This week, we are going to talk about a rule that has come under great scrutiny since Thanksgiving. It’s also a rule that we didn’t really understand the full details and ramifications of, until we saw the situation in Detroit play out on Thanksgiving. Frankly, it’s a rule that needs to be “tweaked”, to say the least. That rule is the challenge rule.
Take your seats, class is in session.
We learned the basics of this rule early in 2012, when we learned that every scoring play would be reviewed under the instant replay hood. On its face, great idea, right? Through the years, we have seen many questions on scoring plays, did he get two feet in bounds? Did he control the ball before landing in the end zone? Did he step out of bounds? Did he cross the plane of the goal line? There are a lot of reasons that scoring plays need to be reviewed. So, taking any challenges out of the equation, on its face, is a good idea.
But, what we DIDN’T know was the ramifications if a coach throws a challenge flag on a scoring play. This is what came up on Thursday in the Lions/Texans game. Justin Forsett took a hand-off and was stopped, clearly down, but no whistle was blown. Forsett decided to get up, and run the ball all the way for a long TD. The play was clearly called incorrectly, but all scoring plays are reviewed right? No problem. Yup, there was a problem. Lions coach Jim Schwartz decided to throw his challenge flag. With this we learned, not only is this a fifteen yard penalty on the team that threw the flag, THE PLAY IS NO LONGER REVIEWED!! The referees no longer have to correct their mistake by going under the hood. What?!?! This is a ridiculous rule.
First of all, as we all know, it’s not like NFL coaches are exactly Mensa presidents. Their instinct is going to be to throw the challenge flag when they believe the play is wrong. Especially when it is a big score, influential on the game, they aren’t going to remember that rule. They are going to throw that flag. Secondly, the fifteen yard penalty should be enough. Why penalize the team additionally by not reviewing the play? The point of having instant replay is to get the call right. If you want to penalize the coach for not knowing the rule that the play will be reviewed, fine. But by not reviewing the play, you are penalizing the entire team for a mental gaffe from the coach. Penalize the yardage, but get the play right. It will be much fairer that way. This rule has to be tweaked, period.
School’s out. See you next week.