NFL Instant Replay: Why It Needs Expansion Sooner Rather Than Later

Ryan CookFeatured ColumnistAugust 24, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  NFL Commissioner Roer Goodell speaks at the podium during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The sporting world today is very different to what it used to be.  Gone are the days of simplified rules that were attained to keep the average Joe entertained while he sat back and basked in the glow of  Joe Namath or Bart Starr, and now we arrive in a confusing league that is riddled with brain busting rules and regulations that could easily puzzle the best of rocket scientists.

When it comes to the NFL, the instant replay issue is a constant ongoing war.  Months after Aramando Galaragga's blown perfect game for the city of Detroit, America's new favorite past time, football, must now step back and take a look at their system, and determine whether or not is is being used to full affect.

In past instances, the NFL's replay system has been both good and bad.  Sure the ability for any head coach to throw out a brightly colored bean bag and challenge a play has been overly fantastic, but is that really enough to determine such vital games in the course of not only the regular season, but the postseason as well?

I don't think I have to be the one to tell you all, that no, it simply isn't enough.

1986 was the first year that the NFL's instant replay system hit the scene.  At the time it was a very foreign concept, yet it still did help the league immensely when it came to reviewing close calls.

Still, that's all old news, and like many of my elders have told me "You've got to stop living in the past, and focus on the future".

Therefore, with this statement in mind, it is now time for the NFL to take a look at their replay system and grab that yellow highlighter sitting on Roger Goodell's desk, and highlight the problems to help fix this problem.

But what are the problems that lay with the current replay system?

Unfortunately for the office workers in the league, there are many, but the following collection of issues that are still outstanding should help out the pen pushers, and clear up what we as fans are concerned about in the long scheme of things.


Blown Coaching Challenges

All too often do we see a coach throw out the red flag, and as a result look totally foolish one the camera's display just how wrong the team actually was.

Although allowing more extensive instant replays would more or less defeat the purpose of the challenge play, it would give head coaches more of an idea in regards to whether or not a receivers feet were in bounds, a fumble occurred of whether or not a receivers knee was down before he crossed the plain.

The problem with challenges is simple, they work when the play is totally obvious, but all to often they take an excessive amount of time to determine if the play is crucially close.  As we all know, the average football game can take up to 3 hours, and while I'm all for the NFL, the long drawn out commercial breaks certainly stop the action, and make it tough going for any fan to enjoy.

As much as I do realize that it is important to get every call right, there needs to perhaps be a time limit on booth reviews, rather than wasting up to 10 minutes while we all sit idly by and glare at an official under a black hood.

A suggest that I have heard is that coaches are to be offered one instant replay, and from that they can determine if they would like to challenge.  It is only an idea and not set in stone, but the current system is taking way too long.


In Bounds Catches

Since the NFL has changed their in bounds catching rules, we've seen a handful of instances when a wide receiver has had a toenail out of bounds, and has been ruled for an incomplete pass.

While the instant replay has certainly benefited this problem, there are still some concerns that come from the receivers being forced out of bounds by either a defender or forward momentum.

The first problem is that it is often hard to tell whether or not a receiver did have a foot on the white part of the sideline or on the green part of the turf.  Not only does this course delays again, it can also cause head coaches to throw unnecessary challenge flags, as the play is often so close to call, that it is impossible to tell by the naked eye.

Realistically this problem won't ever go away, as just about every sport has problems with out of bounds calls.  However, perhaps a more simplified rule change could help the situation a little, and I'm sure head coaches would appreciate not wasting a time out when these instances occur.


An Expansion Would Help Overtime

I can think of about a hundred examples off the top of my head, where a team has been hard done by in the closing stages of overtime.

One of the most recent ones occurred during the NFC Wildcard Game in 2009, between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals.  Although overtime had just gotten underway, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit heavily, and as a result lost the football which was then scooped up by a Cardinal defensemen and returned for a touchdown.

Now, at first sight, this seemed to be as plain as day.  But upon further review, an obvious facemask infraction occurred, that was never overturned.

To me, this is one of the biggest issues with instant replay.  When it becomes clear that an infraction did occur, nothing happens as a result, and one team is left the ultimate loser.

Of course, now that the NFL has changed it's overtime rules, we may see a decline in the amount of unfortunate circumstances this season.  However, an expansion would not only make sure that the right team wins, it would also make sure that the right call is made and the right team is sent to the next stage.

In the NFL there is never a more crucial time than the overtime period.  Therefore, if the NFL can't get this issue right, then the rest is a lost cause. We've all seen the use of the booth review before, so why not implicate that into every situation when a missed call may have been made? 

It would make perfect sense.


Would Help The Playoffs/Super Bowl

Let me give you all a scenario here.  Let's just say that the Philadelphia Eagles are playing in the NFC Championship Game, and are a score away from reaching the Super Bowl.  Kevin Kolb drops back to pass, DeSean Jackson receives, and races down the sidelines but is stopped at what appears to be the one yard line, where the clock goes on to expire.

Upon further review, it appears that DeSean Jackson's knee never hit the turf and he indeed did enter the endzone with the ball. 

So what happens when this dire strait situation occurs?

I'll tell you, most likely nothing, as the game would go on to expire, the celebrations would kick off, and everything would be wrapped up in a neat little package for each NFL official.

However, all the while the Eagles were robbed of a Super Bowl spot, all due to the lack of consistency with the instant replay system.  Of course, realistically this would spark a nationwide debate, but still, there is no rule in place just yet that would prevent this unfortunate scenario from happening.

Like the overtime period, the playoffs are make or break.  And when a team is robbed of a chance to make it to the big dance, well it is ultimately embarrassing for not only the players, but for the entire city in general.

This problem is perhaps the biggest.  If the NFL can make the playoffs and Super Bowl a safe and secure place, then the instant replay use will be a success.

Right now though, Roger Goodell may be flirting with disaster, as any day that very scenario could play out.  Let's hope it doesn't happen, but the instant replay system must be fixed to prevent this dreaded disaster.


To Convince the Naysayers

Unfortunately for the NFL, there are a select group of people that argue the case of "The instant replay system is taking the human element out of the game".

While this is partially true, if the NFL were to fill any loopholes, perhaps the old time football fans would finally come around, and realize how much justice it could bring to the game as a whole.

The debate between the old school fans and the new style fans is still ongoing, and whether it is a debate over future Super Bowl sites, obviously people will disagree with just about anything the NFL attempts to fix.

Surely though, the instant replay system is one we can all agree on, as it does help the game flow and work at a steady rate.



All criticism aside, the instant replay system is above par.  In comparison to MLB, the NFL has covered just about every base when it comes to providing a fair chance for each and every team and player.

With this in mind, there are still some outstanding issues that must be addressed, particularly with the overtime period and postseason.  We've already had enough warnings from the past, and now the time has come for the glue to be set in place for the future.

Whether it's Aaron Rodgers with a facemask call, or questionable officiating calls in Super Bowl XL some five years ago, the NFL is once again walking the fine line between success and an ultimate explosion of controversy sometime soon.

From a fan perspective I hope it doesn't come to that, but like the old saying goes "If you play with fire, your going to get burnt".


Ryan Cook is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also an NFL columnist for Real Sports Net and a Green Bay Packers writer for Fan Huddle and PackerChatters. Ryan is also a contributing writer for Detroit Lions Talk, Gack Sports and Generation Y Sports.  Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.


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