FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Quinn wanted clarity.
The Atlanta Falcons coach didn't believe middle linebacker Deion Jones committed a penalty when Jones hit Detroit Lions receiver Marvin Jones over the middle in a Week 3 victory at Detroit. Deion Jones was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, a 15-yard penalty that led to a Lions field goal.
Quinn sent the play to the NFL for review, believing Deion Jones struck Marvin Jones properly. A few days later, Quinn got his answer.
“They agreed that it was a foul,” Quinn said. “They thought he hit him in the head/neck area with his shoulder. They agreed with the call, and I spoke with them personally, because I didn't think it was a hit that warranted that. He didn't get fined, which was good. But he did hit him with his shoulder in the face.”
It wasn't a lost cause for Quinn. In fact, it was helpful.
“It was a teaching moment for me with Deion,” Quinn said. “I talked to him about it, and now he knows. So, yes, it helped.”
Quinn sends about three to four plays in the league on a weekly basis to get a better understanding of how the officials view calls. It's a procedure all coaches around the league utilize, to different degrees.
Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he sends in about 10 per week, which is the maximum.
“Yes, it's good,” Arians said of the process.
Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson submits six per week.
“It helps to know how the league sees things,” Jackson said.
Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy addressed the process after watching tight end Martellus Bennett and wide receiver Geronimo Allison get called for offensive pass interference on a pair of pick plays in a Week 2 loss to the Falcons. McCarthy tried to get clarity during the game with referee Walt Anderson but ended up getting an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“Definitely, you get feedback,” McCarthy said of sending plays for review. “Shoot, if you play on Sunday, I want to say you usually hear back no later than Thursday, so that's been the process each and every week. So the communication between our coaching staff and the procedures that we go through, we have a good system, we have a number of guys that look at it.
“We look at it, we send it in and then we get the feedback from the league office. It's all part of the educational process. We're all trying to work together -- the players, the coaches, the officials. We're the ones that are on the field. It's an opportunity to get better."
Dean Blandino, formerly the NFL's vice president of officiating and now an analyst for Fox Sports, explained how the process works. Coaches are asked to submit the calls in question by Wednesday, although that's not a hard and fast rule. Those plays -- up to 10 -- can be submitted via a website or through a call to Alberto Riveron, a former NFL referee who replaced Blandino. There is a response box on the website, and a quick click sends the explanation of the call back to the inquiring team.
“You'd get anywhere from 20 to 25 teams submitting questions on a weekly basis on that website,” Blandino said. “And there are some coaches who want to call and just talk through it. Some would call. Some would text. Some would e-mail. But I think all 32 clubs, in some way, shape or form, are communicating during the week on officiating issues.”
It made for long days for Blandino, who aimed to answer the inquiries in a timely fashion.
“That's why we had to limit the questions to 10,” Blandino said with a laugh. “The purpose is for both sides to learn. They can ask why their cornerback got called for pass interference, and we could tell them yes or no, they could go back to that player and coach accordingly. You want it to be directed to those types of questions rather than just pointing out mistakes.”
Blandino and Riveron went through “a couple hundred” questions every week. The most frequent questions related to offensive holding, which is called more than any other foul and is quite a subjective call. Plays down the field, such as pass interference, defensive holding and illegal contact, followed offensive holding as the calls questioned the most. Then came hits on quarterbacks and receivers.
“With some, you knew right away,” he said. “Others, you've had to do more analysis and look at multiple angles. I would take my time and make sure I gave clear responses. You could spend five minutes on one play, and you could spend 30 seconds on another.”
Although coaches such as Quinn, Arians, Jackson and McCarthy like the process, not all coaches are satisfied with the result. One head coach, who asked not to be named, said it isn't so helpful.
“Not really, because there are no moral victories to be told that they missed the call or were wrong,” he said.
Blandino understands that thinking.
“Absolutely, because there's nothing you can do at that point; the damage is already done,” Blandino said. “That would be another punch in the gut if you say, 'That call that affected us in the game wasn't even the right call.' I completely get that.”
That might have been the case last October, when Quinn asked for clarity on a late-game no-call after Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman appeared to pull Julio Jones' arm on the Falcons' final play of the Seahawks' 26-24 victory. Quinn wouldn't say how Blandino and the league responded to the play, but it was viewed as a missed call by many.
Blandino said the review process is an educational tool for officials as well.
“In the ideal world, we're picking up what the coaches were picking up, because we have supervisors that are evaluating games,” Blandino said. “There was always something that came up from a team that we didn't see initially. If it was important enough and valuable enough to share with the crew, we should share that and say, 'Hey, take a look at this play. Let us know what you think, and then we can talk through it and learn something from it.'"
NFL Nation reporter Rob Demovsky contributed to this story.