Wednesday 19 October 2011

Most Outstanding Rookie

The CFL released the list of eligible players for the Most Outstanding Rookie award earlier today. The award itself will be handed out at the Gibson's Finest CFL Player Awards on November 24th in Vancouver as part of the Grey Cup festivities.

Hamilton's Chris Williams is the odds-on favourite to win the award, but Clarence Denmark, Kenny Mainor, Craig Butler and JC Sherritt all have a legitimate shot as well.

Last year's winner was Solomon Elimimian, who was a very deserving choice. The year before, it was Martell Mallet, who was also deserving. But in those two years, two equally, if not more so, deserving players were ineligible for the award because of a rule that prevented them from being considered. Both Cory Boyd (in 2010) and DeAndra' Cobb (in 2009) were not up for the award in their first CFL season because they had spent time in the NFL.

Neither Boyd nor Cobb never so much as touched the football in their brief NFL careers, but one of the rules of eligibility is that a player must not have "dressed for a member Club in the National Football League" in a regular- or post-season game. Both players did, and were therefore disqualified from being nominated.

I can understand why the rule is the way it is. If a long-time NFL player came to the CFL, it would be hard to deem him a rookie because of his extensive pro career. It is also not an unprecedented move. Wayne Gretzky was ineligible for the Calder Trophy in the NHL in 1979-80 because he played in the WHA. Instead, the award went to Ray Bourque.

Rules are rules, but sometimes they are silly rules. Just because a player suited up for an NFL team in the final week of the season – as Boyd did with the Denver Broncos in 2008 – does not mean he should not be able to be named the top rookie in the CFL. As great as Elimimian was in 2010, Boyd was greater. His time in the NFL didn't make him greater and had no impact on his ability to produce in the vastly different Canadian game.

The best way I can think of is keep the rule as is, but allow for exceptions. Let a player, prior to the season, petition the league to allow himself to be eligible for the Most Outstanding Rookie award. Not all cases are the same, and the league can go on a case-by-case basis to allow players who are ineligible based on the rules in place, like Boyd and Cobb, to be deemed eligible.

That one change would allow for the truly great players to be given their proper due.

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