‘They may never punt the ball’: Bombers’ DC Richie Hall believes four-down CFL would be unfair to defences

Photo: Nik Kowalski/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

Following reports that CFL leadership is considering a conversion to four downs, prominent three-down league alumni including Alex Singleton, Damon Allen, and Marc Trestman have come out against the idea.

Now you can add Richie Hall to that list.

The back-to-back Grey Cup champion as defensive coordinator for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers joined The SportsCage and told listeners that he would not be okay with a four-down CFL.

“No, no,” he said emphatically. “I think that’s one of the unique factors of this CFL game.”

One of the league’s most well-respected defensive minds, Hall’s CFL career began in 1983 as a defensive back with the Calgary Stampeders. The San Antonio native was a four-time West all-star with the Stamps and Saskatchewan Roughriders before joining the coaching ranks in 1994. He has won four Grey Cups as a defensive coordinator to go with one victory as a player and imagines a four-down CFL as the death of defence.

“Being on the defensive side of the ball, you’ve got to give us a chance to be successful. You go four downs, they may never punt the ball. You might have 70-point games,” Hall said. “I’m being exaggerative but 50-point games, and defensively if that’s the case, every year they’re going to be firing all of us defensive coaches.”

A desire for higher scoring and more offence is part of what has sparked this conversation from a league perspective. It was reported in December that the CFL would be reviewing all aspects of its game, including the number of downs.

Earlier this week, those fears were revived following a report that the league’s much heralded new data and technology partner Genius Sports, was pushing for the fundamental shift in the way the game is played. However, the company denied in a statement that it had provided any input on game-play.

Commissioner Randy Ambrosie has attempted to dispel the rumours, but avoided an explicit denial that a down change is on the table. Hall hopes that the coy nature of the commish isn’t an indication that a major rule change is coming.

“I think there’s a great game, I think the rules that they have in, they’re great. It’s just a matter of cleaning up some areas and us being consistent regarding our play,” he said.

“Four downs is something that I hope they never get to because I think three downs provides a good element in the game.”