Leave Replay Alone … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs

Ever since the rule came into effect, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with instant replay in the NFL. I know that I’m not alone, based on posts and e-mails that I’ve received over the years from fans also conflicted.

For 12 years it’s been wonderful to see obvious errors on the field corrected by the eye in the sky. It only makes sense to give the zebras on the field the same resources that Joe Fan has at home in his man cave.

On the other hand, it’s always aggravating because it sometimes takes so long to get a replay review done. The league says there’s a time limit on how long the referee can be under the hood studying the play, but that’s never enforced. We’ve never seen an official walk away from the box and announce “our time has run out and the call stands because we haven’t been able to make a decision.”

Then, there are all sorts of plays where it can’t be used because of the rules and the way they are written, even when the replay could correct a mistake. And the whole coach’s challenge process is bothersome, because it creates situations where at various points of the game, a coach has used his challenge and can’t correct an obvious bad call.

But for the most part the system works. That doesn’t stop some folks in the league that love to tinker and replay is one of those areas where they like to make little changes, sometimes with no reason to back up the process.

One of those is scheduled to be voted on today at the NFL meetings in New Orleans. The league’s competition committee is proposing a rules change that would have a potential replay review of every scoring play, whether it was called for by one of the coaches or not.

Yes, every score – field goals, touchdowns, safeties, PATs, two-point conversions – would lead to a possible review. How many of those plays actually need to be looked at again? The committee doesn’t have a number on that.

And that’s all the reason to stop this train right in its tracks and veto this change. Apparently the committee wants to make things easier for the coaches, so they don’t have to use one of their challenges to review a scoring play.

If that’s the case, then eliminate the coach’s challenge system and run the system the way they do in college football, with the reviews controlled by the eye in the sky. I’m not saying that’s the way to go, but it would take the coaches out of the equation if helping them is a goal.

Approval of this change has the potential to bring scenes like this one …

Let’s go to Arrowhead Stadium where there’s a Matt Cassel throw to the back of the end zone and TE Tony Moeaki reaches up and catches the ball, all the while getting both of his feet down inbounds. It’s a touchdown and the fans go crazy celebrating end up standing there, looking at the zebras and waiting to see if the review rules it a score.

Worse yet, the official at the back of the end zone, who has the best view of the catch, makes no signal at all. He doesn’t throw his hands up in the air to signal a score, and he doesn’t signal an incompletion. He stands there and decides to allow the replay to make the call.

Don’t think that will happen? It already has in the NFL. When the league first took baby steps towards replay in the mid-1980s there wasn’t the coach’s challenge system. It was a decision that came down from on high when a TV replay indicated it was needed.

At that point, the officials began to hesitate in making tough calls, since they knew the review was coming no matter what they ruled. If you’re an official what’s worse – to not make a decision and have the replay make it for you, or to make a call and then be overruled by the replay?

There is no hue and cry for change, and that often is the best time to make changes. But there’s no reason for the league to alter what they’ve been doing. Let the guys on the field make the calls. Don’t mandate reviews when none are necessary.

A few more items concerning replay review:

  • Todd Haley made a remarkable transformation in challenging calls from 2009 to 2010. In his rookie season, he was one of eight or 12.5 percent, the second worst percentage in the league. Then last season, Haley made a huge jump, as he was successful on six of his 10 challenges, or 60 percent. That was good enough for the third best success rate in the league, behind only Sean Payton in New Orleans (77.8 %) and the coaches in San Francisco (62.5 %).
  • In the 2010 season, the Carolina Panthers threw the red flag more than any team with 14 challenges. The New York Giants were right behind with 13. The fewest challenges came from Miami with five.
  • There were 130 booth reviews and 32 saw the ruling on the field overturned, or 24.6 percent.
  • Teams had a total of 297 challenges, with 129 rulings overturned, or 43.4 percent. On average, the 32 teams were four of nine on coach’s challenge reviews.
  • With 256 regular season games and a total of 427 challenges by coaches and the replay booth, that averages out to 1.7 replays per game. Hardly enough action to really hurt the flow of the game.
  • Pass completions and incompletions were the plays reviewed most often, with 197 plays over the ’10 season, with 75 of those calls overturned on review.
  • The toughest call for officials on the field based on how often they were overturned was runner down by contact. There were 44 challenges and 27 rulings were overturned, or 61.4 percent.

5 Responses to “Leave Replay Alone … Tuesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • March 22, 2011  - Mike says:

    Gee, Bob, what you’re saying is logical. Sadly, the powers that be probably don’t read your site and may approve the proposal, as flawed as it is. I do hope the more rationale voters realize the major disadvantages of the proposed plan.

  • March 22, 2011  - RW says:

    I like the replay system and, as an aside, wish MLB would adopt a similar plan with each manager getting 2 challenges per game. I’m also in agreement with Bob’s view in that one can go too far in micro-managing the officials and the calls.

    Replays should be designed to correct occasional human error and not be an electronic counterpart to the guys throwing the yellow hankies on the field. It kind of reminds me of that time in the 70s when technology allowed for TV replays of various plays on the field.

    Amazing stuff, this new method of getting fans at home another view and then we got reverse angles! OMG, could it get any better? Well, for a time it got worse as most broadcast crews were replaying EVERY play. Too much of a good thing. The same is true in this case, if the enhanced review system is adopted.

  • March 22, 2011  - el cid says:

    Keep tinkering with the rules and we will not recognize the NFL. The NFL need for more and more offense, protecting players (necessary, ok?), and the vast money if the public watches, I predict will someday ruin the game. Soon it will be run down the field as quickly as you can with the defenses throwing wet sponges.

    PS, pay the zebras and let them do their jobs, not to found of replay in any format. Mistakes seem to equal out in the long run.

  • March 22, 2011  - el cid says:

    It is 3PM and NFL Live on ESNP reported the owner’s committee was considering dropping kickoff completely in sted chose to change what they did. Start the game on the 25 yard line. If they had, profootball would be over for me. Anyone want to explain the value to dropping kickoffs?

  • March 22, 2011  - Randy B says:

    Here’s the problem with the changes…Plays in the endzone that are ruled to not be touchdowns are not automatically reviewed. So a controversial incomplete call would still require a challenge, while a controversial catch for TD call would be automatically reviewed. If a ref doesn’t like a particular coach, he could use this judgement call against them and force them to burn a challenge.

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