There’s always been an interesting connection between the National Football League and the Canadian Football League. They’re the two biggest professional North American football leagues in the world. Despite being the two biggest football leagues the CFL is a flyweight to the NFLs heavyweight. Most CFL players have another job outside of football, with the average salary being around just $80,000.
The CFL is viewed by many as a league for players to jumpstart their career and lead them to the NFL. If a player can’t make an NFL roster why not head up north to Canada and try to showcase their skills? It makes sense in theory, but the CFL is a very different style of football than the NFL.
The CFL plays only three downs to gain 10 yards for a first down. On top of that a CFL field is 110 yards long, 65 yards wide, and has 20-yard-deep end zones. The CFL also plays with 12 men on the field opposed to the NFL’s 11. Those are the biggest differences from the CFL to NFL game. The combination of fewer downs and the more wide-open field make the spread offense very popular.
Consequently, the CFL is an ideal place for a college quarterback not worthy of the NFL to try and continue their football career. The CFL is full of recognizable college quarterbacks that just didn’t have the traits to make it in the NFL.
Notable Former College QBs in the CFL
|Everett Golson||Notre Dame/Florida State||Hamilton Tiger-Cats|
|Vernon Adams||Oregon||Montreal Alouettes|
|Jeremiah Masoli||Oregon/Ole Miss||Hamilton Tiger-Cats|
|Jacory Harris||Miami||Montreal Alouettes|
|Connor Halliday||Washington State||Montreal Alouettes|
|Keith Price||Washington||BC Lions|
|James Franklin||Missouri||Edmonton Eskimos|
The CFL also has a few former NFL quarterbacks that are using the CFL to try and revive their careers. Vince Young is the biggest name in the CFL right now and he hasn’t even played a down. The former NFL third overall pick recently signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders as part of his attempt to make an NFL comeback. Young has two Pro Bowls, an NFL Comeback Player of the Year, an NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, and BCS national championship to his name. He’s arguably the most accomplished player to head north since Doug Flutie.
This begs the question: why don’t more NFL flameouts head to the CFL? Great college quarterbacks don’t always succeed in the CFL, but it’s worth a shot. Too often it seems these players aren’t willing to swallow their pride and play in Canada for pennies on the NFL dollar.
Notable Former NFL QBs in the CFL
|Vince Young||Texas||Saskatchewan Roughriders|
|Ryan Lindley||San Diego State||Ottawa Redblacks|
|Jonathan Crompton||Tennessee||Montreal Alouettes|
|Dominique Davis||East Carolina||Winnipeg Blue Bombers|
Not many CFL quarterbacks have been talented enough to make the leap to the NFL and succeed. Usually, the quarterbacks who pull it off had to head to the CFL for reasons other than skill. NFL and CFL Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon had to play six seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos. He wanted to play quarterback and at the time the NFL wasn’t so accepting of an African-American QB. Former NFL MVP and Super Bowl winning quarterback Joe Theismann played in the CFL before the NFL due to contact issues. Both Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia though had to go to the CFL due to size concerns.
The greatest CFL player of all-time, Doug Flutie, played in Canada before the NFL because he was just 5’10”, not tall enough to be an NFL quarterback. Garcia went undrafted out of San Jose State because he was just 6’1”. Both had the perfect CFL skillset. Mobile, tough as nails, and a gunslinger mentality. Flutie and Garcia played similarly to Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M. They were at their best ad libbing when the play broke down. If an NFL comeback is something Manziel wants, the CFL is ready to have him. He’s already on the Hamilton Tiger-Cats negotiation list.
The CFL’s negotiation list is something very few people seem to know about. Each CFL team has a confidential list of 35 players, it increases to 45 from December to May, that they have the rights to negotiating a contract with. The lists are only known to CFL management and not open to the public, but from time to time the media catches wind of some of the players on the lists. The lists usually contain NFL players, or college stars that could potentially come to the CFL. Tim Tebow was on the Montreal Alouettes negotiation list before becoming a baseball player. Even Russell Wilson was on the Alouettes list prior to becoming an NFL star. More often than not these players don’t even know they’re on a CFL negotiation list, usually because they have no CFL aspirations. With the lists being private it’s hard to find out what players are on whose negotiation lists.
Notable QBs on CFL Negotiation Lists
|Quarterback||College||CFL Teams Negotiation List|
|Johnny Manziel||Texas A&M||Hamilton Tiger-Cats|
|Colin Kaepernick||Nevada||Hamilton Tiger-Cats|
|Robert Griffin III||Baylor||Hamilton Tiger-Cats|
|Lamar Jackson||Louisville||BC Lions|
|Jalen Hurts||Alabama||BC Lions|
Maybe quarterbacks like Johnny Manziel or RGIII won’t be able to revive their careers in the CFL, but it seems like too often they don’t even consider it. They would rather not play football than suit up for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers or Ottawa Redblacks. Mobile quarterbacks that thrive in the spread offense can make a real impact in the CFL, but for these players it likely comes down to money and not their love of football. Vince Young may change the way big name quarterbacks feel about playing in Canada. If they aren’t wanted in the NFL, Canadians are ready to welcome them with open arms. Here’s to hoping Johnny Manziel leads his Hamilton Tiger-Cats against Vince Young and his Saskatchewan Roughriders in the 2018 Grey Cup.