DIGGING DEEPER INTO LAST WEEK'S CFL PENALTIES
Last week in the CFL the penalty flags were flying. In total between the four games played there were 110 penalties for 958 yards, which is the third-highest total in the last 20 years. Obviously, that is way too many penalties. It disrupts the flow of the game, extends the length of the game, and is flat out hard to watch.http://www.tsn.ca/cfl/story/?id=457323
However, it is one thing to simply complain about the flag-filled week. It's another to examine the calls, look at the reasons why they were made, and work towards finding solutions so it doesn't happen again. In conjunction with the league's head coaches, that is exactly what Glen Johnson, the league's Vice-President of Officiating, is currently working on. It is a process that will take some time for a couple reasons, the most important being that we are all learning a new culture in football where player safety is the focus. However, all the league stake holders are all in to work towards limiting the amount of penalties called, and the time it takes to call them.
Johnson has accumulated the numbers from last week and some from the first three weeks of the season, and they may surprise football fans. First, all of the penalties from last week have been reviewed and, of the 110 called, 93 of them were the correct call while only seven of them were debatable or questionable calls. Essentially, 94 per cent of the calls made last week were correct which according to Johnson is, "very close to the overall standards from the last few years."
These numbers are significant, because it is important to understand that fixing the problem of too many penalties does not just fall on the shoulders of the officials. The players and coaches are ultimately responsible, and are working with Johnson on a weekly basis to improve the situation. Johnson explained by pointing out that there are currently teams that have asked the league to make officials available for practices. "I talk to the coaches and we are working together to improve the situation on a weekly basis, in fact some teams have asked that we supply them refs at practice, which I think is an excellent idea, and can help the teams and our officials."
After three weeks this season penalties are up by 31 per cent overall, which is a huge jump. However, when you dig a little deeper into the numbers, we shouldn't be surprised. Of the 31 per cent increase this year, "player safety fouls," are leading the way. Penalties like unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, face masking, and sportsmanship-related fouls like taunting are driving the increase. When you consider what is happening in North America when it comes to player safety in contact sports, we shouldn't be surprised that calls that are designed to protect the players, sometimes from themselves, are up dramatically. It is going to take time for players to understand what is a legal hit, and what is not, when they have trained their whole lives to hit a certain way, especially when we are talking about the hits on the quarterbacks.