No one expected Monday night’s Dolphins-Steelers game to be a good one, but one part of the game in particular, at the end of the third quarter, was so bad that it should cause the league office to take notice of what a mess officiating has become.
That was the moment when the Steelers challenged the spot on a run by Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, and the ensuing delay lasted 10 minutes.
That’s right: Ten minutes between Fitzpatrick’s run, which was reviewed and overturned on replay, and the start of the next play. Halftime in the NFL lasts 13 minutes, and the delay at the end of the third quarter was basically another halftime.
On fourth-and-1, Fitzpatrick ran the ball and was initially ruled to get a first down. The clock ran down to the end of the fourth quarter.
But then Steelers coach Mike Tomlin challenged the spot, and it was ruled that Fitzpatrick was down short of the line to gain. So it was Steelers ball, first-and-10. This should have taken maybe a minute to review, but for some reason it took much longer.
The referee re-spotted the ball, then brought the chains out to measure, and signaled that the Dolphins were short.
As the on-field officials talked and the referee communicated with the officiating office, the review kept going, and going, and going. It shouldn’t have taken more than another minute to see how much time was on the clock when Fitzpatrick went down and to give the Steelers the ball there, but it did.
The operative word in “instant replay” should be “instant.” The league office needs to use the available technology to fix bad calls quickly and get the game going again. A replay review should never take 10 minutes. Referees should have a sense of urgency to keep the game moving. Officiating in the NFL is a mess, and the league doesn’t seem to feel a sense of urgency to fix it.