Gone fishing: CFL should consider rule to stop unnecessary late-game challenges

Photo: Larry MacDougal/3DownNation. All rights reserved.

There’s never been much of a push to penalize CFL head coaches for making ridiculous late-game challenges but one has to wonder if the events of the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ 29-26 double overtime victory over the Calgary Stampeders this past weekend might change that.

In the late stages of Saturday’s game, Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson threw the challenge flag to argue that defensive lineman Anthony Lanier II had struck the neck area of Calgary quarterback Jake Maier.

Upon replay, it was clear that Lanier was correctly not charged with roughing the passer. If he made contact with Maier at all, it was barely a love tap. The challenge seemed like a desperate attempt to prolong a stalled drive in the first overtime period, which saw the Stampeders forced to settle for a field goal from Rene Paredes.

In the second overtime period, it was Saskatchewan head coach Craig Dickenson’s turn to try and artificially prolong a drive. Following a second-down incompletion, the bench boss challenged that Calgary defensive back Jonathan Moxey had interfered with receiver Shawn Bane Jr. The replay didn’t show any indication that Moxey had even touched Bane, much less interfered with him.

“That was just something I needed to do,” Craig Dickenson said with a chuckle after the win, which improved his team to 2-1 and put them ahead of Calgary in the early-season West Division standings. “The game was just about over at that point. I know it only goes two overtimes, so I was fishing a little bit on that and they made the right call. It wasn’t [pass interference.]”

It’s hard to blame the Dickenson brothers for trying what one might term “Hail Mary” challenges, even if they drew some lighthearted criticism from TSN’s commentators. There are no rules discouraging such silliness at the end of games since, as Craig Dickenson pointed out, there’s essentially no punishment for losing a late-game challenge.

These weren’t the first bogus challenges in CFL history, though they were the worst ones we’ve seen so far this season. If we see more, the CFL might be wise to consider finding a new way to penalize teams for unsuccessful late-game challenges to discourage fishing expeditions that cause unnecessary delays to what can otherwise be very compelling parts of the game.

If the league ever introduced such a measure, we might call it the “Dickenson Rule,” though Dave and Craig probably wouldn’t like that.

Brendan McGuire has covered the CFL since 2006 in radio and print. Based in Regina, he has a front-row view of Rider Nation.