Davis: Great decision by Ambrosie to reduce coaches’ challenges

Because video review is destroying the flow and spontaneity of all sports, of course it was a great decision by CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie to reduce the number of coaches’ challenges per game.
Video review in the CFL has been increasingly under attack since the opening games of the 2017 season, when replay officials somehow upheld mistaken on-field calls that granted touchdowns — despite obvious fumbles — to Saskatchewan’s Bakari Grant and Calgary’s Kamar Jorden.
Numerous games got bogged down with lengthy reviews, including a Saskatchewan/Calgary game in which Roughriders head coach Chris Jones and Stampeders head coach Dave Dickenson challenged rulings on the same play — and both were successful!
Afterwards, Jones noted the Stampeders were deploying their receivers on double-move routes designed to initiate illegal contact by the defenders past the allowable five-yard zone. The Stampeders would challenge those non-calls when prudent. Jones vowed to invoke similar tactics, which showed that coaches were using video to alter — and ultimately harm — the game.
Effective immediately, CFL coaches can challenge only one call per game; they must have a timeout available, which they would lose if their challenge is overruled. Since tinkering with their video rules midway through last season, CFL coaches were allowed two challenges per game, plus a third (provided they had an unused timeout for each challenge) if they were correct on both.
Nothing else changes, with all turnovers and scoring plays being automatically reviewed. And anything questionable in the final three minutes of a game is supposed to be reviewed automatically by the Command Centre.
Before a conference call Wednesday with national media, Ambrosie’s first major decision as the CFL’s new commissioner was described in a press release:
“Too many challenges and reviews are interrupting the game. Coaches, understandably since they are under pressure to win, have been using it to try to gain an advantage.”
Ambrosie insisted the changes were unanimously accepted by CFL personnel and were made to improve the fans’ experience. While touring CFL games during his first three weeks on the job, Ambrosie said he loved the enthusiasm of the fans while hearing them complain frequently about video reviews.
Some of the more recent examples of disputed reviews and non-reviews were a failed third-down sneak by Montreal’s Vernon Adams, and a late hit on Toronto quarterback Ricky Ray. All happened in the final, decisive moments of their games and were hotly debated as examples of why video review wasn’t helping the CFL.
The announced changes likely won’t help any maddening inconsistencies between the on-field rulings and the Command Centre decisions, but they will certainly decrease the number and length of the stoppages, which have been a major complaint among fans attending games and watching the telecasts on TSN. The replay officials are constantly working at improving their rulings, according to Glen Johnson, the CFL’s Senior Vice-President of Football.
There have also been criticisms of the number of rulings that were subject to video review. Since the introduction of video review to assess turnovers and scoring plays, the CFL took the risk of allowing judgment calls to be challenged; it started with defensive pass interference penalties and expanded to include many others, including the bugaboo of illegal contact on an eligible receiver. Illegal contact is the penalty most sought by desperate coaches on their so-called “fishing expeditions.”
During the conference call, Ambrosie said because the rules change was being made mid-season they wanted to keep it “simple and meaningful” with the notion that “a full and complete review” would be conducted at the end of the season. The review system, he conceded, “wasn’t designed to be perfect” and was intended only to correct “egregious mistakes.” Like all professional sports leagues that are using video review, the CFL’s system was designed to make sure bad calls did not affect the outcome of its games.
When asked why the CFL really needed video review, considering how much it bogs down games, Ambrosie replied: “We should throw that into the mix.”
Despite that, eliminating video review entirely isn’t likely to happen. Darn it!
Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis

Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.
Darrell Davis
Darrell Davis
About Darrell Davis (124 Articles)
Darrell Davis has reported on the Riders for more than 20 years and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame media wing in 2006.

34 Comments on Davis: Great decision by Ambrosie to reduce coaches’ challenges

  1. Lindsay Wilcox // August 2, 2017 at 4:10 pm //

    Good start. Next step, complete elimination.

  2. Hors E Power // August 2, 2017 at 4:29 pm //

    Ambrosie has screwed over the fans IMO.

    The problem with officiating will not be solved for a very long time. Its a grass root problem. That is a long term fix.
    In the mean time reviews help mitigate the problem. It has and can again work just fine if the league would set better parameters on what is to be challenged and how the league will judge challenges.
    He’s eliminated one. At seasons end will he declare it a smashing success and eliminate the other one too? Effectively eliminating the problem by eliminating the solution?

