Vic Fangio: Replay review of Broncos fumble changed when “the head guy overruled the first guy”

USA Today

Although there were no major controversies from the NFL’s new instant replay system in Week One, there was a case in which a head coach got conflicting information as the New York replay command center reviewed a play.

That coach was Denver’s Vic Fangio, who says he was first told that the Broncos would be getting the ball back because a replay appeared to show the Giants did not recover a Broncos fumble, but then told that the final decision would be to let the call on the field of a Giants recovery stand.

Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled and Giants safety Logan Ryan recovered along the sideline. Replay appeared to show that Ryan was already out of bounds, however, before he had possession of the ball, which would have meant the ball stayed with the Broncos.

Fangio says the officials first told him that he could send the Broncos’ offense back on the field because the replay showed the Giants had not recovered the ball inbounds. But the officials then informed him that the final verdict from New York was to let the play stand.

“They first told me — and you guys probably saw that they were talking to me the whole way — they first told me it’s going be our ball,” Fangio said, via the Broncos’ website. “They were just figuring out where to exactly place it and the timing element of it, and then he came back and said, ‘You’re not going to like this.’ The head guy in New York came in and said, ‘Let it stand,’ and the head guy overruled the first guy’s verdict on it.”

The “head guy in New York” Fangio referenced is former NFL referee Walt Anderson. Although others in the officiating office work on replay reviews, especially when multiple games are going on at once, Anderson is the head guy.

Anderson’s decision to let the ruling on the field stand — as well as his decision to let the ruling on the field stand on a crucial Dalvin Cook fumble in the Vikings’ loss to the Bengals — suggests that Anderson is going to defer to the call on the field unless there’s clear and obvious evidence that the call was wrong. That’s what the replay standard is supposed to be, even if Fangio wasn’t a fan of the way it was communicated to him in one particular case.

17 responses to “Vic Fangio: Replay review of Broncos fumble changed when “the head guy overruled the first guy”

  1. It was clear that the defender’s knee was put of bounds before he got possession of the ball. The replay system will never be perfect, neither will referees, but the more complicated you make any process, the more inefficient it becomes.

  2. Good teams overcome things like that and Denver overcame it. Dare we conclude that Denver is better than most thought?

  3. John mara is likely sitting in the replay booth during giants games. This I show the league operates. Anyone who denies this is obvious to the power structure of the NFL. Giants, Pitt, KC, Indy and baltimore.

  4. Again, as long as the NFL places the most importance on the call on the field, then why have replay? Currently replay is too subjective and definitely inconsistent! Shouldn’t the #1 reason to have replay be, getting the call correct? If you apply that standard instead of protecting the referee on the field, then you can consistency, and more importantly you have the emphasis to getting the call correct. Added bonus, you will make the referee’s better as well.

  5. Did you not watch the Vikings Bengals game? When dalvins fumble in OT? I think it was 50/50 he fumbled so its not bad they called it a fumble. But what I’m upset about is that the refs are instructed on a close play to call it a fumble so it goes to review. Basically defer to the review. Then the review comes back and says “too close to call, defer to the call on the field, call on the field stands”. It feels extremely dirty and cheap then that it stays a fumble. If you are going to have the tiebreak be the call on the field, it feels dirty when all these refs are instructed to “let the fumble get played out”. You need to make a call on the field then, and it was obvious the refs didn’t know so they called it a fumble to review it in this case. At least in baseball a close play at first that’s a tie, the ump in the moment will make an objective safe/out call, so the defer to the call on the field feels more objectively honest. But instead we pay people 500k a year to not make a call, waste 5 min of everyone’s time to review, to essentially still not make a call, when in my opinion (and the opinion of both broadcasters and Pereira, while no doubt a very close play, they all felt he was down, but because it wasn’t “overwhelming” evidence, it “stands”) Infuriating in my opinion.

