On paper, the CFL All-Star team – which was announced yesterday – looks very good. It is the crème de la crème of the league, with the top passers, receivers, rushers, tacklers, sackers and defenders all represented. On paper it is a who’s who of the players that put up the biggest numbers during the course of the regular season. Of course arguments will abound about who made it, who didn’t, and ultimately; “Who the heck votes on these things and WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!?!”
I will leave those discussions and arguments to other fora, blogs and social media sites. That is because I want to explore a much more important and salient issue.
The CFL All-Star Team, as designed and selected, would be hard pressed to actually win on the field! And that is because it truly does not represent how an actual CFL team is structured and looks like on the field of play.
Here are a few modest changes that I would like to see in the CFL All-Star team design:
It’s time to delete one running back & add one fullback/tight end
Firstly, while I can understand having two running backs on the roster is a good strategy (right, Coach Austin?), how many teams actually start two running backs? As far as I could tell, by looking through team depth charts, that number would be zero! Most, if not all, teams use a fullback/tight end in their offensive formations. Many times they actually use two tight ends, and while they may not necessarily start in that formation, they definitely are an important part of the game and much more representative of a typical team.
Don't worry about the numbers: add a fifth receiver
Another question I have: why only four receivers? I presume this is because they are trying to balance the numbers to only have 12 a side – insert Saskatchewan Roughrider joke here! – but if that is the reason, it is a pretty lame one. The CFL is a passing league. All teams use a five-receiver set at some point throughout the game. In fact, most teams predominantly use a five-receiver set under normal game action. If you are not using two running backs or a running back and a fullback/tight end set, you are most likely employing a five-receiver formation.
Make the linebacking unit a true unit: one MIKE, one WILL, one SAM
Not all linebackers are created equal. Each position has its own very specific and different responsibilities, which requires a very specific and different skill set. Over the last few years, the All-Star linebacking unit has sometimes been an all-middle-linebacker affair. It has also been a mix of weakside and strongside linebackers with no true run-plugging middle linebacker. And like this year, it sometimes is a mix of MIKE and WILLs. Well, good luck to one of those guys having to cover a slotback waggling to the line of scrimmage or a running back releasing down the seam. The linebacking unit needs to reflect how most teams approach the game defensively.
Time to recognize both the kick returners AND the cover guys
Special teams is not all about punt and kick returners, nor is it just about those trying to stop the punt and kick returners. It’s both! And both are a very important part of the team and, ultimately, the game on the field. Yet, the way the current All-Star team is designed, it is only one or the other. It is like trying to get Coke and Pepsi in a restaurant. You can only have one! Just like there is a difference between punting and place kicking, and therefore 2 categories, there needs to be a category for returners as well as those who cover kicks. Every team has one of each, so why not recognize them both?
There are a few other changes I would like to make – as a former long-snapper you can guess what else I would like to add – but I’ll leave it at that for now. I believe the minor modifications I mentioned would make the All-Star team much more representative of an actual CFL team.