The CFL is a different type of game played by different types of players at positions with different responsibilities. The NFL is the best marketed sports product in the world. It has the hype that sells. The NFL game is very, very structured. They require players who can play a highly structured game. There are reads off of reads off of reads. There is not a lot of improvisation. Frankly, there is no room for it. In the NFL, there are huge bodies on a relatively small field. There is no separation between down lineman making athleticism secondary to size in line play. Running backs, linebackers and even quarterbacks need to be of a certain body type in order to succeed. I used to have this argument with people who would always refer to Sam Mills. They would say "There is a 5'9" linebacker succeeding in the NFL." It does happen. But this scenario is so anomalous it is noteworthy. This is the point, in the CFL small players don't draw that type of attention because it is normal.
CFL players are selected on the basis of talent. The large field opens the game up and allows improvisational talents to be utilized. We have seen running backs of all shapes and size in our league. Do you remember Robert Mimbs? He did not look like a running back. He did not hit the line hard or run with power. He could move laterally like no one else and he could read the play. He could pick and slide his way through the line of scrimmage. This was his talent and few could match him in this regard. The CFL is a game that allowed Robert Mimbs use his unparalleled lateral abilities. In the NFL, these skills are useless. It's all about hitting the line and hitting it hard. The CFL is more talent focused.
Gizmo Williams and Pinball are players the NFL would consider too small. Their talent and athleticism were superior to any NFL returner. The CFL provided a game that enables talent to overcome size. That is what the CFL game does. It allows talent to overcome size. You cannot claim that the athletes are inferior. That is far too simplistic and ignores so much.
How many times have we seen NFL players come to the CFL and fall flat on their face. Lots. Particularly quarterbacks. Vince Ferragamo, Eric Kramer, Lee Saltz and many more. Winnipeg has Tee Martin, his NFL credentials created the assumption he would be an effective CFL quarterback. He can throw, but he can't survive outside an incredibly structured game matrix. This is why he cannot succeed. Tim Rosenbach signed with Hamilton some years ago. He was supposed to be the next great quarterback. He is an NFL style passer. It does not work in the CFL. You don't have all day to sit in a short pocket and wait for a play to develop. Rosenbach was a flop. CFL quarterbacks need more skills. The only NFL style QB to ever have success was David Archer because of his intelligence. Doug Flutie succeeded because he is a CFL style quarterback. Doug could improvise, create and execute. He was the best I've ever seen. No one could match what he did in the CFL.
Brett Favre and Steve Young are quarterbacks who would have had CFL success, but I doubt they would have matched Flutie. Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Duante Culpepper are great quarterbacks, especially McNabb, 20 years ago these men would have been CFL quarterbacks. The CFL, on many occasions in the past, has benefitted from the best quarterbacks. The CFL still has access to many of the best athletes at quarterback because of the size requirements for an NFL quarterback. An NFL quarterback needs to be tall enough to find passing lanes through enormous linemen. A CFL quarterback can move the pocket and use his mobility to create his own passing lane.
I could continue a position by position breakdown but that would take hours. The bottom line is that CFL athletes are second to none. The NFL has all the hype but you must look beyond hype to substance. Rod Rust was a very successful NFL coach. He says many of the best athletes he coached were CFL players. Different game played by different players at different positions. Highly structured vs. continually changing.
If the NHL were to remove the red line, play on olympic sized ice and call penalties for obstruction, you would see personnel changes galore in the NHL. They would need different players. This may already be happening. The NHL may desire players who can be creative and fast rendering the large-bodied grinders less effective. What does everyone want to see? A different game requires different abilities. There are similarities and constants, but we cannot assume that differences relate to quality. Furthermore, we cannot look at the salaries involved and expect that to be an accurate barometer of quality, it doesn't work.
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