NFL has an early-season replay-review consistency problem

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions
Getty Images

When the league shifted authority over replay review from the various stadiums to the league office, the goal was simple and clear: To ensure consistency in the application of the replay standard.

When seeing what happened in HD, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the replay function shouldn’t trigger a re-officiating of the play. The guiding principle should always be that the ruling on the field should be overturned only there is clear and obvious evidence of an error.

Earlier today, we took a closer look at whether the closer look at the interception made by Chargers cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. on Thursday night should have been overturned. Where, we asked, was the clear and obvious evidence that the on-field ruling of an interception was wrong?

Our take: There were no clear and obvious evidence of an error.

In response, a league source pointed out a Week One play that bolsters the position. On the final play of the third quarter of the Eagles-Lions game, tight end T.J. Hockenson made a catch. The ball struck the ground. It appeared to move. Eagles coach Nick Sirianni challenged the play. The league office upheld the ruling.

If making a determination without the “clear and obvious” deference, it’s not a catch. But since the decision wasn’t clearly and obviously wrong (frankly, the on-field ruling looked to be more clearly and obviously wrong than the Samuel play), the ruling stood.

Clear and obvious. Those words should be painted on the walls at the NFL’s Art McNally GameDay Central. They should be burned into the carpet. They should be etched into the ceiling. Clear and obvious. The ruling on the field gets overturned only if the evidence of an error is clear and obvious.

Even now, the human beings responsible for the process periodically yield to the human temptation to ignore the high standard and use the video evidence to officiate the play from scratch.

17 responses to “NFL has an early-season replay-review consistency problem

  1. Never going to call this game 100% correct. Have to just be a grown up about it and understand life isn’t fair.

  2. You forget the process, first check with Roger to see if it is one of his protected teams, which KC is, then check with the sports book sponsors on how they want the call to go. It is about as rigged as the NBA, not quite yet but getting there.

  3. the league also needs to review enforcement of the protection afforded a qb when sliding feet first. three or four times in eagles lions hurts gave himself up by going feet first but still was hit by a rolling defender. these hits were unnecessary against the rule and unflagged, and led to a full on hat to hat on the next slide. penalty finally called on the fifth hit.

    had brady or any of the less athletic qbs had been hit that way, the flag comes on the first one. they used to ref mike vick that way too, and it ain’t right.

  4. “Our take: There were no clear and obvious evidence of an error.”

    Yet most of the comments in that article said the ball clearly moved on the replay and the ground helped him pin it to his body afterwards…

  5. It was clear and obvious in real time as the play happened that it may have hit the ground. Everything else comes from that. Its really very simple.

  6. I would say that the people in New York are very consistent in making calls for certain obvious teams and ones that fit their agenda. The league has consistently shown that they should not be trusted with impacting the outcomes of games.

  7. The NFL is a money making machine. The money gets generated by TV revenue. TV revenue gets generated by ratings. Ratings are higher when the games are close. When more teams are still alive for the playoffs as the season progresses. For years we’ve had the technology to get every call correct without delaying the game. That might not be compatible with what I described above. There’s a reason they don’t always want the players determining the outcome. The sooner we understand that, the more we can devote our time and energy to something more useful. If you have a football blog, you’re loving the controversy it creates. If you gamble, hopefully the calls even out. If you own a team, it can be frustrating, but profitable.

  8. It’s never going to be an exact science. No matter what you do, it’s going to be a human being looking at the screen and trying to see if the replay shows what the refs called after a split second view. I watched the replays … yes, the ball obviously hit the ground, and it moved. Did that mean he wouldn’t have caught it without the ground? I don’t think so. But another person would say yes, he may not have secured it without the ground’s assist. Does the rule say that if the ball touches the ground at all, it’s an incompletion? If it doesn’t, then the human element will always play too big a role in determining whether the ground helped or not.

  9. The game turned on that play. Mahomes got an assist on that play, the refs saved his bacon. And on the incorrect illegal contact call on the Chargers that nullified another INT. Mahomes got very lucky. They needed blown calls to win the game.

  10. On first review the ref saw the ball hit the ground. Any pixilation after that would only be to favor the defense and uphold the interception. It was clear and obvious that the ball was on the ground. Any further digging would be to find a reason to uphold the play and it did not exist.

  11. So you are fixating on this call but ignoring the phantom hold on the Chiefs when Bosa was roughing the passer? Weird.

  12. Every game and every team has had to deal with this for the last 50 years. Replay or not the ref’s stink and never get it right. We as fans have to deal with it. Now that gambling is involved I’m sure this wont be improving any time soon if you get the point.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.