It's been about 19 years since the last Canadian Quarterback started in the Canadian Football League; undrafted Quarterback/Punter Giulio Caravatta started for the BC Lions in 1996 after being traded back to Lions as he refused to play for the Baltimore Stallions after being selected in their own "expansion draft."
This piece was submitted to me by fellow CFL fanatic Joe Pritchard (You can follow him on twitter by clicking here) and includes his proposal on the next steps the league should take to encourage CFL clubs to sign Canadian Quarterbacks.
"When will we see the next Canadian QB in the CFL?"
It seems like this question is in the back of most CFL fans' minds, and the discussion always seems to follow about what has to happen for the CFL to look at Canadian quarterbacks and give them a chance.
As an International myself, I see the issue more in pragmatic terms than patriotic terms. Right now, there is no incentive for a CFL team to take a chance on a National QB. No, that's not quite right. There's actually less than no incentive for a CFL team to take a chance, because the resulting media attention could be considered a distraction.
What do I mean by this? Let's take a look at the current CFL gameday roster rules.
Teams dress 44 of their 46 players on the active roster, which mean two players are inactive each game. Let's take them out of the discussion for the moment. There are 3 roster spots dedicated to quarterbacks. Let's also remove them from the equation for just a moment, but we'll come back to them. Teams must dress a minimum of 21 National players, and may dress a maximum of 20 International players. I would say the vast majority of the time, those are the exact numbers teams dress for a given game. There are also 4 "Designated Internationals," which may only substitute for other International players. This leaves 16 International players (minus quarterbacks) in a given starting lineup, at the most. With 12 players on offence and 12 on defence, if you take away the quarterback and the other 16 positions filled with International players, that leaves 7 places in the lineup for Nationals. Some teams can put more Nationals on the field from time to time, if they are very deep in Canadian talent, but most teams will start 1 Quarterback, 16 Internationals, and 7 Nationals.
Let's come back to those three Quarterback roster spots. Let's face it, these days, they are pretty much guaranteed to be Internationals. While only one of the three can be on the field on offence at any given time, that makes, in reality, 17 International starters and 7 Nationals, and 23 Internationals dressed, with only 21 National players dressed.
As you can see, there's very little incentive to try to fill a Quarterback roster spot with a National, as it would not help the ratio. My proposal is simple, and it just might provide enough incentive for a team to take a gamble on a National QB, especially an athletic one that can contribute on special teams or other positions initially.
My proposal is to eliminate the 3 QB roster spots, and replace them with 2 International and 1 National roster spot. This would leave 22 of each type of player on a 44 man roster, or, if a team wanted to, they could have more Nationals than Internationals, but not the other way around. I would also propose the CFL move to 5 Designated Internationals, to keep the current balance of 17 Internationals and 7 Nationals in the starting lineup. That 5th designated import slot could be filled by the 2nd string International QB, assuming the 1st string QB is also an International.
This serves two purposes. It puts Nationals back on an equal footing in terms of ratio roster spots, and also creates an incentive to fill what would have been the third Quarterback roster spot, which would have been nearly guaranteed to be an International, with a National. The example that leaps to mind is Brad Sinopoli. He could be considered the team's third quarterback, which means he'd most likely get some reps in practice at QB in case of an emergency, and he could also continue to contribute as a National receiver, helping with the ratio in more ways than one. That extra National roster spot that is freed up if Sinopoli is pulling double duty could go to a player that would just miss the cut otherwise, maybe a dynamic special teamer, or a lineman that isn't quite ready to start, but shows potential. On the flip side, if a team decides to keep three International QB's, then they will have to drop an International player to compensate, and fill the roster spot with a National at another position. Either way, I think the change would help National players. I think this roster setup would make the Jim Popp's and Wally Buono's of the league start looking just a bit closer at National QB's, which is what we wanted to do in the first place. The first team to sign a National QB would have a step up on the other teams in terms of carrying an "extra" International somewhere else on the roster, which is exactly the type of incentive that would help when a team is deciding between a National and an International QB that show the same skill set.
Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe teams will just suck it up and dump a promising but raw International at another position over filling a "Quarterback" spot with a National. Maybe they would only carry two quarterbacks to begin with. I think the idea is worth a shot anyway. Let me know what you think.