After Detroit debacle, NFL could change red-flag rule during season


The last time a major officiating error wrongly awarded a team a touchdown in a close game on national television, the NFL acted swiftly. Now the NFL may act swiftly again.

When the replacement officials gave the Seahawks a bogus touchdown to beat the Packers in Week Three, the NFL responded by ending the referees’ lockout. On Thanksgiving, the regular officials (who looked a lot like the replacements) gave the Texans a bogus touchdown against the Lions, and the NFL may respond by changing the rule that prevented that touchdown from being reviewed and overturned.

NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson told Mike Florio on the Dan Patrick Show that the league could review the rule that says the referee will not review a scoring play if a coach throws his challenge flag. Anderson said it’s even possible that the rule could be changed during the season, instead of waiting until after the season.

“I think there’s some sentiment, Mike, that that may be too harsh,” Anderson said. “To not be able to review in those circumstances may be harsh, because at the end of the day the review process is intended to get it right.”

This is a rule that needs to be changed: Although Lions coach Jim Schwartz was foolish to throw his red flag on the Texans’ bogus touchdown, because the rules state that all scoring plays are automatically reviewed, it’s even more foolish that the NFL punishes coaches who ask for a review by taking away the very review they asked for. The sooner the NFL gets rid of this ridiculous rule, the better.

94 responses to “After Detroit debacle, NFL could change red-flag rule during season

  1. It’s ironic. The only reason the “all scoring plays are reviewed” rule is because of the Megatron “drop” against Chicago.

    Now they lost because of the rule.

  2. Wont change anything….Jim Schwartz is still stupid and the Lions will still always stink…and Mr. Suh will still be kicking guys in their privates and stomping on opponents’ heads.

  3. One response from another post says it all, “what if the Texans had thrown the flag?” Can the play no longer be reviewed?

  4. This rule is makes less sense than when an offensive player gets pushed out of the end zone and does not have to opportunity to re-establish himself to touch the ball first.

  5. So in theory if the scoring team (in this case Houston) knows that there’s a good chance the play will be overturned, couldn’t they throw the red flag on their own touchdown in order to stop the automatic review?

  6. I like the rule because it is supposed to prevent turd coaches like Schwartz from throwing a temper tantrum on the sideline after turnovers. I hope they still penallize the coaches 15 yds if they throw the challenge flag in these situations.

  7. Makes fans wonder if this was a Jerry Jones suggestion that actually came about.would be interesting to know exactly who came up with this horrendously stupid rule but the NFL will never say.

  8. U wanna to adjust the rule, here’s how…….Charge the offending team a timeout even if the call is reversed. that means if the scoring play is reviewable anyway and the coach throws a challenge he loses a timeout. Period!!!! U dnt give a team 7 points bcuz of a Penalty, EVEN PI dnt get a score and the PI prevents TD’s that y guys do it. Now Texans win, and Ravens, Pats, and Broncos are screwed out of Playoff positioning.

  9. Rules are great until it affects an east coast team and its base of media and reporters. Texans win out and 3-0 in the playoffs. Get over it because thats what is coming. You have all off-season to tell us how Houston will never repeat this kind of run again.

  10. The issue here was that the coach shouldn’t have thrown the flag. The cal was horrible and wrong. But, has a coach you’ve got to know the rules.

  11. The problem with the automatic review is that close TD calls never get looked at. Especially if it’s a bobbled Packers “TD”. That’s why Arians threw the flag in that week 5 game because Jones’ catch was not really a catch. It seemed like referees were not going to bother to review. Lions got screwed.

  12. Jim Schwartz just showed his idiot coach colors again and it happened on national TV. Yes it’s a weird rule but we have never seen it before because the other 31 coaches obviously knew the rule

  13. oaktown49er says:
    Nov 23, 2012 11:12 AM
    One response from another post says it all, “what if the Texans had thrown the flag?” Can the play no longer be reviewed?


    If Texans had thrown the flag, yes, it still would have been reviewed. It can only not be reviewed if the team throwing the red flag can benifit from the challenge.

    Now, onto the point of my post. Horrible rule with a simple solution in my eyes. Should a coach do what Schwartz did yesterday, you allow the review to happen, but it counts as a lost challenge, regardless of the outcome.

  14. Kubiak should have thrown his red flag after that play. That would have prevented the refs from reviewing it, ensuring the touchdown for Forsett.

