January 25, 2010
(Non-football fans, come back in a month.)
I'm watching the NFC championship game right now, and the Saints just blew their second (and last) challenge on a fairly obvious good call. But it finally motivated me to write down my thoughts on the matter.
The current system requires coaches to lose a timeout if their challenge is unsuccessful, and they can only challenge at all twice in a game. (In the final two minutes of a half, review calls are instantiated by a neutral observer separate from the refereeing squad.) This was done because the original challenge system allowed the coach to call what amounted to an indefinite number of timeouts.
I agree on principle, but I dislike the idea of a coach only being able to correct two referee foul-ups. As long as he's fixing mistakes a coach should be able to challenge all he wants. And a coach that has used his timeouts shouldn't be at the mercy of a bad call with no means of correcting the problem.
So here's my idea. On a successful challenge nothing happens. If you can get a correction made every play, then more power to you. For unsuccessful challenges, there's a two-step progression. First, the challenging team may (optionally) use a timeout. If they choose not to burn the timeout, or have no timeouts remaining, the opposing team has the option to run 30 seconds off the game clock.
There's still a possibility of a coach using the "infinite timeout" model of replay requests, but it's extremely unlikely. The only time an opposing coach would opt not to run time off the clock would be when they were behind. And a coach who's ahead isn't likely to give the guys trying to catch him a bunch of free timeouts. In effect, the system should be self-policing.
Of course we also have the problem of refs appearing to blow more calls nowadays than they used to. I wonder if it's not time, especially for the playoffs, to do like baseball and add an extra couple of officials to make sure things don't get missed. But that's a lame idea for another day.