EARTH CITY, Mo. -- In case there was any lingering doubt about how head coaches around the league value the results of preseason games, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher offered all the perspective needed when asked about the red challenge flag he tossed Friday night.
Late in the first half of the Rams' preseason opener against New Orleans, Saints quarterback Ryan Griffin completed a short pass to receiver Nick Toon for a gain of 3 yards as Rams cornerback E.J. Gaines quickly closed and made the tackle. The spot left the Saints with a clear first down but Fisher tossed the challenge flag.
The ruling went to the Saints and cost the Rams a timeout, but Fisher made it clear Saturday evening that he never had any notion that it was a challenge he would or should win.
Fisher revealed in his day after news conference that he was doing a favor for referee Carl Cheffers and his crew.
"Yesterday was the first time that this crew was going to potentially communicate with New York, so I just said if there's anything close I'll go ahead and challenge it," Fisher said. "I thought it was a good spot. I was standing right there."
Fisher is referring to what is officially known as "Rules Proposal 9" which the league passed in March as a way to give additional help to in-stadium officials as they go through the replay process. Essentially, the new setup allows for a sort of centralized replay in which the official at the game can communicate with other officials based in New York.
The idea simply being to get as many trained eyes on the play as possible to ensure that there are fewer mistakes on replays and to speed up the review process.
Since the preseason is a time for all parties involved -- coaches, players and officials -- to work on their craft, Fisher saw a chance to give the officials a chance to work on something new to them. Apparently, it wasn't the first time Fisher had given Cheffers a chance to get familiar with something related to the replay system.
"I told Carl, also Carl's rookie year, his first preseason game, his first year as a referee [I] had him in his first preseason game and I did him a favor and put him under the hood as well about five years ago," Fisher said.
In addition to centralized replays, officiating crews now have communications devices which allow them to talk to each other across the field rather than running around to relay penalties to one another for announcement. Fisher said he was impressed with how that technology sped up the process of reporting penalties.