New CFL Commissioner Gets it Right on Replay

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REGINA, SK - SEPTEMBER 24: Canadian Football League referee Al Bradbury makes a call during the game between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Regina, Canada. (Photo by Brent Just/Getty Images)

He’s been on the job for less than a month but new CFL commissioner Randy Ambroise has already made a meaningful contribution to the league. With his new change to the replay rule, he’s definitely gotten it right.

New CFL Commissioner’s Midseason Change a Good Start

Ambroise’s Wednesday announcement of a midseason change to the rule book, reducing coaches replay challenges from as many as six per game down to two, is a solid move in the right direction. For all of its warts off the field—and there have been many—the Canadian Football League has always been able to hang its hat on having possibly the most exciting brand of competition on the field anywhere in the world. But lately, maybe for the first time, this has been coming into question.

Other Leagues Have Caught Up

Gone are the days of proudly declaring the CFL a higher scoring game than the NFL. Down south, they have successfully copied many of the formations offences have been running up here for decades. As a result, scoring, along with passing yardage, has skyrocketed. The NFL has hired dozens of bright new young minds to be head coaches throughout the league which has brought new ideas and new systems with it. The CFL was slow to adapt to this way of thinking, recycling many of the same coaches and general managers throughout the 2000s.

The final straw was how the replay challenges slowed games down. Fans don’t tune in to compare replay footage of pass interference calls they don’t understand. Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Mike O’Shea was once the most successful coach in challenging calls where defensive P.I. wasn’t called. When asked how he felt about the new rule, he responded with “I dunno.”

That should tell us all something. Enough with the challenges. Enough with the reviews. Enough with the delays. The National Football League loves to copy the CFL and yet has found no reason to follow the CFL’s lead on reviewing pass interference. That too should be telling.

League Needs to Crack Down Further

This week’s announcement is a good start, but the league still has work to do before it gets this right completely. At some point they have to decide if the officials can call these games properly or not. It’s time to put accountability back on the referees who are paid to make these calls, not on the coaches who have enough other stuff to worry about when managing a forty-six man roster.

Kybosh the pass interference challenges, and if that doesn’t do it, then maybe do away with coaches’ challenges altogether. Maybe incidental contact isn’t so bad between a receiver and defender if it’s not blatant enough for the ref to see it and if it’s away from the play anyway. The NFL screwed up its first journey into replay in the 1980s and had the willingness to admit failure. It seemed to work out okay for them. This will be just fine too.

The booth reviews on turnovers and scoring plays take long enough and those are here to stay. The rest of it can all get thrown out. It’s time to make our three down game great again. And it’s time to give this new commissioner a standing ovation for having the courage to make a midseason change despite the criticism he will surely take because of it.

He hasn’t much time to act but his approach to Karen from Winnipeg and her missing million, along with this replay problem, is making it very hard not to like Randy Ambrosie already.

And for as badly as the league screwed up with pushing Jeffrey Orridge out the door, early returns suggest the CFL governors have made a pretty good hire.

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