I was live and in person Sunday at Lambeau Field when Green Bay Packers receiver Jarrett Boykin leapt for a pass on the right sideline. Officials ruled the play a 36-yard completion, although replays clearly showed that Boykin's left hand landed out of bounds before his second foot touched inbounds.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly did not challenge the ruling, saying later that his assistants in the coaching booth didn't see a definitive replay in time. The circumstance didn't hurt the Eagles, who eventually ended the possession with an interception, but it brought to mind a theme I've touched on a few times over the years. Namely: The inherent inefficiency of relying on coaches to ensure good officiating.
I hit the topic a few times during the 2010 season, which included too many examples of overwhelmed coaches struggling to hold up their end of the instant replay program.
Getting calls right shouldn't be a matter of strategy, namely the risk of losing a timeout, nor should it rely on network producers who show replays or scoreboard operators who can give the home team an advantage. The idea of officiating, of course, is to provide an informed and independent third party to administer the rules during games.
Since then, the league has taken some important steps in reducing the coach's role in determining whether questionable calls get reviewed and/or corrected. In 2011, it expanded automatic reviews to include all scoring plays. The expansion continued in 2012 with certain turnovers.
I don't know that we'll ever get to a point where all reviews will be initiated by officials, nor do I think we want that. The coach's role is an important symbol in oversight, if nothing else. But as far as I'm concerned, the less the better. And thankfully, the numbers show us that coach's challenges have dropped as automatic reviews have expanded.
In 2010, coaches initiated 252 reviews. That number fell to 209 in 2011 and 157 last season, according to league statistics. This season, there have been 103 coaches challenges through 10 weeks, which projects to 175 for the season.
That shift seems appropriate to me. To borrow a cliché, we need to let coaches coach and officials officiate as much as we can. If you're interested in how often your favorite coach has challenged plays this season, and how successful he has been, the chart below is for you.