  15. the rule needs to go

    the Lions quit on the play without a whistle (the worst mistake that happened IMO)

    it wasn’t clear when watching full speed live that he was down

    the Refs followed their policy to allow the play to continue until very clearly over

    we fans complained for years to stop great plays from being called back on a whistle… so we dug the hole

    the play was going to be reversed if Schwartz kept his head

    Schwartz had the responsibility to know the rule

    the refs were 100% right to do it that way and Schwartz is 100% to blame for that loss…..

  16. Keep the 15 yard penalty, but still review the play.

    The solution is so simple the league should have no problem enacting it within the next 37 years.

  17. It’s simple
    Scoring plays and turnovers are auto reviewed
    Don’t have a fit and let the process work. If you don’t you lose.
    It’s called ‘Keep your cool. We got this’
    He had a fit and stopped thinking.
    Can’t keep changing the rules due to ignorance and tirades.
    I for one am tired of how quick the NFL is altering the game. Shoot some of y’all are talking about getting rid of the kickoff. At this rate my sons sons will watch two hand touch NFL where they wear dresses and have to appologise after every interception to be nice.
    Wake up and leave the rules as they stand. You lost a game….grow up and get over it. Stop trying to alter the entire NFL due to your error.
    Keep the game in tact. NO MORE RULE CHANGES!

  18. Let me see if I’ve got this right. The league anticipated the stupidity of a coach challenging a play that is automatically reviewed by making a rule that if you do that then the play that was going to be automatically reviewed now will automatically NOT be reviewed because you asked for a review that was going to be done automatically?

  19. there was no officiating error….

    they didn’t see something clearly and let the play run to the end

    that’s why there is a review process

    it went exactly as designed

  20. Here’s the thing. Schwartz did know the rule. He said he was so mad he threw the challenge flag anyways. To me, this is very telling. He knew he was doing something that would cost his team a huge play in the game, but he didn’t care. This is how 10 year olds act. He is directly responsible for the undisciplined nature of the Lions’ team. You don’t see the coaches of good teams acting like this. Schwartz does. And he’s not a good coach.

  21. All scoring plays are under review. But, remember Trindon Holliday’s punt return for a TD the other week, where the NFL admitted they missed the call (as he flipped the ball prior to crossing the goal line). The coach couldn’t challenge because of this dumb rule, it’s all up to the replay booth.

    If a coach wants to challenge a scoring play immediately, let him do it and if he loses, he loses a challenge and timeout just like normal.

  22. Horrible call on field! No problem with the rule, part of the game is coaching. I don’t see what the big deal is. DET should change coaches, no need to change the rule.

  23. Why go changing the rules because some lame brained coach didn’t knnow it and it cost someone for the first time ever? Sure, it’s a silly one but now everyone should know it. Move on and abide by it. Why has it become a controversy just because someone didn’t know the rules?

  24. For the last time, Houston CANNOT throw the flag just so the play can’t get reviewed. Don’t make a dumb rule seem worse by inserting language that isn’t there.

  25. I still do not see why the coach can’t toss the red flag anyway. All that does is force the official to talk to the coach. On a normal challenge the coach is required to explain why he thinks the call was wrong. The myth that all scoring plays are reviewed assumes that they are correctly called by the replay official upstairs. That has already been proven false this year as a TD was confirmed upstairs when no TD was actually scored. This rule means that the coach is not allowed to say “He dropped the ball before crossing the line”. That is what happened (Denver?) but the official upstairs missed it and this rule prevents a coach from even requesting that the right call be made.

    Remove the rule altogether–including the 15 yard penalty. Have officials pick up the flag and tell the coach the review is already happening. If the coach continues with a tirade toss a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and press on. If they need to “punish” a coach that tries to abuse the system then just treat an incorrectly challenged play as a lost challenge/timeout and move on with ensuring the correct call is made.

  26. Nothing more pathetic than some people defending this moronic rule because they also happen to be Lions/Schwartz/Suh haters.

  27. My $.02-

    It is a punitive rule…but it is a known rule. One in which the interim, interim head coach of the Saints claimed after the Packers game that he knew the penalty (15 yds and the review process being stopped) against the Packers/Saints game earlier this year, but threw the challenge flag anyway.

    It isn’t good enough to alter the rule. Let’s take the challenge system out of the coaches hands and give it only to the booth like they do in colleges.

    In the case, the call on the field was incorrect (though I can see why the allowed the play to continue due to the officials not having a good perspective on the field). The Lions though stopped playing before the play was blown dead. Then, even though it is WIDELY known that ALL scoring plays are reviewed, a coach who has a history of losing his perspective, reacts too quickly, even though he knew (or should know) the rules.

