If you’re an NFL fan who can’t keep track of which plays are reviewable on instant replay and which plays aren’t, don’t feel bad. Sometimes the NFL’s own referees can’t remember either.
NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed in a video distributed to the media today that during Sunday’s Cardinals-Jaguars game, the Jaguars were allowed to challenge the recovery of a muffed punt, even though recoveries in a pile in the middle of the field are not reviewable. The Jaguars lost the challenge and were charged a timeout, but the referee should have just told Jaguars coach Gus Bradley that he wasn’t allowed to challenge.
“We erroneously allowed a challenge,” Blandino said. “We don’t change the call on the field, thankfully, but we charge Jacksonville with a timeout, which we should not have. The referee should tell the coach, ‘This is not reviewable,’ allow him to pick up the flag, and don’t charge him a timeout. This is different from when he challenges during a time period when he can’t, after a scoring play or inside two minutes. That’s an automatic timeout or a 15-yard penalty if they’re out of timeouts. Here, because he’s confused about a rule, we allow him to pick up a challenge, and we don’t charge him a timeout. . . We should not have allowed that challenge.”
Blandino explained that the NFL’s rules don’t permit coaches to challenge fumble recoveries in the field of play.
“This is not reviewable — this is recovery of a loose ball in the field of play, not reviewable,” Blandino said. “In the end zone it would be, as a potential scoring play, or you could review whether it was in or out of bounds, if the sideline was involved. But because the ball changes hands sometimes in that pile this is not a reviewable play.”
One person who did know that rule was Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who tiptoed around the issue when asked by a reporter.
“You trying to get me fined again?” Arians said, via the Arizona Republic. “As far as I know, it’s a non-reviewable play.”
Arians’ understanding of the rule was correct. The referee got it wrong.