I’m not a fan of the move to give officials discretion to determine when a celebration should be penalized for being excessive. Discretion can be exercised in inconsistent ways, resulting in 15 yards of field position being surrendered in some situations and not in others despite similar conduct.
The NFL will be attempting to minimize that outcome by ensuring that the players understand what is and isn’t allowed. As noted by NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent on Twitter, the league is developing an educational training video, with the goal of giving the players “clear examples of appropriate and inappropriate celebrations.”
That’s fine, as long as the line between what is and isn’t acceptable is clear — and as long as the game officials will know the difference and properly respect it.
Given that penalties for excessive celebrations arise from conduct happening after the play, and in light of the potential importance of a 15-yard penalty to the outcome of a game, this would be an ideal situation for the NFL to provide active, real-time video assistance in calling for a flag to be thrown or instructing the referee to pick it up. It’s not replay review per se, because it would amount to the consideration of something occurring after a play has ended.
Given that the officials are destined to make mistakes when it comes to interpreting and applying a supposedly clear standard, it’s important for the NFL to ensure that calls having nothing to do with anything that happens between the snap and the whistle are at all times accurate, especially when 15 percent of the length of the field can shift based on whether a flag is thrown.