Press Box: Stop slowing the game down with replay reviews

Illustration by Steck Von

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

In the NFC Championship Game of the NFL playoffs last season in New Orleans, Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw the ball downfield at the end of the game to wide receiver Tommylee Lewis, who was streaking down the field near the endzone.

Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman undercut Lewis before the ball got to him, which was a textbook pass interference call. The officials did not throw the penalty flag, costing the Saints the game and a trip to the Super Bowl.

In response to the missed call, the NFL passed several rule changes for the upcoming season — one of them would have been crucial in the missed call.

The new rule amends a previous one “to expand the reviewable plays in instant replay to include all fouls for pass interference, roughing the passer, and unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.”

If this rule were in effect last season, the Saints would have received the call they wanted — pass interference — and they would have had an opportunity to win the game with the ball near the endzone in a tight game. The rule is only a temporary measure for the NFL, as it is only in effect for one year.

The new rule threatens the integrity of the game, as it will make the referees more reliant on the replay system. They will be more inclined to miss a call, because they have the option to look over it in the replay booth, rather than calling the game as it happens.

Some referees have relied on the replay system in the past couple of years when all scoring plays became reviewable as well. This most commonly occurs on touchdowns and fumbles, two plays that can be hard to see in the moment.

Whenever there is the slightest doubt in the mind of a referee about a fumble, they call it a fumble on the field so it can be reviewed using replay. Sometimes the replays take a while, causing fans to become restless, because they want the game to continue.

When referees are unsure of what to call, they make the call that will initiate the replay review to take place and take a closer look at it. This shouldn’t happen — referees should go with their gut and move on with the game.

Are the officials human? Yes, and they will continue to miss some calls throughout the game. The NFL is 100 seasons old this year, and replay is relatively new. Missed calls come and go, and eventually people move on. The referees are not robots — they will continue to miss calls but they should not become reliant on instant replay.

The replay system has slowed the game down, and the new rule will only add to the issue. In 2016, the average replay time was 2 minutes and 25 seconds. In a game that is littered with commercials and lots of TV timeouts, any other delay in the action just adds to the length of the contest.

Some will say the rule change is good for the game, because missed calls will be reversed upon review in the replay booth — but that sends replay down a slippery slope. Since the NFL added this rule change to review for pass interference, what will stop the league from implementing a change to look at basic penalties like holding?

Since the rule change is only temporary, it should not be renewed following this season because of the sheer fact that the NFL will see of the length games extending by reviewing more plays.

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