Football: CFL expansion would require import ratio tweak — Naylor

David Naylor of and TSN is taking some heat for this post, coming five days after Canadian players scored all of the Saskatchewan Roughriders' points in a 44-44 tie with Calgary.
"The buzz among many CFL coaches and general managers right now is that the league is suffering from a lack of quality Canadian players.

"By this they don’t mean there aren’t good Canadians making plays week-in and week-out. They mean teams are having trouble finding 20 Canadians who can play football at the professional level, once the injury factor has played out by this time of the year.

"... (M)any in the CFL believe that before the league proceeds with expansion, it needs to take a good look at the state of the Canadian talent supply. And whether it can really commit to finding 20 more Canadians ready to play. The alternative is to lower the ratio, an position that has always been a non-starter with the CFL Players Association, an organization that is known for putting the 'C' in CFLPA.

One thing not clear is why there seems to be such a shortage of Canadians at this point. Anecdotally, at least, football seems to be growing in Canada with at least two areas in full boom mode – Quebec and B.C. – where the game was barely hanging on 20 years ago.

There are more university teams in Canada than ever before and there seem to be as many or more players making it in the NCAA."
As noted, it was just last weekend the 'Riders had 10 Canadians on offence in a big game. Naylor gets some benefit of the doubt. He's pound-for-pound the best sports reporter in Canada and he's not saying Canadians cannot play football, it's just there's a drop-off once you get past the first rank. He qualified his statement.

Considering a CFL team's roster is not just the 42 who dress in a given week, but 55-60 when injured players are replaced, he has a point.

On an appearance on Sun TV's The Grill Room in June, CFL commish Mark Cohon speculated the import ratio could be tweaked to help a new Ottawa franchise be more competitive. It's not coming out of left field.

A modest suggestion, of course, is the tail is wagging the dog. The NFL has the NCAA as its free farm system, but Canada does not have that football factory mindset. Other leagues invest in the amateur system to some extent. The CFL should be looking into how it can help augment those grassroots, whether it's through CIS, helping place players at NCAA schools (which used to be commonplace) or through the CJFL.

(This really rated a separate post than being in the land o' linkin', plus it's not time-sensitive. Sorry for waiting till this late in the day!)

Dealing with CFL's shallow pool of CanCon (Naylor's Sideline View)
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  1. There's nothing crazy about what Naylor is saying - he's bang on. Diluting your talent pool is a huge mistake, and if you don't change the import ratio when/if another team is added you're asking for trouble. You want your product to be at its best and if you're increasing the number of teams, while the talent pool of Canadian players remains the same, you're diluting the game. With the growth of football in certain regions, it's not foolish to think that in 5-10 years there will be more than enough top end Canadian talent to have 20 Canadians on 9 or 10 CFL teams, but at this stage if another team is added you need to be flexible. The ratio should adapt to the addition of teams, along with the growth of football in Canada. There has to be a minimum of Canadians on each roster - it is the CANADIAN Football League, but having a diluted Canadian talent pool on a team would only hurt the franchise, and hinder the growth of the Canadian game in that market. Even if you change the ratio slightly, and a new team is added, there is going to be more Canadians playing in the league as a whole anyways, just not on a team by team basis - and isn't the overall number of Canadians playing in the CFL the most important thing?

  2. My 2 cents - the more Canadian players we can have in the CFL, easier it will be to attract the better athletes at High School level toward football.

    And I am not sure that CFL teams are not passing on good Canadian players because of bad scouting or not helping sufficiently Canadian players adapt to the CFL...

  3. Funny how the CFL wrapped itself around the flag when the threat of the NFL coming north was front page news. They should be encouraging greater Canadian players on CFL teams. As the earlier post suggests, this is one way to encourage high school kids to continue playing football in Canada and slow the migration south.

  4. If they're serious about encouraging more Canadians to play in the CFL, the first thing that must be changed is the QBs don't count as imports thing. It's the most important position in the sport and we've basically prevented all Canadians from playing it professionally.

    I love NCAA football, and have immense respect for it, but quite frankly I would rather see a CFL team take a flyer on a guy like Brannagan/Faulds/Glavic/etc. than some NCAA DII scrub. We've got enough of those in the CFL. This used to be a league where people with talent who were ignored for whatever reason (size, injuries, race, etc.) would come to play. To get back to that, it's time we started getting more CanCon QBs in the CFL.

  5. The CFL won't take a flyer on CIS QBs because they have nowhere near the training or skill sets to compete at this level.

    Who are these NCAA D11 scrubs you're referring to? There have been all manner of QBs with excellent NCAA pedigrees who've come to the CFL and failed big-time. In fact, a bunch recently who have been Heisman runners-up, yet have shit the bed up here: Brad Banks, Eric Crouch, Tommie Frazier, Andre Ware (I think he won), Major Harris, Don McPherson, etc. Chris Leak is also the Als No. 3 guy, and that record-setting QB from Texas Tech last year doesn't even dress for the Green Riders.