    • AFootballGuy // August 2, 2017 at 4:59 pm //

      I think you’re quite right about the problem being deeper than just too many challenges. CFL rules shouldn’t be a moving target in any given game, but they are. I can empathize with officials, but that doesn’t change the truth.

      However, I don’t think this is screwing the fans. Quite the opposite, actually. We’ll all bitch and moan when officials get it wrong, but at least the game flow will come back. Maybe we’ll be able to celebrate a pivotal play without waiting for a yellow flag a minute later.

      This decision is triage to appease fans for now, plain and simple. The officials haven’t got worse since the days before replay, but the game is more frustrating to watch. This seems like a good start, but I hope it’s not viewed as the final solution.

  3. The changes eliminate the use of the challenge flag by HCs as a faint hope fishing trip. It does not address Command Centre incompetence which is probably easier to fix in the off season.

    • Why wait until the off season? Replace the incompetent bum who is working replay now!

    • Hors E Power // August 2, 2017 at 5:31 pm //

      It doesn’t eliminate the “faint hope fishing trip”. What would eliminate this is changing the what is reviewable; mainly inconsequential contact on a receiver

  4. Hors E Power // August 2, 2017 at 4:41 pm //

    If the issue is flow and time it takes to play a game, perhaps Mr Ambrosie could take the TSN executives to Wendy’s for lunch to discuss cutting back or more efficient placement of the nauseating amount of commercials we as fans are subject to.

  5. Scottsask // August 2, 2017 at 4:45 pm //

    Good one!

  6. Step 2 & 3, fire Jeff Halpern & Jake Ireland.

  7. Jim Corrigall // August 2, 2017 at 5:12 pm //

    Great first move…’triage’ is a great word for it. They must fix whatever is wrong with those at the CC, though, as some of those decisions have been crazy, and as frustrating as coaches going fishing. I agree with Horsie about the commercials. I have taken my kid to a game and she was so bored by all the standing around. You aren’t going to engage the next generation that way.

    • True…what really pisses me off is when they come back from a commercial break and a play has already taken place

  8. If a team makes a successful challenge — the team should still get one more.

  9. Hors E Power // August 2, 2017 at 5:42 pm //

    An interesting experiment. Take a poll of fans opinions on challenge flags when it’s their team throwing them vs the opponent throwing them

  10. How the hell did we ever get by without tablets on the sidelines and incompetent boobs screwing up “challenges” while sipping scotch in a “command center”? For the love of God – can we just play football for crying out loud

  11. Judge Jones // August 2, 2017 at 5:49 pm //

    hootoil, So we’re back to where we were. No even one challenge for me. I don’t think it will make the game shorter as TSN will demand to get that commercial time back. In the NFL the game starts at the time it is posted. Here it’s posted for the top of the hour but it seems every year it’s a little later. Some day when i don’t really care about the outcome of a game I will put a time watch to accumulate the time spent on commercials.

    • Stephen Fisher // August 2, 2017 at 6:15 pm //

      It is generally posted for 7 after the hour. And there is a countdown timer set for that.

  12. Hors E Power // August 2, 2017 at 6:34 pm //

    I’d like to suggest perhaps I’d be a good candidate to take over the command center

  13. Greenland // August 2, 2017 at 6:38 pm //

    I liked when there were no challenges. Yes the refs are bad but that’s just part of the game. We’re still complaing about the reffing but now we’re also complaining about the challenges as well.

  14. I think you have to be unbiased Horsie.

  15. justforkicks // August 2, 2017 at 7:13 pm //

    I find myself agreeing with many of you commentators even surprisingly Horsey.
    The command centre sucks no question as do some refs. Getting rid of some of the so called penalties away from the play would have gotten rid of a very large percentage of challenges without taking away the 2 challenge system. I fear there will still be some very bad calls that will influence the outcome so the coaches will likely pass up some opportunities in wait for the worst thus allowing other legitimate poor calls to be unanswered. We have to get rid of bad calls. Removing challenges (which I do hate) won’t correct things. How about TSN doesn’t show replays to us either so we can’t review and bitch about bad calls (except of course those with PVR)?? I’m sure Ambrosie will do a more in depth study and hopefully in the offseason get to a solution that comes closer to addressing all the needs.

