So when will the NFL's challenge rules become more like the CFL’s already?

Tuesday, January 22, 2019 12:06 AM

You gotta love seeing headlines like this first thing in the morning: Canadian Football League could hold answer to NFL problems.

Well, duh. As in so many areas of American culture and society, the NFL could do with a lot less navel-gazing and a lot more considering of what’s happening northward.

If implemented in the NFL, the one-yard neutral zone, unlimited motion before the snap and the overtime format would immeasurably improve the American game. Such changes are clearly too radical for American tastes, however, and the Reuters article is instead addressing the NFL’s rules on coach’s challenges, which have blatantly become about ensuring that commercial breaks are as frequent and evenly distributed as possible throughout the telecast.

This Reuters piece is all about last Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, and specifically what appeared to be a non-challengeable non-call late in the fourth quarter that changed the complexion of the game late. Or, put another way:

“The New Orleans Saints might be on their way to the Super Bowl instead of the Los Angeles Rams if they were playing by Canadian Football League rules that would have allowed for a challenge of what is being described as the most outrageous non-call in NFL history.”

CFLpass always feels obligated to point out that dragging out the “all-time” conversations is by definition 100% bunk 99.9% of the time and exists solely as attention-grabbing clickbait and hot takes in the instant-history 21st century.

On this one, folks may have a point, though.

So … time for the NFL to adopt the CFL’s challenge rules? You betcha. And here’s the thing: The rule is so simple to explain, so no-nonsense in definition and so potentially easy to implement, we are left with one inescapable conclusion for a reason as to why the NFL *hasn’t* put the rule into effect, likesay, before Super Bowl LIII.

The CFL rule is this: Each team gets one challenge per game, whether the call is overturned or not, and any call (except unsportsmanlike conduct) at any point in the game is challengeable.

Period, done. See how easy?

So why would the NFL never allow this rule? Dude, you’re losing up to four commercial breaks per game!

But if the NFL brain trust believes the league can keep the now-archaic three-timeout and two- to three-challenge rules while expanding the coach’s options to include challenges late in games and/or on pass interference, they’re about to get a rude awakening.

See, when the expanded challenge rules hit the maximum in the head coach’s options in 2015, i.e. the system described directly above, CFL coaches rapidly discovered the loophole: On any contested pass, the head coach would simply throw the challenge flag, figuring that the zebras would find *some*thing to overturn the play’s result.

Only about half of such challenges went the coach’s way, but by about week six of the season, the games dragged on, particularly late at the endings of halves, when challenge flags were available to burn. The league’s commissioner took measures that in the NFL would be unprecedented, changing the challenge rule *midseason* to its present form.

The effect? Games improved immeasurably, and telecast time was shortened by a couple of minutes from two seasons previous. Like CFL spokesman Lucas Barrett told the news service, ““The speed and flow of Canadian Football is vital to the game.”

Will the NFL do the correct thing? Do you even have to ask? At least in the meantime, as in so many areas of culture and society, Americans can turn northward for a saner alternative.

Tags: CFL News