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Replay equipment malfunction thwarts Cardinals fumble reversal

A clear reversal stands due to a technical issue.




Week 8: Cardinals at Panthers (video)

Early in the first quarter, Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer had fumbled, and the loose ball was returned for a Panthers touchdown. The replay angles seemed to be fairly definitive that Palmer was actually throwing the ball, but the replay official did not have referee Walt Coleman review the play. In our Sunday liveblog, I addressed the possibility of a replay equipment malfunction as the only plausible reason there was no review.

Turns out, that is exactly what happened.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said there was a malfunction and that he was informed at halftime. Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic confirmed Arians’ account with the NFL.

Apparently, there was a network feed issue in the coach’s booths, and the league’s football operations staff had to disconnect the replay booth to fix the issue. Technical gremlins are rare, and, as I addressed in a 2009 post and in my book, So You Think You Know Football, when it happens, there should be a two-minute wait to see if the equipment becomes functional again. (Incidentally, when the World Series broadcast was knocked off the air in Game 1 last year, they halted the game until the network was back up again because of the replay issue.)

Replay official Lou Nazzaro was apparently able to see that a review was possible. The protocol is that Coleman should be called to the replay equipment to see if a review can be initiated in two minutes. However, if it was an absolute certainty that there would be no video available in that time — for instance, if the equipment had to be rebooted — then it is acceptable to just move along without waiting.

But, rather than only having the only signal being the ready-for-play whistle for the extra-point attempt — which was an indication that there was a confirmed call — it really should have been incumbent upon Coleman to make an announcement immediately that a replay review could not be done. This announcement would also inform the coaches of the logistics in play in case there was a potential coach’s challenge. If this had been a coach’s challenge, the team would get their challenge back once the replay is abandoned after two minutes. That two-minute period is measured from the time the referee is informed at the replay equipment.

Couldn’t senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino have dialed up his Sunday Ticket and ruled on it? The replay protocol does not allow for the replay official or the command center to intercede for referee even if they have a working video feed. While Blandino weighs in heavily in replay decisions — as he is the person who determines postseason officiating assignments — it is the referee that makes the final decision.

And, as I found out, that option wouldn’t have been so reliable, either.


Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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