The New NFL Touchdown Replay Rule Needs a Little Work

Josh McCainSenior Writer IAugust 12, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 9:  Referee Ed Hochuli during a game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys during the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at Cowboys Stadium on January 9, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In both the Patriots vs. Jaguars and Eagles vs. Ravens games, we got to see the new touchdown replay rule in the first half.

In the case of the Patriots games, the first review came when rookie running back Stevan Ridley bowled over the Jags' defensive line for what appeared to be a one-yard touchdown.

The booth buzzed down to the head umpire Ed Hochuli, and he went under the hood to review the play.

I was watching the game on the NFL Network's look in.  So I had the benifit of listening to the commentators from the New England broadcast as well as listing to Rich Eisen and former Cowboy Darryl "Moose" Johnson.

As Hochuli was reviewing the play, the New England broadcast showed several different angles, and from each one, it looked as if the ball had not broken the goal line before the runner was down.

Both Moose and Eisen were in agreement that the first preseason touchdown review would reverse the call.

However, when Hochuli came out on to the field he said the call on the field had stood.  Both Moose and Eisen laughed about being wrong, but in reality they weren't wrong, Hochuli was.

Now I'm not going to worry about this too much because, one, the game was a preseason game, and the refs like the players need to get back into football mode, and two, the Patriots would have probably scored on the next play anyways.

The next Patriot touchdown to be reviewed was the great catch in the back of the end zone by Patriot wide-out Taylor Price.  Once again, the ruling on the field was a touchdown, but Hochuli was buzzed by the booth. 

After the review, the right call of a touchdown was made.

Now, in regards to the two reviews in this game, I think the rule needs to be tweaked a bit.

I like the idea of questionable touchdowns being reviewed without a coaches challenge because as a fan I want the calls to be right and given that a close touchdown call is almost always going to be challenged I think a coach becomes hamstrung late in the game if he's out of challenges, and a call is blown on the field.

However, what I don't like about the new rule is that it sends the head umpire under the hood to review the play.

I think with these challenges (and maybe all of them), have a three-man team either in the booth or similarly to the NHL, have three-man team at the NFL headquarters in New York look at the play and make the call.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 11:  Mike Kafka #3 of the Philadelphia Eagles looks to pass against the Baltimore Ravens during their pre season game on August 11, 2011 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Image
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Having two or three guys away from the field and fans reviewing a play is more likely to get the call right and probably quicker than just having the one official rule by himself down on the field with fans yelling and screaming at him.

Plus with an extra set of eyes helping to review the play, someone could point out a knee down, toe in or something else that one set of eyes may have missed.

Now, on to the Eagles vs. Ravens game where a field-ruled fumble by quarterback Mike Kafka was scooped up by Ravens' defensive back Lardarius Webb and returned some 90 yards for a touchdown.

The booth buzzed the head official, and the play was reviewed.  Clearly Kafka's arm was moving forward, and the pass was incomplete, however I don't like the fact that the play didn't have to be challenged.

My reasoning for this is because the touchdown wasn't the questionable call, it was clearly a touchdown. 

What was questionable was whether or not it was a fumble or incomplete pass.

Had Webb been tackled, Andy Reid would have been forced to use his last challenge (he had previously challenged an incomplete touchdown pass and lost).

Now the rule states that any scoring play is up for review, so the review was by the book, but I think this should be tweaked a bit because I think the only thing that should be reviewed is the actual touchdown, i.e. the two Patriot plays above.

As I stated had Webb been tackled Andy Reid would have had to challenge the play in order to get the call reversed, so in essence what was challenged wasn't the touchdown it was the fumble.

Now I'm glad they got the call right after the review but I would like the rule defined a little bit more by the league only because this could slow the game down quite a bit if we're reviewing everything.

I think any actions by the ball carrier should be the only thing reviewable, i.e. whether or not he caught a pass, whether he stepped out of bound, or he he was down before breaking the plan. 

Anything before that should have to be a coaches challenge, i.e. player A fumbles and player B (either their teammate or opposing player) picks up the ball.

We saw the rule in action last night, and thus far, it didn't really slow down the game, which is a good thing, however not every call was correct (the first Patriot touchdown). 

Of the two tweaks I offered, I'd like to see the first one really implemented because I think two or three guys making the call away from the field will have a better chance of making the right call than one umpire who is right there on the field.