    The end result…a laughable outcome…one which could have been negated by coaching your players to play to the whistle or showing just a little restraint with the challenge flag.

    But let’s look at the bigger picture…more plays than ever before are handled by the booth. Let’s working on getting the calls “right”, instead of allowing some technicality to stop a legitimite review.

  28. I think the rule should change too. The change I would make is: If a coach throws a challenge flag on a play that would be automatically reviewed, then it should count as a challenge period. He gets the review he wanted but could loose a timeout if he is wrong.

    That way he could end up penalized since he did goof up but stuff still gets reviewed as it should be.

  29. It’s mistakes like this that screw up the whole playoff picture later. Could result in the Ravens playing the Texans “away” instead of at home… Ridiculous.

  30. I think we can all agree that the rule, as is, is ludicrous. But what was the Rules Committee thinking when it made the rule? If “integrity of the league”is so important, why have a rule that leaves the league integrity in question without review?

  31. I will fix all of the NFL officiating issues right here and now.

    Get rid of this ridiculous rule.

    Follow the college guidelines for Pass Interference (15 yards)

    All offensive holding penalties are 5 yards.

    The penalties that have the harshest punishments are the ones that leave way too much personal judgement in the hands of the officials.

  32. @trekker38:

    I would think Houston dismantling the Ravens earlier in the season will have a lot more to do with the Ravens playing on the road than yesterday will.

  33. i remember Lions coach Jim Schwartz taunting Jim Harrbaugh last year when Harrbaugh threw a challenge flag when we wasn’t allowed too. Schwartz was screaming at him telling him he couldn’t throw it as he knew the rule. I think Schwartz just demonstrated that he is not that good of a head coach as he let his emotions get the best of him when he knew the rule. Coaches should be penalized for their own stupidity. The refs should have and would have caught their error if the didn’t throw the flag completely on Schwartz.

  34. Whether the rule is a good rule or not, Schwartz should have known it. Especially since this is not the first time this has happened this year. Why does everyone freak out because something like this happens. Last I checked the tuck rule is horrible and we are still dealing with that to this day. If it happens again, it really is the coach’s fault because if NFL Coaches don’t know the rule by now, it is their own fault!

  35. Some points

    1) Everyone on the field knew he was down. Watch the reply and look how every single person stops except Forsett (Both sides).
    2) Even at full speed it is obvious. You are blind if you think otherwise.
    3) Pro football isn’t like HS. Most whistles are extremely late or are not blown at all. If you keep playing after a runner is down you risk a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty.
    4) The red flag was thrown before the runner was even in the endzone. Schwartz was an idiot for not waiting for the play to finish and is definitely to hot headed. Probably where the team gets it from. I am sure he knows the rules but has a temper.

    From all of this the rule change should be simple. Coaches can challenge turnovers and endzone tds. If they are wrong they lose a timeout/challenge. Why shouldn’t they be able to use it at anytime? I have seen a few cases where the automatic replay wasn’t run on something that should have been overturned. Yesterday, Dez’s final td shouldn’t have counted on 4th down. The ball hit the ground and moved afterwards. This change would prevent teams from being at the mercy of some replay official.

  36. I’m still looking for the rule that saus the play is not reviewable if challenged when prohibited. The only thing I could find is Rule 15 Section 9 Paragraph 3 – Penalty: For initiating a challenge when the team is prohibited from doing so: Loss of 15 yards. (NFL Official Playing Rules pg 89)

    Can someone show me where it says the play becomes unreviewable?

  37. Yes the refs made the wrong call on the field but the Lions are still at fault for allowing the TD.
    Maybe if the players played through the whistle like we always hear about they would have prevented the TD on the field being as there was no whistle.
    Also if their coach didn’t throw temper tantrums and knew the rules there was a great chance it gets overturned.
    They deserved to have that TD awarded against them for lazy play and having a dumb coach.

  38. Also lets not take the blame off the refs in this case. The lack of coming together in a huddle to discuss the blame is kind of weird. If they were smart they could have done this and I am sure the play would have been returned to where he was down. It is very suspicious this didn’t occur.

  39. I am just one of thosand of fans who think Jim Schwartz is a horrible coach and that Suh is an extremely dirty player who doesn’t belong in the NFL, BUT I think the most important thing the officials can do is to get the call on the field right if possible. Terrible calls that could have rightfully been reversed cost the Lions and Packers victories that may influence the overall playoff picture in both conferences.

