Monday Mailbag: Canadian ratio/grassroots football, Ottawa’s awful offence

The 3DownNation Monday Mailbag answers questions from readers across the country every week.

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We’ve answered a handful of questions below. If your question didn’t get picked, don’t panic — we’ll save it to potentially answer here next week or on the 3DownNation Podcast.

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CPL and CEBL know the best way to grow the sports at the highest level in Canada. The CFL should tighten its import ratios and play the best Canadians instead of another country’s cast-offs. The Global/CFL 2.0 initiative is a misplaced/mistimed strategy. Way too premature until the game is grown further at home.

(New B.C. Lions’ owner Amar) Doman seems to get it. He was already talking about cutting checks to amateur football. Can you imagine the goodwill and impact if the CFL took the millions it has spent on finding Global kickers and gave it to Canadian community football for coach and player development?

That would be a huge PR win and an overdue sign of respect. The CFL doesn’t respect the ‘C’ in its name. Until they do that, three-down football will punch below its weight and so will the CFL.

Bill Barrable

Thanks for the message, Bill. I couldn’t agree more.

Believe it or not, the CFL actually cut its funding to Canadian amateur football in half in 2018. Many of the league’s individual teams do a nice job of supporting grassroots football, but the league itself does little to invest in the game.

We know that young Canadians follow the NFL more closely than the CFL, which is a dubious trend for anyone who wants to see the three-down game thrive over the coming years.

I would argue that the biggest cause of this is the Madden video game craze, which has accounted for 250 million sales since its launch in 1988. Young people play a lot of video games and it’s only natural to grow an affinity for the NFL as they engage with one of the most popular games on the market. Madden NFL 21 received overwhelmingly negative reviews and still sold exceptionally well.

The CFL will never have a top-flight video game — they performed market research under commissioner Mark Cohon in 2013 that went nowhere — but they can attract young fans in ways the NFL can’t.

Localized initiatives such as grassroots outreach, school visits, theme nights, giveaways, and skills competitions can go a long way to creating new, young CFL fans.

Patrick Mahomes is an incredible quarterback, but he’s never going to attend a community event in Calgary, visit a school in Ottawa or sign autographs in Hamilton. These are things the CFL can do if they market their players correctly and ensure they engage with the community on a regular basis.

I agree with your sentiments regarding Amar Doman. I loved hearing him talk about having kids across the province wear orange and black on B.C. Lions game days. Even if you have to pay for thousands of kids t-shirts and give away youth tickets by the boatload, that’s money well-spent if they grow-up to become lifelong fans of your organization.

I grew up playing a ton of Madden and still became a lifelong fan of the CFL and NFL. The NFL has the best players, but the CFL has the best game and local talent.

The CFL has steadily chipped away at the minimum number of Canadians required to be in the starting lineup, which is wild considering homegrown talent is the best it’s ever been right now.

The Saskatchewan Roughriders started eight nationals in Week 1 when they beat B.C., six of whom were born in the province of Saskatchewan. Dan Clark, Evan Johnson, Brayden Lenius, and Mitchell Picton are from Regina, Brett Boyko is from Saskatoon, and Logan Ferland is from Melfort. How cool is that?

Doubling-down on Canadian talent — especially that which hails from a local city or province — is a good way to go, particularly as more and more homegrown players make an impact in the NCAA.

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I was one of those in the stands on Saturday. It was brutal. (Ottawa Redblacks’ general manager) Marcel Desjardins is a disaster. He took a good football team and trashed it when he got rid of (Trevor) Harris, (Greg) Ellingson, and (William) Powell. He then relied on (Dominique) Davis at QB for what was a disaster of a year (in 2019).

Finally he did the intelligent thing and signed Nick Arbuckle only to let him go for nothing in return and then sign a guy who is at the end of his career and can’t throw the ball more than twenty yards. Fans would have lived with growing pains with Arbuckle.

Desjardins doesn’t like or respect players. They are just a commodity to him but the fans want to see continuity and be able to identify with players. Desjardins needs to go before he kills all interest in the Redblacks.

-Ed Aiston

Thanks for the message, Ed. I appreciate your frustration.

Ottawa has been respectable on defence and special teams thus far, but the offence ranks dead-last in yards per game (198.7), points per game (10.7), passing yards per game (151.0), passing yards per attempt (5.6), rushing yards per game (63.3), rushing yards per attempt (3.8), and sacks allowed (13). Yikes.

The Redblacks didn’t make a strong effort to renegotiate Arbuckle’s contract before releasing him this winter. Paul LaPolice had a lot of success with Nichols at the helm in Winnipeg, but his supporting cast with the Blue Bombers was very good. In Ottawa, it’s lousy.

I’m not sure the Redblacks have a single receiver who would be starting for another team in the CFL outside of R.J. Harris (maybe). Rookie Ryan Davis showed flashes against B.C., but had a costly drop late in the game.

The offensive line is poor and they don’t have a difference-maker at running back. Justin Davis had a chance to win the starting job on Saturday, but his late fumble will not inspire confidence from the coaching staff.

Here’s the bottom line: Ottawa’s offensive personnel was subpar in 2019 and it hasn’t improved. That’s a shame.

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