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.
Roger Goodell said he doesn’t expect the challenge rule to change in regular season but “we may evaluate it as it relates to the postseason”
— Dave Birkett (@davebirkett) November 28, 2012
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.