  40. You shouldn’t change the rule, as silly as it may seem, before the end if the season if people have already been punished because of it. That’s not fair.

  41. myopinionisrighterthanyours says:
    Nov 23, 2012 11:22 AM
    oaktown49er says:
    Nov 23, 2012 11:12 AM
    One response from another post says it all, “what if the Texans had thrown the flag?” Can the play no longer be reviewed?


    If Texans had thrown the flag, yes, it still would have been reviewed. It can only not be reviewed if the team throwing the red flag can benifit from the challenge.
    I don’t want to over think this (and I have) but what if a coach who gained advantage from an INT (that was a blown call) wants to challenge that his DB wasn’t down after the pick and throws the flag. In this situation the coach already gets the ball but now can avoid a review by challenging.

  42. @ myopinionsrighterthanyours:

    You are right, the Texans dismantled the Ravens. The only team to do so this year. I also remember beating them twice last year at home. Hence my remark. If you were a Ravens fan, you would want to play the Texans in Baltimore too. Be realistic instead of bold.

  43. The rule is designed so coaches don’t keep throwing flags when they are out of challenges.

    Pretty sure everyone knows every scoring played is reviewed, why didn’t Schwartz know that?

    Would we be having this discussion right now if the Lions had scored on 1 of their 5 final drives starting in Texan territory?

  44. packerfan1000 says:
    Nov 23, 2012 11:31 AM
    Here’s the thing. Schwartz did know the rule. He said he was so mad he threw the challenge flag anyways.

    Or maybe he’s so stupid, he tried to cover his stupidity with a more amazingly stupid cover?

  45. It was Schwartz’s fault but that rule is just moronic. Give them a 15 yard penalty but putting the refs in a position where they have to allow a touchdown on something they know wasn’t is insane.

    Stick with the penalty, get rid of the stupid ‘you can’t benefit from…’ blah blah part. That is idiotic.

  46. @trekker38:

    Means Houston has the tie-breaker, hence my remark on that game having more to do with why the Ravens will be on the road than yesterday does.

  47. While there is some poetic justice on seeing Detroit lose and it being directly due to a lack of discipline by their coach – the opening premise of the article is flawed. This should not be compared to the debacle in Seattle. In Seattle – a bunch of unqualified refs incorrectly applied a rule about what consititutes simultaneous possession. Here, the refs called it by the book. They did not blow the whistle during a play in progress thus allowing for the play to be called correctly whether or not the runner was actually down. The result of the play as called was a touchdown therefore automatic review is in place which makes Schwartz’s flag a penalty and cancels the review. It is a bad rule but the refs did everything by the book.

  48. mantastic54 says:Nov 23, 2012 11:10 AM

    Wouldnt it be easier for coaches to just not throw the red flag after TDs and turnovers rather than change the rules?

    Agreed, he should have known that EVERY scoring play automatically gets reviewed anyway. No reason to toss the flag in the first place.

  49. steelerben says:
    Nov 23, 2012 12:11 PM
    I’m still looking for the rule that saus the play is not reviewable if challenged when prohibited. The only thing I could find is Rule 15 Section 9 Paragraph 3 – Penalty: For initiating a challenge when the team is prohibited from doing so: Loss of 15 yards. (NFL Official Playing Rules pg 89)

    Can someone show me where it says the play becomes unreviewable?
    The rulebook (p89) states: “He [replay official] must initiate a review before the next legal snap or kick and cannot initiate a review of any ruling against a team that commits a foul that delays the next snap.”

    I think this rule is not being applied correctly here but that is the paragraph cited by the NFL in their explanation for this fiasco.

  50. It’s to bad a REF didn’t man up and say the heck with that stupid rule. And Just make the right call. I hate seeing a team lose because of something so stupid.

  51. The most absurd thing about this is the reasoning of why this rule is in place: “it will delay the game if coaches throw the red flag on an auto review”

    Real time, ref walks over and says “no worries coach, it’s an auto review, here”s your flag”. Took all of 5 seconds.

  52. Who makes these rules and what exactly is wrong with them? Do the rules not even get a cursory glance before they added into the books? Anyone notice that the normal refs are messing up every week and there are no stories about it?

  53. bluewinger says: Nov 23, 2012 2:06 PM

    It’s to bad a REF didn’t man up and say the heck with that stupid rule. And Just make the right call. I hate seeing a team lose because of something so stupid.

