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Let's Develop a Canadian Quarterback for the Canadian Football League

Rating: 2 votes, 3.00 average.
As an enthusiastic booster of the CFL I find myself wondering from time to time how the league could go about raising it's profile within the Canadian consciousness. It seems to me that a fairly simple way to do this would be for the CFL to undertake a few steps to encourage the development of the Canadian quarterback. I know that I have heard others comment from time to time that the league should not do anything special in this area and that we should simply have the best player available play the position. But if we truly did not care about Canadians playing the game and simply wanted the best possible product on the field then we would not be subjected to the usual uproar every time anyone floated the idea of reducing the number of Canadians under the current non import rule. This occurred as recently as when Mark Cohon suggested reducing the number of Canadians on a starting CFL roster during the latest round of negotiations with the league's players. I realize that the commissioner made this statement in order to establish a stronger bargaining position in relationship to other outstanding issues with the CFL PA but he nonetheless brought up the matter because he knew he would get a passionate response. He also brought it up because reducing (or heaven forbid eliminating) the number of Canadians in the CFL would significantly lower the league's operating costs. The bottom line is that you could find an American who could play any position as well if not better than any Canadian currently playing in the CFL. More importantly you could find an American that would do the job at a substantially lower rate of pay. The fact that there is a much larger number of Americans playing the game from an earlier age who are being trained by superior coaches (especially at the grassroots level) makes this an undeniable truth. It works in almost the exact reverse when one is comparing American and Canadian hockey players.

In my opinion there is but one thing that prevents the CFL from being totally overrun by Americans and that is Canadian patriotism. We may not be as loud as some of our neighbors to the south but I believe we are just as passionate. It's a uniquely Canadian game. It's our game and there should be as many Canadians playing it as the rules will allow while still maintaining a competitive and exciting brand of football. If you agree with this position then it stands to reason that the development of a starting Canadian quarterback who could compete with his American counterparts would make the game even more popular with it's fans and Canadians in general. The quarterback is usually the face of any franchise. He’s the star. There is no other position on the field that has a more direct effect on the outcome of the game than quarterback. This is even more true in the CFL than the four down circuit in the U.S. where the running game plays a much more integral role. The fact is however that getting current CFL coaches, general managers, and executives (a large number of which are comprised of Americans) to buy into the idea because of the biases that exist today against Canadian born and trained quarterbacks and even players in general would be at best a very tough sell. In fact the only way I think it would fly would be if you could convince these individuals that developing a Canadian quarterback would give them more weapons at their disposal with which they can use to their advantage.

Consider the football coach and the strategy that he employs where during the course of a game every decision that he makes is calculated and executed right to the bitter end like a chess match. In fact both CFL and NFL coaches have been known to use up all of their remaining timeouts in the final minutes of a game even when doing so will not make a difference to it’s outcome. Some people think they are just delaying the inevitable. I on the other hand like to think that they are acting like any other field commander would in playing the last card they have left no matter how much the odds are stacked against them. If you keep this mentality in mind then it would be easy to see how coaches would want to add a fourth quarterback to the game day roster even if the league mandated that the position could only be held by a non import. In most cases the coach would never need to go to his fourth string quarterback but if you give him the option of having him on the sideline as long as it doesn’t hurt him at any other position then chances are that your average CFL coach would want him at his disposal. Heck your Canadian quarterback might even get more than a token number of reps in practice if when he gets into a game he is counted as one of your starting seven non imports allowing the coach to start an additional import at another position. As long as your plan is undertaken so that you are not reducing the number of players and imports that the coach has on his current game day (as well as his 4 man reserve and practice) roster then I think coaches would welcome the addition. It’s just another club in his bag.

What about the General Manager? Will he want to add another quarterback to the roster if it means fitting him under the salary cap? The answer is probably not. Therefore the other step that would need to be taken under this plan is that the salary of the fourth non import quarterback would not count against the cap. The salary cap was instituted so as to create a level playing field for all CFL teams as well as to provide financial stability for the league as a whole. Exempting the salary of a single Canadian quarterback per CFL team would not do anything to change this. In the initial stages at least your Canadian quarterback would not be making a whole lot of money since a lot of time and effort would have to be put into developing him before you would see any type of return. In fact he would probably be making the league minimum right up until the point that he became a serviceable player and was able to compete on the football field. If you ever could develop a star Canadian quarterback then at that point he probably becomes a very expensive player but at the same time I believe that he also would become one of your most valuable marketing assets from both a league and team point of view. Heck fans and the media alike still speak in awe of Russ Jackson and most of them have never seen him play. I am not na´ve enough to think that this would result in Canadian quarterbacks starting in the short term but it would at least get the ball rolling in the right direction. Some may say that it is not worth going to these extremes but if that is the case then was it really worth going to the extreme of setting up a non import rule so that we could get Canadians onto a CFL roster so that they could continue to develop and hopefully one day become starters and even stars? The answer was yes and I believe that we should take a similar mentality when thinking about how we should be getting Canadian quarterbacks onto CFL rosters so that they can develop, start, and hopefully one day even star.

Updated 09-30-2010 at 11:17 PM by adb

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