Football Zebras™

Red-flag rule subject to review

In the last two weeks, the Falcons (video) and the Lions have both been burned by throwing a red challenge flag on a play subject to automatic review. All indications are this rule will be changed, including comments from the commissioner at a Lions event.

The crux is the issue is as follows.  This year, the NFL expanded plays that the replay official can buzz the referee and initiate a review outside of two minutes.  On plays subject to a booth review, the head coach is prohibited from throwing a red challenge flag.  The penalty for violating the rule is that the coach is assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct foul and the play will not be reviewed.  It doesn’t matter if the play was called right or wrong, once the coach violates the rule by throwing the challenge flag, all bets are off and there will be no review. (As we reported earlier, the lost-challenge penalty is not just for the unsportsmanlike conduct foul, but any foul between plays.)

The Competition Committee has been discussing proposals to modify or remove this rule, but the most equitable solution is to implement a change starting with the playoffs, when all teams are essentially reset to 0-0. In 2009, a midseason proposal to consider the expiration of the clock subject to a review was implemented for the playoffs that season.

All interim rule changes or enforcement matters can only be recommended by the Competition Committee. The owners ultimately would have to vote on the change. These rule changes (by Rule 3, Section 1) expire after the Super Bowl and are automatically placed on the Competition Committee agenda for their offseason meetings for review.

8 comments for “Red-flag rule subject to review

  1. Larry
    November 28, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I just don’t see how this can be changed and still prevent abuse by coaches without requiring very subjective calls by the referee.

  2. Ben Austro
    November 28, 2012 at 11:08 am

    Perhaps the best solution as a temporary measure is to make the review-forfeit rule only apply when the play clock is running, but an illegal challenge would always be subject to the 15 yards.

  3. November 28, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    The exact rule is that a coach cannot benefit from a replay after his team commits a penalty. If the other coach commits a foul, and that other coach would be harmed by the replay, the replay can still go forward. Otherwise a coach could commit a penalty on purpose just to negate a replay that could harm his team.