After Further Review: A look at the NFL replay review system
Part 3 of a 4-part series
While replay is not the all-correcting eraser for every call, it is a useful tool for fixing pivotal plays when the video is clear to provide contrary evidence.
When there is clear video evidence, but it is not available, then your tool is no better than that ball-peen hammer that used to be on your pegboard that you cannot seem to find.
Twice this season, the incorrect call on the field has been allowed to stand because the proper angle was not presented. When a Broncos touchdown was allowed to stand, CBS showed a replay angle after commercial that showed the touchdown should have been reversed (but too late to make a correction). Last week, the referee allowed a touchdown return to stand because the referee did not view the decisive angle before his 60 seconds of review time had expired.
Last season, the inimitable producer of Sunday Night Football, Fred Gaudelli, apologized to Eagles coach Andy Reid for not showing a replay in time that the Eagles could have used to challenge a play. NBC did show the decisive replay angle, but bailed out of it too early to see anything, because the opposing Falcons broke their huddle. TV has a duty to its audience to show the game as it happens, but it loses its cinéma-vérité quality when the producer’s and the director’s actions have a direct impact on the strategy of the game.
TV networks aren’t obligated to show significant replays or any types of replays.
That was vice-president of officiating Carl Johnson, addressing this inequity in 2010 when the Packers did not have a replay available at its disposal prior to the snap (video). Well, yes, the networks aren’t obligated. But, that’s passing the buck. The league has an obligation to have the tool available equally to all teams, just as they make sure that teams have equal access to sideline communications, injury reports, drafting college recruits, and game films. To say your tool is subject to the whims of a third party’s interest violates the principles of fair play.
After Further Review:
With the vast financial resources of the league, it is difficult to understand how the booths for the home team coaches, visiting team coaches, and the replay official do not have every camera angle fed to them on a matrix display. Then, if a questionable call comes up, they can rewind all angles simultaneously and select the one that suits their purpose. A coach can have a decision to challenge within seconds; meanwhile the television director is taking a few seconds (impressively, not many) to determine which angle to broadcast, showing the chosen angles sequentially, with enough lead-in and lead-out of each clip to give their viewers perspective. Television does not show replays that roll the crucial 1½ seconds of video back-and-forth five times. But allow the coach or the replay video assistant to do so with their own replay access.
The director is also not a coach, but in some cases, he has to use a coach’s (and official’s) mindset to determine the angle he wants. If there is a catch with a long runback, the director will show the audience the spectacular runback, while the booth may be looking to see if the pass was complete, and waiting for the third network replay to see that — if the network shows it at all.
And, in most cases, the decision will be made by a replay angle provided by the broadcast network. But the coach’s booth or the replay booth should ultimately make that decision. Now, if you don’t mind, I need to find my ball-peen hammer.
Image credit: @SNFonNBC