Regular readers know we spent a number of Have at It and Dirty Laundry posts discussing the state of the NFL's instant replay system. Most notably, I was concerned about the intersection of strategy and officiating: Why should it be up to a limited number of coaches' challenges to determine whether wrongs get righted?
In that vein, I was thrilled Wednesday to learn that the NFL's competition committee has proposed a change to the replay system that partly reflects our concerns. If the change is approved, replay officials will have the authority to review a scoring play at any point in the game. Coaches would have two challenges at their disposal as well, although the possibility of a third -- awarded if the first two were decided in your favor -- would be eliminated.
I view this as a strong step in the right direction, one that could pave the way for the replay system to move completely under the umbrella of an objective third party. As you know, I'm not a big fan of teams capitalizing (legally or otherwise) on home-field advantage to aid their own opportunities for instant replay while scuttling opponents'. I also don't like that a coach must weigh the import of the call before challenging it because of his limited opportunities. To me, if the technology is available, calls should be corrected.
Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, the chairman of the committee, said Wednesday on a conference call that there has been some discussion about "looking at the college system downstream," which places the burden of a review on officials in the press box, not coaches.
"Our system works pretty well," McKay said. "It is just in our mind we do put a lot of stress on the coaches because of the fact that they deal on the road with different video boards that tend to not always show the review. We just felt like on scoring plays, on major plays, why not use the same process we use in the last two minutes and relieve them of that responsibility? We want to see what the effect is. We certainly do not want to slow down the game, and I don’t think any of us ever see us going back to a system that we had where every play was reviewable based on the decision of the guy upstairs.
"But this is a step where we think we are benefitting the coaches and potentially making sure that on the biggest plays of the game, we have the opportunity to confirm all of them."
I couldn't have put it better myself. This is a perfect first step. Expanding the possibility of replay to all scoring plays should reduce the instances where strategy and gamesmanship influence challenge decisions. If it works well, it appears the competition committee will continue expansion. I don't want every play reviewed, and neither does the committee, but I do want to see as many questionable calls subject to review as possible.