Dirty Laundry was originally conceived as a way to track the success and failure of each NFC North coach in using their challenge flags. It morphed into a landing spot for discussion on any number of officiating issues, but let’s circle back this week on our first focus.
You can see the final Challenge Tracker numbers in the chart at the bottom of this post, according to official NFL figures. A few thoughts:
Packers coach Mike McCarthy led all NFL coaches with 14 challenges this season. The second closest was Baltimore’s John Harbaugh (11). Every circumstance is different, but I think McCarthy proved to have a more liberal approach than most other NFL coaches. He got away with throwing an illegal third challenge flag Nov. 15 against Dallas and admitted at midseason that “sometimes emotion gets involved in your decisions.”
Only six teams’ coaches threw the flag less than Detroit’s Jim Schwartz, who challenged six plays. I don’t know that I have a single explanation for that approach, but I thought it was interesting that Schwartz chastised himself this week for losing his cool too often on the sideline. “I lose my mind a lot of times during practice and during meetings and things like that,” he said. “During the game I’d rather not that be the case.” Did that limit his opportunities to think through the process of challenging calls? It probably didn’t help.
Chicago’s Lovie Smith got only two of his nine challenges overturned. That 22.2 percent rate was the fourth-worst mark in the NFL It’s never been one of Smith’s strong suits; his six-year rate is 32.7. Smith also created the biggest replay-related news story of the year when he challenged a play after first calling a timeout Dec. 13 against Green Bay. Officials upheld the original call, and the Bears lost two timeouts during the episode.
Minnesota coach Brad Childress challenged fewer plays than in any of his previous three seasons but finished with his best conversion rate (55.6). He had previously challenged 12 plays in 2006 and 11 in 2007 and 2008. This season’s rate was the seventh-best in the NFL.