Is replay the answer?

Written by on March 11, 2019

On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS March 11, 2019, #734 Up Next… Is replay the answer?

After further review… The National Football League’s Competition Committee met recently to review its current rules and study the possibility of adopting new ones. They meet annually as well as communicate during the season on fine-tuning the rules to make the game safer and more enjoyable for the fans. Further, the basic tenet has always been to create and maintain a level playing field.

The Competition Committee is comprised of general managers, coaches, players, and officiating staff. Al Riveron, Vice-president of NFL officiating, and his staff compile plays and incidents of situations that may need attention. As the game evolves constant attention is necessary to adjust the rules. There are numerous examples. Here’s one (albeit of some vintage): In 1978 I was assigned by the NFL officiating department to give a pre-season “rules talk” to the Seattle Seahawks. Jack Patera was the head coach. I had explained how offensive blocking was permitted and how officials would call fouls on offenders.

Coach Patera was adamant that players could no longer successfully block with just their shoulders while keeping their hands in at their chest. Defensive players are too big, too strong and too fast for an offensive lineman to protect the quarterback without using his hands to push, he claimed. From the beginning of football, allowing an offensive lineman to push defenders was unheard-of. “That’s just not the way blocking was to be,” claimed the purists. You can see what it is today and why it had to be changed to allow offensive blockers to effectively do their job.

The 2019 NFL Competition Committee is facing another significant challenge as those blocking techniques were 40 years ago. The non-call of defensive pass interference in the NFC Championship game between the Los Angeles Rams and the New Orleans Saints has created a firestorm of “how-could-we-let-this-happen.” The obvious answer is: Football is a game played by humans and humans will make mistakes. However, with the expansion of the use of video replay is there a way that we could use replay to correct egregious errors? Hmm?

Using replay creates issues for that committee: 1) do we use replay to determine fouls called or not called and which ones? 2) do we use replay any time during the game? 3) do we use replay only on playoff games? 4) should we allow coaches an opportunity to challenge a non-call? 5) should all challenges be reviewed in the New York command center? (Note: most reviewers in the command center are not former or current officials – is that necessary?

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