Tim Benz: Potential NFL replay changes make no sense | TribLIVE.com
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Tim Benz: Potential NFL replay changes make no sense

Tim Benz
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The Steelers’ Joe Haden attempts to intercept the ball over the Saints’ Alvin Kamara on a play that was ruled pass interference on Haden on Dec. 23, 2018, in New Orleans, La.

I don’t understand the NFL competition committee’s approach to its replay expansion proposals.

One proposal up for debate at this week’s owners’ meetings suggests the league should allow the review of pass-interference calls for a year on an experimental basis.

A second proposal suggests adding replay review for roughing the passer and unnecessary hits against a defenseless receiver.

Where it gets sticky is that the competition committee is not advancing the idea of challenging calls that weren’t made on the field.

In other words, the non-call on the obviously missed pass interference at the end of the Saints-Rams NFC Championship Game would still not be subject to review.

And that’s ironic because, well, that’s the play that got the conversation going as to whether penalty flags should be challengeable in the first place.

Translation? Mike Tomlin could’ve challenged the Joe Haden penalty in New Orleans. But Sean Payton still couldn’t have challenged the one missed against Los Angeles’ Nickell Robey-Coleman in the same building.

As committee chairman Rich McKay told ESPN.com, “there remains a ‘real reluctance’ for replay to ‘put a foul on the field.’ ”

OK. But then why are we are talking about this at all? What’s the difference between being reluctant about correcting a judgment non-call, yet being willing to correct a judgment penalty?

The other three sports now have a mechanism to use replay for infractions that have gone uncalled. In hockey, coaches can challenge for offsides and goalie interference that may have been missed in the act of an opponent scoring a goal.

In basketball, officials go to the monitors to look for flagrant fouls that may have been missed. And managers in baseball can ask for reviews of blocking the plate and illegal slides on the base paths.

I get the concern. Where do you stop, right? If you challenge missed pass-interference calls, why not challenge missed false starts …

… missed blocks in the back

…. or missed holding calls?

My answer to that would be you shouldn’t stop. Because any missed call for pass interference could be as punitive as any other missed call that results in a pivotal outcome.

It should be one or the other. Keep the review of penalties ineligible, or allow non-calls to be reviewed, as well. It’s intellectually inconsistent to do so otherwise.

Here’s how I would do it. Allow coaches to challenge penalties as they would any other play that’s currently challengeable.

The one tweak I’d make is that the league shouldn’t allow the booth to review all penalties within the last two minutes. If the booth is looking for an infraction on every play, they’ll find one. The last two minutes will last two hours.

Once the last two minutes hit, coaches should be allowed one challenge flag specifically for penalties on potentially blown calls that are so egregious, the team feels they must be reviewed.

If the team has no timeouts remaining, the penalty for an upheld call would be 15 yards instead. If a club is trying to get into position for a field goal, that may be enough of a punitive threat to keep the challenge flag in the coach’s pocket, unless he feels the call was absolutely missed.

That’s not perfect. None of this is. Officiating will never be perfect and neither will the use of replay.

At least adding the review of non-calls would be more consistent.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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