Love it or hate it, instant replay is a huge part of the NFL. There are advantages and disadvantages of replay. However, the main purpose of replay and challenges is to get the call right. That’s the bottom line. In the fourth quarter of Sunday’s AFC Championship game, Julian Edelman appeared to muff a punt and the Chiefs recovered the ball. Upon further review, the call was overturned and the Patriots were awarded the ball. In my opinion, the ball barely missed Edelman and the refs made the right decision in awarding the ball to the Patriots.
Replay ensured that the right call was made. That being said, why are only certain plays reviewable? Enter the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship game between the Rams and Saints. In what could be the worst non-call in recent history, pass inference was not called when Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman hit Saints’ Tommylee Lewis while the ball was still in the air. Robey-Coleman clearly hit Lewis before the ball arrived. No flag was thrown, and as you probably know, the Rams ended up winning the game. Had the flag been thrown, the Saints would have had first and goal with under two minutes left while the Rams could not fully stop the clock. In other words, the Saints would have most likely kicked the game-winning field goal to win the game in regulation and advance to the Super Bowl.
That was not just a blown non-call. That was a legacy changing call. Nothing in the NFL is guaranteed and there is a possibility the Saints may never get back to that spot in the future. Saints coach Sean Payton alerted the media that the NFL called to apologize for the missed call. Do you think that matters though? “We made a mistake and we’re sorry” is nice when you’re in elementary school, but the NFL can’t send the Saints to the Super Bowl. Sorry just isn’t going to cut it.
In the NFL, teams can challenge if a player stepped out of bounds, fumbled a ball, or made a catch. Why can’t teams review if a player committed pass interference? There are so many grey areas within the rules that determine what plays are reviewable and what plays cannot be reviewed. Why is that? There are discussions about adding pass interference to the list of reviewable plays, which I agree with, but why can’t a coach have the right to challenge any play he chooses no matter the circumstance?
In my opinion, NFL coaches should be allowed to challenge any play. Do you want to know who agrees with me?
The greatest coach of all-time, Bill Belichick.
Back in 2013, Belichick suggested that coaches should be allowed to challenge any play of their choosing because sometimes, the most important plays are ones that are non-reviewable.
“When you have two challenges, I don’t see anything wrong with the concept of ‘you can challenge any two plays that you want. I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls, but to say that an important play can’t be reviewed, I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of trying to get everything right and making sure the most important plays are officiated properly. If you get a situation where they call a guy for being offside, and you don’t think he was offside and you’re willing to use one of your challenges on that to let them go back and take a look at it — I understand if the evidence isn’t conclusive that the call stands. If it is [conclusive] than they’d overturn it. If it’s offensive holding, if you think one of the offensive linemen tackles your guy as he’s rushing the quarterback, and the ball hasn’t been thrown, they go back and look at it and if it’s that egregious of a violation they would make a call. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t. We have to live with that anyway but now it’s only on certain plays and certain situations.”
If every play could be challenged, there would be no confusion as to what plays are deemed reviewable. When an offensive tackle egregiously holds a defender, coaches should have the right to challenge the play. If a defender was not called for pass interference, coaches should be able to throw the red flag. It’s not like coaches would be able to throw challenges around like it’s candy. Coaches risk a timeout when they throw the red flag so it’s a trade-off off. The same rules would be in place: two challenges per game with a third challenge if a coach is successful. There would still be the same strategy of when to use challenges, but every play would be eligible for a challenge.
Now, that doesn’t fix what happened in the Rams-Saints game because it happened under two minutes. My solution would be to add pass interference to the current list of plays that can be reviewed under two minutes. Personally, I would add a replay assistant to the officiating crew to determine what plays can be reviewed (all plays are eligible). But, I know holding can be called on almost every play in the NFL so I’ll compromise by only adding pass interference to the current list of reviewable plays under 2 minutes.
Here would be my changes to the rules regarding replays and challenges.
- Coaches can challenge any play except during the last two minutes of the second and fourth quarter.
- Pass interference is added to the current list of plays that can be reviewed by the booth under two minutes in the second and fourth quarter.
You may like my rules or you may hate my rules, but it’s clear that the list of reviewable plays needs to be updated.
***Note: Although I did not mention the missed face mask against Jared Goff in the fourth quarter, I did not forget about that play. That was a blown non-call, no doubt about it. The Rams would have had 1st and goal instead of settling for 3 points. Under the rules I proposed, Sean McVay could have challenged the play since it fell during the time frame when challenges are allowed.***