    (Oh, I should include Michael Bishop on the above Heisman list too: as per established policy he will self-destruct very shortly and wreck Bomber playoff hopes.)

  6. Kevin Glenn - Illinois State
    Ricky Santos - New Hampshire
    Travis Lulay - Montana State
    Casey Printers - Florida A&M
    Barrick Nealy - Texas State
    Ricky Ray - Sacramento State
    Dalton Bell - West Texas A&M

    I won't dispute the quality of some of those players, but the fact stands that it is pretty pathetic that we need to go below the top tier of NCAA Football is sad. I won't touch some of the names you gave on the basis that anyone who is familiar with their college careers knows that they won the Heisman based on their ability to run the Option/Run N Shoot offence. The only exception to this is Brad Banks who had one good year of collegiate-level football, and didn't have the skill set you mentioned to succeed in any pro football. Chris Leak and Graham Harrell will have successful careers up here, yet. They've been here a whopping 6 months. Michael Bishop has a winning record as a CFL QB and you cannot dispute wins and losses at all. He's also probably the most physically gifted QB to play in this country.

    All that being stated, what is the impetus to develop Canadian talent if they're not going to make it anyways? They have the physical ability and are familiar with the style of play, it's a matter of making the effort to coach them. That is, of course, unless you would like to suggest that God breeds better QBs on the basis of which side of the 49th parallel you're on. To suggest Canadians lack the ability to play QB at an elite level is just ignorant. Coach them and they will do damn well. Moreover, of the ones that have gotten to the tryout level they have been more or less ignored due to the fact they're Canadian regardless of how well they played.

    See: Tom Denison

  7. I don't think it's pathetic. The CFL has a long history of bringing in QBs from small colleges. Ron Lancaster played at Wittenburg College.

    Others come to mind: Matt Dunigan (Valdosta State), Damon Allen (Cal State Fullerton, which doesn't even have a team now), Tracy Ham (Georgia Southern), Dave Dickenson (Montana), Khari Jones (UC Davis), to name a few. Henry Burris played at Temple and Anthony Calvillo came from Utah State, both schools in the top division, but hardly football powerhouses.

    Some of those guys can better adjust to the CFL culture than a player from a BCS school who's used to getting star treatment.

  8. Perhaps my words were a little strong, but my point remains that as a Canadian league there should be some incentive to develop Canadian talent at the most important position in the sport.

    Have one designated roster spot for a Canadian QB to develop them. That's 8 (9 when Ottawa is back...again) Canadian quarterbacks in the league right there who have a legit chance at game action (especially if they play in BC!).

  9. Bill James once said the belief talent is scarce and realizing it isn't separates good organizations from bad organizations. You see that at every level of sport.

    No doubt every team in the CFL has some concerns about depth of the Canadian player pool as the season goes along and injuries mount. At the same time, who's complaining, franchises such as Montreal, Calgary, Saskatchewan, who are near the top of the league, or the Toronto Argonauts of the world? Montreal doesn't have a lot of CIS players, but they're always coming up with good Canadians like Etienne Boulay. Meantime, the Argos sit there complaining they can't find anyone, like a single guy sitting at home on Friday night (I've been there, not surprisingly).

    To the point about QBs, the counter-point the CFL apologists fall back on, not without justification, is that you'd have to carry a Canadian QB on the taxi squad in case the other was injured. Are there 16 (or 18) qualified Canadian QBs?

    I wish the CFL would take it upon themselves to better nurture that talent. The rub is the CFL gets what it pays for; it goes on the NFL and NBA's model that colleges are their free farm system, then complain the Canadian player pool is shallow. Pot, meet kettle.

  10. I certainly agree on all points. Even if they simply make it so that QBs do count as imports - like they should- you're still fostering the need for an increase in Canadian players. I do maintain, however, that making QBs subject to the import rule would be a good starting point for stressing the need for Canadian talent, and encouraging adequate opportunities for Canadian players.

    re: the taxi squad issue - I think in between the CIS and Canadians playing in the States there is definitely the potential to make it work. However, I would accept that there is a need to grandfather it in some way.

    re: the talent-free Argos - It pains me to see them in this state. I almost threw a party to celebrate them taking Brad Smith off the practice roster. If someone can convince me that Rashaun Woods was a better option than Smith, you've done something special.

  11. Hey, Rashaun Woods got in Sports Illustrated the one time for catching a NCAA-record seven touchdown passes in one game. It's presumed the Argos do their scouting this way.

    "Remember that kid from Oklahoma" — Woods went to Oklahoma State, but they might not know the difference — "who got in S.I. for scoring seven touchdowns in one game? Give him a call."

  12. Apparently they missed the article on him being a first round pick who lasted 2 years in the NFL.

    Even Charles Rogers lasted longer and he was high the whole damn time.

    Blue Bombers (even if they couldn't sign him) 1 - Argos 0

  13. Brad Smith!!! You gotta be kidding! He's only getting playing time because of his birth certificate (read: the CFL's affirmative action policy). Same with Chris Bauman and Corey grant in the same game.