  6. This is going to be a problem as the officials are also instructed to not blow the whistle and let the play continue on close plays. So as an official, I believe I see a guy is down, but I am not 100% sure and allow the play to continue. This now becomes the call on the field and will require overwhelming evidence to overturn. To me these two issues are at conflict with one another.

  7. Nobody is ever going to be satisfied until an independent company gets hired to referee NFL games, and the job description says to get all calls right, and don’t delay the game. That could be easily accomplished, but that’s not what the league wants.

  8. Translation – The new ‘head guy’ is going to do everything he can to protect his guys on the field and try to overturn as few calls as possible. I think any replays should be sent to review WITHOUT telling those reviewing the plays what the call on the field was, but just telling them what part of the play to review. If they cannot be sure, without preknowledge of the call, they can say ‘let it stand’ without having to know the call on the field. As it is, they will always be more worried about protecting their own, as opposed to being more worried about getting a call correct.

  9. One thing the NFL hates is a blowout.
    If there’s an opportunity to throw a bone to the team getting trounced, They’ll do it. Anything to keep people tuned in and not change the channel .

  10. Fangio was actually pretty funny when he was explaining what happened. The punch line was “you’re not gonna like this” and Fangio was sort of chuckling when he said as if to say DUH.

  11. Neither team is mine, but saying “It was one call. No big deal.” is real easy when it’s not YOUR team getting screwed over on what looked like an obvious call.

  12. charliecharger says:

    September 15, 2021 at 8:24 am

    Nobody is ever going to be satisfied until an independent company gets hired to referee NFL games, and the job description says to get all calls right, and don’t delay the game. That could be easily accomplished, but that’s not what the league wants.

    It’s pretty telling when I read a comment where the poster seems so lost and clueless but feels he knows all and can tell it’s almost always you. Please tell me how anyone could ever get “all the calls right” and it be “easily accomplished” since even now we watch calls be right and people STILL complain. Its human judgement so until you take the human element out(which you cant) there will always be errors and controversy.

  13. This is ridiculous. Why even have replay? The Cook fumble was CLEAR and OBVIOUS. Mike Pereira when asked during the game, “here’s the best view, you can see his back on the ground when the balls comes out”.

    Having Walt Anderson make the final call, makes it so easy to influence games in ways that benefit the NFL’s deep pockets the most. Him and Goodell don’t even need to convey to the other officials what their motivations for certain teams will be anymore.

  14. Two terrible calls that should been overturned. When you can’t get these small things right makes everyone wonder what the heck can they get right. Makes it look from the outside the fix is in and not a good look with legalized betting going on.

  15. The conflict between “letting it play out” and deferring to the call on the field is a really good point. And that guidance to “let it play out” is poorly applied anyway – I’ve watched my favorite team get hosed a half dozen times having a play blown dead during a runback after a turnover because the refs didn’t think it was a turnover. And because they blew it dead, the coach had to waste a challenge flag, since it was ruled NOT a turnover, and therefor didn’t go to automatic review. So not only do they have this rule that on a questionable turnover, they should let it play out so it can be reviewed, but then they don’t even apply that rule equally across the board. That inconsistency, not only in how a play is called, but in the effect of one rule vs the other is what makes NFL officiating so painful.
    Then you add in the fact that when replays first started, it was supposed to be by the officals on the field with their little booth, but it was a poorly-guarded secret that the head office actually influenced the calls. So they eventually said all calls go through one guy. But that guy was incompetent. So now it goes to a team in New York, but actually the head of that team is overturning calls made by other members of team, so it’s really all back to one guy, just like it has always been, but the NFL want’s to pretend it isn’t.
    The lack of transparency, the lack of faith in their own process, is what makes people suspicious of every NFL officiating decision.

  16. When a play goes to Replay, the Replay officials should have no idea what the call on the field was. Or the game situation, score, etc. They should be 100% objective, and simply watch the replay and make a call. There should never be this “not enough evidence (or proper camera angle) to overturn” garbage. The Replay guys watch the play, make a call, and that’s the final decision. The call on the field should be completely irrelevant.

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