CFL’s newest coaching rule is needlessly restrictive

“Let the bears pay the bear tax. I pay the Homer tax.”

That line from The Simpsons is what popped into my head when I first read Dave Naylor’s piece regarding the CFL having not just a hiring, but a communication, embargo on teams conducting coaching searches.

The CFL coaching carousel used to be anything goes, then Chris Jones jumped from Edmonton to Saskatchewan just after winning a Grey Cup with the green and gold, which brought about the whole Jason Maas kerfuffle and the league set out rules on how coaches could move from one team to another.

That probably should have been the end of it, but three years later we have the CFL releasing its latest edict on coaching moves and it is so Draconian that it makes the NFL look reasonable by comparison.

From now until 48 hours after the Grey Cup teams are not permitted to speak to anyone currently employed by any other team in the CFL about their coaching vacancy, meaning the B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts cannot legally go about their respective coaching searches for almost two weeks.

Part of the reason, I think, is that the CFL does not want breaking news on a new head man in B.C. or Toronto to take attention away from the Grey Cup. They want the focus solely on the big game, and the Lions or Argos filling the openings left by the retirement of Wally Buono and the firing of Marc Trestman, respectively, could take some attention away from the game and the two teams playing in it.

But is the momentary lack of talk about the Grey Cup really enough to put forth a rule that even the very image conscious NFL hasn’t implemented?

Last year around Super Bowl time we all knew that the New England Patriots, the most tight-lipped and focused organization in the NFL, were going to be losing both of their coordinators once their season was over. Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels had agreed to become the head coaches of the Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts, respectively. We knew this in the lead up to a Super Bowl that the Patriots were playing in. But did the NFL try to make a rule to stop this from happening? No, they figured any talk about the league is good and while they have rules in place from when teams looking for a coach can contact coaches still in the playoffs, they generally do not care if some focus is taken away from the Super Bowl because of another league matter. The hiring of a coach is big news and brings chatter with it. If it takes away from a bit of big-game hype, the NFL sees that as the cost of doing business. Besides, the Super Bowl (and Grey Cup) sell themselves; losing a few hours of coverage to another league matter would hardly damage anything.

But here we are, just over a week away from the biggest game in Canadian football and the league is so scared that something else big might happen that they impose this ridiculous rule that helps no one and might, in fact, actually hinder the two teams in two of the markets that need the most help (and could use the hype bump that comes with the announcement of a new head coach during a time when the most eyeballs will be on the league).

But this is the type of backwards thinking I’ve come to expect from the CFL in recent years. Whenever they have a chance to do the right thing — which in this case was to literally do nothing — they instead find a way to muck it up.

Want to make a rule that teams can’t contact coaches from teams still in the playoffs? OK, fine, it’s silly but I can see some logic in that. It’s that extra step, the step that says teams can’t even talk to coaches from teams not in the playoffs where this new rule goes from silly to downright stupid.

The bear tax on The Simpsons was put into place because one time a bear wandered into Springfield and people freaked out, so they created a bear patrol. That patrol cost money, so they instituted the bear tax. The tax, much like this new rule, was an extreme measure to a rare circumstance that was made into a bigger deal than it really was.

One day the CFL will get something right again, but today is not that day. Instead, teams are left to pay the bear tax.

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