The Canadian Football League has historically taken great pride in bragging about its high-powered offences and high-scoring games, but defences have actually been more dominant so far this season.
And it's at least partly attributable to the different way the league's footballs are being made, sources say.
Of the first eight regular-season games this season, seven were so low-scoring that they wound up as "unders" in the over/under lines established by Las Vegas oddsmakers.
And, quite frankly, most of the eight CFL games have been downright dull because of the sudden dearth of scoring.
So what's happened?
Knowledgeable CFLers believe these four factors have contributed to the shortage of offensive production:
1.) Running is in again. Teams are handing off more and passing less, and running backs such as Charles Roberts, Joffrey Reynolds, Troy Davis and, yes, Ricky Williams are eating up a lot of clock with their runs.
2.) New offences aren't clicking yet. There are new offensive co-ordinators throughout the CFL, and players still are uncertain about their systems.
3.) Defences have improved.
4.) A new football is being used in the CFL and it's creating problems for quarterbacks. No joke. The seams are manufactured differently in this year's balls. Most of the quarterbacks don't want to discuss it publicly, but it's no coincidence that we haven't seen nearly as many long bombs as usual. The QBs cannot throw this new ball as far. For the record, the Montreal Alouettes' Anthony Calvillo has said he has lost five yards off the new balls. It's been noticeably worse for other quarterbacks, especially the Hamilton Tiger-Cats' Jason Maas, the Saskatchewan Roughriders' Kerry Joseph and the Edmonton Eskimos' Ricky Ray. They've been underthrowing considerably more than they did in the past.
• Maas, in particular, has struggled conspicuously and his new team is off to an unexpected 0-2 start.
On Thursday, the Ticats must visit the formidable Stampeders in Calgary and there's conjecture now throughout the CFL that an 0-3 start -- and surely an 0-4 start -- could cost Greg Marshall his job as Hamilton's head coach.
The consensus is that Joe Paopao, the Ticats' new offensive co-ordinator and associate head coach, would take over for Marshall.
Mind you, if you think about it, you could blame the Ticats' offensive woes on Paopao. With weapons such as Maas, Josh Ranek, Terry Vaughn and Corey Holmes, the Ticats' offence has been largely unproductive -- and the team sits alone in the basement of the CFL East.
• Meanwhile, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers haven't been nearly as bad as most of us anticipated.
The Bombers' much-maligned quarterback, Kevin Glenn, did just enough to help his team beat the Toronto Argonauts the other night, and running back Charles Roberts was brilliant again, rushing for 133 yards and outshining his Toronto counterpart, the overhyped Ricky Williams, who picked up all of 14 yards in the game.
It's the Winnipeg defence that especially deserves kudos. Middle linebacker Barrin Simpson has no peer in the CFL and was a major off-season acquisition by Winnipeg. And defensive tackle Doug Brown has jumped off to a remarkable start.
You know, the Bombers were consensus favourites to finish dead-last in the CFL but the truth is that they might just have the league's best defence now.
And, for this, a tip of the hat to theother
Greg Marshall, the Bombers' defensive co-ordinator.
He has fired up his players under difficult circumstances. Marshall, after all, applied in the off-season to become the Bombers' head coach. He finished as a bridesmaid to Doug Berry. Now, he's Berry's defensive co-ordinator.
Next year, he'll be a head coach somewhere in the CFL.
• Television viewers of CFL games deserve a lot better than what they've been getting from both TSN and CBC lately.
Absent from the coverage by both networks over the weekend was the superimposed first-down line. There's no excuse for not including these lines in presentations on national television.
Viewers have become accustomed to them and need them if the networks expect them to sit through games that have been predominantly boring. And would TSN please, please stop covering half the TV screen with useless contest information and advertising during kick returns? The network is depriving viewers of watching some of the most exciting plays the CFL has to offer. What a ripoff!
• Defensive end Joe Montford, mysteriously cut by the Edmonton Eskimos before this season, has let it be known around the CFL that he'll play for $75,000 less than the $150,000 he collected last year.
Despite that, the future Hall of Famer already has been rejected by several teams, including Hamilton, where he excelled for years.
• While the Blue Bombers wait for Jon Ryan to get cut in the NFL and return to Winnipeg, they're testing different punters, all of whom have been receiving the cold shoulder from veteran kicker Troy Westwood. Westwood wants the Bombers' punting job so badly that he won't even talk to any of the punters they've brought in.
• The Roughriders stopped the Fire Danny Barrett movement for at least a little while by coming from behind in the final minute of their game Sunday and defeating the B.C. Lions on a long touchdown pass-and-run play from Kerry Joseph to Jamaal Richardson.
But when the Fire Danny Barrett movement begins again, watch for the Hire George Cortez movement to start.
I keep hearing that, if Barrett goes, general manager Roy Shivers would like to replace him with Ritchie Hall, the team's defensive co-ordinator.
The Riders' board of directors may not give Shivers a choice. The board, I'm told, prefers Cortez, the formerly the offensive co-ordinator with the Stamps.
• How convenient for Paul McCallum to come up with a groin injury when the Lions visited Saskatchewan. McCallum, remember, was the subject of considerable controversy in Saskatchewan before he jumped in the past off-season to the Lions as a free agent.
There was even the time when so-called fans in Saskatchewan dumped dog droppings all over McCallum's house after he missed what would have been a game-winning field goal in a playoff game a couple of years ago.
Rob Pikula replaced McCallum in the Lions' loss in Saskatchewan on Sunday -- but McCallum certainly was conspicuous by his absence. The booing aimed at him would have been loud, to put it mildly.
• There was quite a sideline confrontation between quarterback Henry Burris and receiver Ken-Yon Rambo after miscommunication between the Calgary players late in their loss to the Eskimos in Edmonton the other night.
From Edmonton's three-yard line, Burris missed Rambo for what could have been a game-winning touchdown, and the ball was intercepted in the end zone. Rambo zigged when Burris thought he was going to zig and, well, the Stamps lost. Burris is not a hothead, but he was dazed and confused while Rambo took the opportunity to blast him on the sideline in hot-headed fashion.
"What you see is what you get," was all Rambo would say when asked to elaborate on the mixup.
Rambo ought to watch himself because what he could see, should he dare to blow up like that again, is a pink slip. And unemployment is what he could get.
He's on a short leash in Calgary now.
• And don't forget to click on my CFL Report tomorrow, when I'll post my weekly picks against the point spreads.
Feel free to email me with your thoughts, too. I'll be posting some of your more interesting emails in the near future.
Message from Marty York:
After about three decades of covering the CFL in newspapers, magazines, on national television and on radio, the folks who run Metro newspapers have given me the opportunity to report on the league in a new and efficient way -- online, right here at
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