NFL Replay Rule Change 2012: Failure to Act Now Will Prove Costly for NFL

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistNovember 24, 2012

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

Reviewing how the NFL handles reviews of action of the field needs to end—and action off of the field must be taken.


Multiple sources, including CBS Sports, report that the NFL is going to examine the replay rule that very well may have cost the Detroit Lions their Thanksgiving game against the Houston Texans, which they lost in overtime, 34-31.

For those who somehow missed it, take a look.

Texans running back Justin Forsett is clearly down—both his knee and elbow touch the ground when only one needs to make contact—yet no whistle blew and 81 yards later, Detroit's 10-point lead was cut to three.

Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw the challenge flag—a no-no since all scoring plays are reviewed—and due to Official NFL Playing Rule 15, Section 9, the Lions were penalized, replay was scrapped and the touchdown that wasn't a touchdown stood.

Per Sports Illustrated's Peter King:

"If there is a foul that delays the next snap,'' the rule says, "the team committing that foul will no longer be able to challenge the previous ruling.'' The throwing of the challenge flag counts as such a delay. And the throwing that challenge flag on either a scoring play or a turnover, both of which are automatically reviewed, results in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Director of football operations, Ray Anderson, issued this statement on behalf of the league (h/t CBS Sports):

We will certainly discuss the rule with the competition committee members, as we do all situations involving unique and unusual circumstances, and determine if we feel a change should be recommended to ownership.

Not being able to review a play in this situation may be too harsh, and an unintended consequence of trying to prevent coaches from throwing their challenge flag for strategic purposes in situations that are not subject to a coaches' challenge.

What's to determine, Ray?

It's obvious that there's a major issue with the way this rule is written, that situations like what transpired in Detroit on Thursday—or in Atlanta in Week 11—were not taken into consideration when it was implemented.

This sad situation went down on national television, with millions of people who don't normally watch football plopped in front of the television with their families, spending time together on Thanksgiving day.

So Anderson is going to talk to a committee, which may or may not choose to take action now, if at all.

Failure to act now will prove costly to the NFL, as they'll be leaving themselves wide open for a repeat performance in a far more important game than this one—in a conference championship game or in the Super Bowl, when tens of millions will be watching around the world.

There's nothing to determine, nothing to debate. A quick fix is in order here: keep the penalty, allow for the automatic replay and move past this debacle.

Failure to do so is only setting the league up for more scrutiny and ridicule in headlines they certainly don't want.

Unless of course, grabbing headlines is the ultimate goal, and the integrity of the game has become secondary.