's also been floated recently that a wider field could reduce head injuries, which may or may not be true. But it would definitely encourage more wide-open play-calling and strategy.
4) One foot inbounds for a completion
I've gone back and forth about this rule over the years, since high school and college football, like the CFL, require only one foot in bounds for a legal completion. Part of me likes the fact that the NFL requires both feet to be inbounds. It requires more athleticism.
And yet, you can catch the ball with one knee inbounds (or one elbow) and it's a legal catch. Why is one knee better than one foot? If you cross the plane of the goal line with the ball but only one foot is in the end zone, it's a touchdown. I like consistency, and the inconsistency of the NFL's rule bothers me.
(By the way, for the record this was the one rule change in the aforementioned article that I actually agreed with).
3) The 18-game schedule
OK, this is less of a game rule and more of the scheduling thing. But it's obnoxious that the NFL plays 4 preseason games and only 16 regular-season games. You're excited for the first preseason game, because football is BACK, dammit! But by the fourth game you get to watch guys who are about to be cut play four quarters of football and it's dreadfully boring.
CFL teams play 2 preseason and 18 regular-season games. I know this won't fly anytime soon -- the players union is all hot and bothered about more games and more injuries (yet somehow they don't care as much about the backup quarterbacks, running backs and linebackers who play the majority of those games and are just as likely to get injured in a preseason as a regular-season game). Fine. Extend the season to 20 weeks and give each team two bye weeks. Fans pay good money to go see these games, season-ticket holders have to buy preseason games as part of the package and they deserve to be rewarded.
2) Unlimited motion by offensive backfield players
In the early days, the rule was the same in American and Canadian football. But at some point in the 1920s, someone complained that Notre Dame's Four Horseman offense was too good, and the solution was to limit motion in American football after the ball is set, to one player, who can't be moving forward.
This is ridiculous. In 1926, the Frankford Yellow Jackets led the NFL in scoring at a whopping 13.88 points per game, an average that in today's NFL would be considered anemic at best and would have fans screaming for the backup QB and the firing of the offensive coordinator. The average NFL team in 1926 scored 7.6 points per contest. The 1924 Notre Dame national champions scored 28.5 points per game, effective but hardly unstoppable. If the balance of power was weighted in those days, it was in favor of the defense.
Unlimited motion puts more pressure on the defense, no doubt. But it's also more entertaining to watch players running around the line of scrimmage before the snap.
1) The single
CFL teams are awarded a point if they kick the ball into the end zone (via a kickoff, punt or missed field goal) and its not returned out. Basically, any kicking play that results in a touchback in the NFL would be worth 1 point in the CFL.
I like this rule, and not just because it's weird that you can't finish a football game with a score of 1-0. I doubt it would affect strategy much early in games -- I would guess that most teams would concede a single point to avoid having to run the ball out and end up pinned back on their 3-yard line. But in the fourth quarter of a tie game, the strategy becomes dramatically different. As you can probably tell by now, I like anything that increase the chess game that is play-calling and game-planning.
There it is. Feel free to disagree, for what it's worth. HAPPY FOOTBALLING.