The CFL often does thing differently than the NFL. In some cases, the CFL’s differences make the Canadian version of pro football better.
A little-known change for 2016 has invites speculation regarding whether a similar change in the NFL would be good for business.
As explained by Scott Mitchell of the Calgary Herald, the CFL for the first time in 2016 allows the coach-to-quarterback communication system to operate to the snap, and beyond.
Calgary Stampeders coach Dave Dickenson called the change an “executive decision” of which he wasn’t aware until the season began. Dickenson also said that his team has not yet used the system during a play to tell the quarterback what to do with the ball in real time.
“In theory, they can,” Dickenson said. “We don’t feel like it’s the best thing to say, ‘Go deep,’ or ‘Take the flat.’ The game’s going so fast and, I think, it might be easier from the booth to see stuff, what pops and what doesn’t pop, but I don’t yell into his ear. I think coaches, in that case, would be trying to be more important than they are. Just stay out of the way. You need to coach your quarterback well enough that he sees what he sees and he trusts his eyes and he throws it.”
“We kind of found out, I think, in Week One,” Calgary quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell said. “I remember Dave coming and telling me about it and I was kind of skeptical about it at first because we didn’t do it in training camp.”
Bo Levi Mitchell has only one specific request when it comes to the use of the technology.
“I told him it was something that, ‘Hey, if you’re comfortable saying it then I trust you when you say things,'” Bo Levi Mitchell said. “Obviously, the only time I don’t want it is when I’m in the huddle trying to talk to guys. You can’t have somebody yelling in your ear and you can’t hear anything.”
For the NFL, where the system cuts off 15 seconds before the snap, the question becomes whether it makes sense to allow a coach to continue speaking to the quarterback beyond that point, including during the live play. Given that the CFL teams apparently didn’t know the change was coming until the season began, it’s still too early to know whether it will be an improvement, given that teams really didn’t get a chance to experiment with it or to plan for using it.