55 Yard Line

Should the CFL change its rule that counts blocked field goals as fumbles, not FG attempts?

Andrew Bucholtz
55 Yard Line

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B.C. head coach Mike Benevides thinks Rene Paredes' attempt should have counted as a miss.

The field goal Rene Paredes had blocked by John Bowman at the end of Saturday's 38-27 Calgary Stampeders win over the Montreal Alouettes is drawing plenty of attention thanks to a league ruling that it doesn't count as a field goal attempt thanks to not crossing the line of scrimmage. Instead, it's been ruled as a fumble, which maintains Paredes' streak at 29 consecutive field goal makes this year and gives him the chance to tie Paul McCallum's single-season record of 30 this coming week. That scoring decision is a rule that's exclusive to the CFL, as both the NCAA and the NFL rule that blocked field goals count as attempts; however, it is consistent with CFL precedent, as the same ruling was made last year on a blocked Brody McKnight kick (one that didn't count towards any records). The key question is if it's a rule that should be maintained, or one that should be altered going forward. First off, here's the kick in question (TSN's buildup to it starts at 3:00):

As brought up while discussing how the rule differs from the NCAA and NFL rulings, uniqueness alone isn't a great reason to change things. Odd CFL rules have resulted in plenty of spectacular moments over the years, and many of the unusual rules in this league (12-on-12 play, three downs, a bigger field, a clock that's harder to kill, goalposts at the front of the end zone to allow more missed field goal returns) help give the CFL not only a distinct product, but a highly entertaining one. However, while changing rules merely for the sake of conformity with the NFL and the NCAA is undesirable, a different rule also can't be justified only because it's not the same as the NFL's or the NCAA's. CFL rules should be judged on their own merits, so that's the key factor to investigate here.

What are those merits? Well, the case for the CFL's current rule seems to be that it doesn't penalize the kicker for the offensive line failing to give him time to get the kick of. Interestingly enough, McCallum has the most to lose from this scoring decision, but he seems to somewhat agree with the current rule, even though it's likely to cost him his record. Here's what he told Lowell Ullrich of The Province:

As might be expected from a fellow kicker, it’s a view that is actually shared by McCallum. A field goal may be a collaboration between snapper, holder and kicker, but when it comes to a streak only the kicker should be considered, he said.

“If I kick the ball and it hits the back of an offensive lineman I should be penalized,” said the Lions kicker, who hit his only field goal attempt Saturday against Edmonton as he returned to the lineup to start his 23rd season.

“If he’s too slow on kicking and they block it, he’s not penalized.”

McCallum, who hit 30 straight without a block two years ago, said he hopes Paredes continues his (non) streak in the Stamps’ game in Winnipeg Friday, at which time he will attempt to reclaim the (non)-record.

Interestingly enough, McCallum seems to be making a differentiation between kicker failure and snapping/blocking failure there (although the quote's not really clear, so we'll trust Ullrich's interpretation of it). The CFL's current rule doesn't seem to do that. The NCAA statisticians' manual attempts to, though. From Section 10, Article 4 (PDF):

4. The kicker is charged with a field goal attempt that is blocked. Exception: If, in the judgment of the statistician, an error in the center snap or placement of the ball by the holder is the direct cause of a blocked attempt, the kicker shall not be charged with an attempt. Such an unsuccessful attempt is charged to “Team” rather than to the kicker.

From several standpoints, that (or a similar rule that also includes offensive line blocking failures) might be a better rule than the CFL's current one. That would allow for differentiation between cases where a blocked kick is on the kicker for being slow, or where it's on the snapper, the holder or the blockers and the kicker doesn't have a chance. It does turn it from a hard and fast rule into a judgement call, but judgement calls can be more valuable in murky situations like this. There's a case to be made that Paredes should get to keep his streak, as it's not his fault Bowman broke through the line. However, there's also a case to be made that this should count against Paredes, as he was able to get the kick off and could have gotten it over Bowman with a higher kick. Lions' coach Mike Benevides made that argument to Ullrich:

“I think most people would see it as a missed field goal,” Benevides said. “It’s different if the exchange is fumbled and it's never kicked. The fact is, [Paredes] kicked it and he has nothing to do with the blocking. The play was not executed. It did come off his foot. It’s different if it doesn’t come off his foot.”

While Benevides is obviously a bit biased thanks to coaching McCallum, not Paredes, he also has a point here. This is a field goal attempt with a good snap and a good hold, and most leagues would count it as one rather than a fumble. The CFL shouldn't change just because other leagues have different rules, but it should be willing to change if those rules appear better and/or more logical. Going to the NCAA's ruling that blocked field goals comprise attempts, but can be awarded to "Team" at the statistician's discretion if the snap or hold are to blame, would make plenty of sense. So would going even further and expanding that to offensive line failures. It's less cut-and-dried than the current situation, but it also isn't retroactively saying that a field goal attempt likely watched by over 800,000 people never happened. At the moment, there's nothing the CFL can do here, as their Paredes ruling follows the current rules and historical precedent. Going forward, though, perhaps a rule change should be contemplated.

Thoughts on if the CFL should change the rule here? Leave them in the comments, or pass them to me via Twitter or e-mail.

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