  16. WHO CARES ABOUT THE FLOW OF THE GAME? IT WAS NEVER THE PROBLEM. The problem is bad calls and inconsistent calls. THIS IS A STUPID DECISION. IT WILL NOT IMPROVE THE OFFICIATING. IT WILL JUST SWEEP BAD CALLS UNDER THE RUG. I was afraid this would be the result of all the whining about slowing the game down etc.



  18. Better than doing nothing but I maintain, this is still a band-aid solution. Let’s assume on field officiating is unlikely to improve because refs in Canada are hard to find as the job does not pay well enough to make it a career. We can be frustrated with officiating but football is a complex game to ref and it is not any of their full time jobs. However, the real issue the CFL has is the off field officials. Command Center personnel should be able to comprehend all rules and interpret infractions accurately and especially, consistently. This is far more important than the number of challenges each team gets or what is a challenge able. Turn overs, scoring plays and after theee minute warning should. E up to Command Center discretion. The issue here is that the personnel in the Command Center often seems incompetent to carry this out with any level of professionalism. If it is Jake Ireland, or Glenn Johnson- I can respect the success they had in their careers but they need to go. Obviously this job is over their heads or the game and/or technology has passed them by.

  19. Dundas dude // August 2, 2017 at 11:35 pm //

    Good stuff. The spontaneity of the game is destroyed with all this replay stuff. I wouldn’t have any coach challenges but maybe use the video to allow “eye in the sky” real time help to the on field officials. Protecting the safety of players should be the priority. Throw out the last five years of rule changes and pretend it’s 2012 again. Go Cats!

  20. I agree, the command centre sucks. I have no idea how somebody watching the replays can still get the call so wrong. This seems like a decent band-aid solution for a mid-season change, but I hope this “year end review” can come to decent fix.

    My personal idea for a solution would be to go back to 1 timeout per half, instead of 2 per game. Similarly, you get 1 challenge per half, provided you still have that half’s timeout. You lose the challenge, you lose the timeout for that half.

    Secondly, PI and Illegal contact are no longer reviewable. If a DB gets away with one, he gets away with one

  21. Blackhawk89 // August 2, 2017 at 11:52 pm //

    Whining about commercials, no commercials = no tv deal = no league

    • Hors E Power // August 3, 2017 at 12:38 am //

      That’s a fair comment blackhawk89

    • Jim Corrigall // August 3, 2017 at 7:28 am //

      I agree TSN needs the ad revenue. There just has to be a better way to insert advertising without all of the long stoppages. We don’t need to have ads every time there is a change of possession, for example. Maybe do a few more of those ads that appear at the bottom of the screen (between plays only of course).

  22. Never had a problem with the two challenge rule, just with the horrible decisions made by the Toronto command centre. They’ve been wrong a good number of times & they have videos of the play at 3-4 different angles & still get the plays wrong.
    I also don’t agree changing the rules in the middle of the season. This just adds more confusion to coaches, refs & CFL officials adjusting to the new rules causing more mistakes in the 2nd half of the season. They should of worked out the new rule during this current season, start implementing & informing all teams coaches what are the procedures during the off-season to get ready in 2018.
    The new commish jumped the gun on this one.

    • He did Joe, Wasn’t’t it just two days ago he said changes were step 5 and we are still at step 1. Now suddenly he gets to step 5. It was:
      1. A reaction to make it look like he was doing something to justify his job when he did not need to
      2. an over reaction
      3. to the wrong problem.
      The problem was never about how many challenges or the pace of the game. This is FOOTBALL for God’s sake, not back and forth hockey. The game stops after every play and resets so please, let’s stop this pace crap. The problem was that challenges were designed to make sure the call on the field was right but they were STILL getting the wrong call. I ask you people who gripe about the “pace of the game”, IF the command centre got the calls right, we would not be having these discussions every week. AND NONE of this BC/Calgary crap. EVERYONE OF YOU WOULD BE HAPPY TO SEE YOUR COACH CHALLENGE WHAT YOU THOUGHT WAS A BAD CALL ON THE FIELD. YOU ARE ONLY COMPLAINING (AS YOU SHOULD) WHEN THEY COME BACK FROM THE COMMAND CENTRE WITH THE WRONG CALL.

  23. Tiger man // August 4, 2017 at 10:28 am //

    What I find equally maddening is my team being screwed out of a win by bad officiating and incompetents running video review.

    Destroying pace is one thing….unfairly losing a game is a considerably greater cost….

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