    You mean, too bad a ref didn’t take the game into his own hands and throw away a good-paying job to save Schwartz the consequences of his stupidity. The rule is the rule, and if the ref had done what you suggest he’d have been fired immediately after the game and the public would have been outraged and accused him of having money on the Lions. Anyone who directs their angst towards the officials instead of Schwartz is as intelligent as silly as the rule.

  54. Here we go with the replacement nonsense. In a lot of the rare occurence calls the replacements would have been waaaaay worse. They botched normal things like touchbacks and ball placement.

    Secondly, there needs to be a common sense clause in the rule book. Because who gives a flying fornication what the rules say when you can literally SEE what needs to happen. In a perfect world, the TD would have been called back upon scoring play review and the 15 yd unsportsman would have been tacked on to where Forsett was down. It wasn’t like the Texans weren’t going to score anyway, they were doing whatever they wanted to with the Lions D.

  55. sonopazzo6 says: Nov 23, 2012 12:47 PM

    Change this rule NOW………before any other team gets screwed……I pity the Lions on this one!

    I got a better idea. Fire Schwartz for costing his team the game because he didn’t know the rule. Or, fire him if what he said after the game was actually true, that he knew the rule but was so angry he threw the flag anyway. Either way, its his fault. What was there to be angry about? If he was so sure the runner was down, he should have known it would have been quickly overturned.

  56. Lions lost to the Texans. They couldn’t stop screwing up all game long even though they were in it till the end. They also have a worse field goal kicker than the Texans. Game over. Next up, Tennessee.

  57. Everyone goes faster than the speed limit so lets just throw out this violation and raise the speed limit, ok..?

  58. Coaches shouldn’t even have challenge flags. Every play should be reviewable by the replay booth operator just as it is in college. At any point when the replay official sees a close call on any given play, he/she has the power to stop play and review the play. Getting each and every call right is of the utmost importance and every play should be called correctly if it can be done.

  59. To all the people saying “play to the whistle”, had the Lions done that and the ball carrier got plastered as soon as he took off again, you would cry foul and call it a “dirty play by a dirty team”.

    You can’t have it both ways. The players were right. Runner was clearly down and they didn’t apply a blantent late hit. This isn’t on them. Give credit where credit is due, they showed poise and restraint. This is all on the coach.

    My thought about this is that the coach knew the rules and wanted to tie the refs hands and lay a terrible call on their head. Would be childish, but possible.

  60. Many mistakes were made here.

    The refs blew the call because the runner was obviously down.

    The coach must not read the paper or watch replays since Atlanta did the same thing four days earlier.

    The rules committee that made this rule are idiots.

    Punish the coach, not the team and the fans. Take a few dollars from the coach.

    Now dump the rule before you make the league look foolish again.

  61. This is the worst rule in all of sports. Complete incompetence by league officials. Its amazing to me that this billion dollar NFL continuously finds ways to embarrass themselves. This is what happens when you have lawyers creating rules for sports.

  62. nwfisch says: Nov 23, 2012 11:09 AM

    Thumb down me all you want, but Schwartz should have known the rule, as silly as it is.

    Schwartz said that he knew of the rule, and that it was his emotions that got the better of him. Read that somewhere today, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    No matter. That is a terrible rule and I couldn’t believe the play was allowed to stand..

  63. The rule was misapplied. Throwing the flag right after the play did not delay the next snap. The right application would have been to tack 15 yards onto where the runner was down.

    You can’t change the rule midseason. two teams have already been hurt. it wouldn’t be fair to them.

  64. And the replacement refs were just as good. In a way, they were better. It seemed like the rules were more evenly applied with the replacements. I miss those guys.

  65. Amazing how many people dont get the concept that the refs DID THE RIGHT THING. On a questionable tackle/change of possession – NOT blowing the play dead allows it to evolve for review. No matter what happens, by not blowing the whistle they increase the likelihood of fairness, of accuracy. If they blow the whistle prematurely, and the runner is shown to not be down by contact, or a ball was deemed to have been fumbled – whatever the case – the whistle stops the play cold preventing replay verification.

  66. The 15 yard penalty is overly harsh as well, it’s at best a five yard delay of game. And there are still things they don’t get right. Like plays in which it looks like a player scored, but was ruled out of bounds on the field. It’s not a scoring play, so no automatic review. Then the team has to throw a Red Flag.

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