With all the great preseason previews and countdowns being published across the country concerning team rosters, award winners, coaches, and individual players, I thought it would be fun to take a look at three things we (the fans) can strive to do better in 2016.
These are things we’ve all done in the past — myself included — for reasons of convenience, over-enthusiasm or in the simple interest of generating conversation. But if we can keep a level head in 2016, maybe we can engage in more productive conversation this season and help make our league a better place.
1) Losing our minds about officiating in early July
Officiating isn’t perfect, an inconvenient reality that isn’t exclusive to the CFL. A Google search for “NBA playoff officiating,” for example, currently yields first-page results that include the Bleacher Report‘s “Is the NBA’s Officiating the Worst We’ve Ever Seen?“, the Washington Post‘s “Can’t the NBA do something about the awful officiating in these playoffs games?“, and the Sporting News‘ “Bad officiating making cursed NBA playoffs even worse.”
Still, CFL fans decry the state of officiating every July after the first few weeks of regular season action. We’ve all heard (and probably voiced) these complaints before: there are too many penalties; the pace of the game is too slow; too many borderline calls are being flagged; too many blatant infractions are going unpenalized.
My point isn’t that fans should be satisfied with substandard officiating — far from it. But it’s important to remember that, along with the CFL’s coaches and players, so, too, must the league’s officials have time to adjust to the pace of play every season. With new officials and new rules in place this year there are bound to be growing pains for the league’s officiating crews early in 2016. Instead of pouncing on them early, let’s allow our officials work their way through the upcoming adjustment period.
The CFL’s director of officiating Glen Johnson is doing his due diligence to get CFL officiating on the right track. Johnson’s efforts included a refreshing development last year that saw him publicly admit his officials’ mistakes on multiple occasions, including September 25’s Calgary-Winnipeg match-up and November 1’s contest between Hamilton and Ottawa.
Officiating mistakes will inevitably be made in 2016, some of which will regrettably impact the outcome of games. But let’s cut Johnson and his crew some slack this July — we’re often understanding when our favorite players make early-season errors, so why not afford our officials the same courtesy?
2) Ending sentences with “…if he stays healthy”
Players get hurt — some more than others. Everyone knows this. Everyone understands this.
In the immortal words of Cal Murphy, “you can’t make the club in the tub.”
With this in mind, I’m tired of reading that Darian Durant will lead the Riders to success if he stays healthy. I’m tired of hearing that Drew Willy will lead the Bombers to the playoffs this year if he stays healthy. And Mike Reilly? It’s amazing how many people believe his Eskimos will have a great season if he stays healthy.
Finishing any sentence of football analysis with “if he stays healthy” is simply redundant. No player can achieve on-field success while sitting on injured reserve. Every team — even those with the best depth in the league — will see its on-field performance suffer along with every injury its players incur. Predicting when and to whom these injuries will take place, however, is impossible.
Considering the random and inevitable nature of injuries, speculating about the health of specific players is meaningless. Let’s let the games unfold and monitor the health of the league’s players as they come.
3) Anointing the CFL’s next great quarterback way too soon
Great quarterbacking is an essential part of the CFL’s entertainment value. Not many CFL fans — particularly casual CFL fans — want to sit through a three-hour defensive stalemate that ends in a final score of 9-6. The CFL is at its best when offences are connecting on long passes, utilizing every inch of our 110 by 65-yard field to rack up points by the handful.
It’s easy to understand, then, why so many fans become infatuated with young pivots before they’ve truly proven that they can play. This was particularly evident last season, a year that saw an unprecedented number of rookie CFL quarterbacks start multiple consecutive games. Jeff Mathews, James Franklin, Rakeem Cato, Brett Smith, and Jonathon Jennings all fell into this category in 2015, enjoying varying levels of success.
But for every Ricky Ray or Bo Levi Mitchell — players who turned out to be the real deal — there are five Quinton Porters, Joey Elliotts, Casey Printerses or Thomas DeMarcos — players who looked like future stars in their first season of CFL action, but eventually failed to achieve sustained success at the pro level.
This isn’t to say that it’s never okay to believe in rookie quarterbacks, only that expectations for such players should be tempered until they reach their second or third season of productive play. Perspective is everything and, until a player has done enough to prove his value over an extended period of time, we should stop crowning players as the league’s next great pivot.
Then again, on second thought — Vernon Adams for the hall of fame!
If he stays healthy, of course.
And CFL officials don’t screw up his career…
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