Bryan Altman, CBS Local Sports
If I were a fan of the Detroit Lions, I don’t think I’d watch another NFL game this season. How could you after the debacle that ensued in front of a national audience on Monday night? You mean to tell me that the integrity of the game was damaged more by Tom Brady possibly knowing about someone deflating footballs than it was by an obvious missed call that changed the complexion of not just one game, but a team’s entire season? Get real.
That’s why it’s time for the NFL to get serious about addressing the issue of bad penalty calls, or no calls, that are considered “judgment” calls. Their hand has officially been forced, and it’s all because of the revolutionary viewing experience that we have come to enjoy so much.
The technology that enables millions around the world to watch NFL games in stunning detail is a beautiful thing. But one of the biggest pitfalls that comes with ultra high-definition views of virtually every single possible angle of every single play is that everybody can see everything and scrutinize it to the nth degree. This leaves basically no mystery as to whether or not a call is a bad call or not.
And herein lies the fundamental problem with saying penalties are “a judgment call” – technology has made it so that the person making the judgment on the field has become the least qualified person to make the call. Period.
Sure, most times they get it right, but most times isn’t good enough. Believe me, I know they work their tails off to ensure that they’re as accurate as possible and I definitely know I couldn’t do/wouldn’t want to be tasked with doing their jobs. I’m fortunate enough to have been on the sidelines during an NFL game and trust me, you can’t even believe how quickly things unfold in real time at field level. But again, close enough isn’t good enough.
It used to be, but that was before we had the ability read the fine print on a football being stretched out by a running back as he attempts to break the plane of the goal line.
Of course there are issues that need to be addressed once you begin reviewing judgment calls, especially to avoid slowing down the game and letting reviews get out of hand.
That’s why the most logical thing to do is give coaches another challenge to use, bringing the total to three (four if they get all three correct), and let them challenge anything. Absolutely anything should be ‘challengeable’ – especially penalties.
If a coach wants to challenge whether or not his defensive lineman was held on a running play in the second quarter of a game, let him do it. Why not? If it’s perceived to be egregious enough by somebody with a high football IQ to the point where they’re willing to risk a time out and a challenge to double-check the play, let them challenge it. Like I said, the refs can’t see everything, but the cameras usually can. If it’s obvious and a coach thinks it’ll change the game, take it out of the hands of the guy who had only one quick glance at the play in real time and give it a review.
I’m struggling to think of a possible issue this could present. Some will argue that we’re just slowing down the game even more, which is true. But wouldn’t you have been a lot happier going to sleep two minutes later on Monday night knowing there wasn’t a grave miscarriage of football justice that might have cost the Lions their season? I know a bunch of guys from Detroit who would have.
Wouldn’t officials also be relieved to have this implemented? It would take a ton of pressure off of them and the onus would fall on coaches and their review teams to use their challenges wisely. Then they would truly have nobody to blame but themselves for a missed/bad call. We already know refs aren’t perfect, and that it’s impossible for them to ever be perfect, so why turn a blind eye and keep throwing refs under the bus when they make a mistake on a game-changing play when we know it’s going to keep happening?
It’s time – actually, it’s been time – for us to take the words “not a ‘reviewable’ play” out of the football lexicon. We’re all reviewing everything on a constant basis anyway, so let’s just do it when it counts, which is well before the clock strikes zero and nothing can be done.
Bryan Altman is, for some reason, an unabashed fan of the Rangers, Jets and Mets. If he absolutely had to pick a basketball team it would be the Knicks, but he’d gladly trade them for just one championship for either of his other three teams.