Challenges are one of the most antiquated aspects of the NFL today.
In an era where every call can be analyzed by the booth or analyzed by officials in New York, there is no reason for the NFL to still have challenges. While one could argue that challenges are a critical part of the game, correct calls should be a larger part of the game.
In a world with instantaneous communication, calls should be reviewable instantly. While judgment calls and the on-field officials are not perfect, there are plenty of camera angles and other people available to make sure incorrect calls are overturned. One argument for the challenge flag is that, without it, too many calls would be reviewed –– but that problem would be solved if reviews were initiated by staff in New York.
The idea of implementing a sky judge to overrule officials has been talked about, but I think it would prove to be beneficial. Not only would accuracy improve, but the lengthy process of video review would also be curbed by having one official with the power to make decisions immediately.
On-field officials can make judgment calls and the majority of other penalty calls, but having one sky judge makes everyone’s job significantly easier. Instead of guessing calls, officials can have peace of mind knowing that there is a sky judge that sees everything that’s going on.
My opinion on challenges came to a head when New England could not challenge a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter because they had already used their first two. It struck me as stupid that a team could be correct in thinking a play was ruled falsely, but the team would have no power to institute a review because they had already had two plays previously reviewed.
In addition to that play not being ruled a touchdown, the play would not have been up for review if it had been ruled a touchdown in the first place. With the horror show that is the NFL rulebook, plays that are ruled as touchdowns or turnovers are automatically reviewed –– while plays that could potentially be touchdowns or turnovers but are not ruled as such are not immediately reviewed.
Outside of the last two minutes of either half, these plays must go to the coaches to be challenged. If the coach doesn’t challenge the play, the place stands, and it is not reviewed. I think it is ridiculous that the automatic video review only applies to certain plays and certain times of the game.
Every play should be reviewable, and a judge should be on-hand to review individual calls as they happen. In most circumstances, a decision can be reached before the next play because most teams do not run fast offenses like they do in college. While a no-huddle offense would throw a wrench into the idea of reviewing each play, very few teams utilize the no-huddle offense enough for it to ruin the plan.
Referees receive flack weekly because of questionable calls that are made. With my idea, the accuracy of calls would improve, and there would be fewer situations such as the one in the Patriots game where N’Keal Harry clearly scored a touchdown, but the Patriots couldn’t ask for it to be reviewed because they were out of challenges.
I know you’re saying, “the Patriots should have been more careful with their challenges, and they used a challenge on a play that should not have been challenged early in the game.” Regardless of the challenges being successes or failures, teams should have the option to have calls reviewed. The NFL has made an emphasis on scoring plays and turnover players being reviewed, so potential scoring plays and potential turnover plays should also receive that caveat.
While not every single play should be reviewed, potential scoring plays and potential turnover plays should fall into the same category as their official scoring plays and official turnover plays.
If the NFL wants to keep challenges, they should only apply to spot calls (excluding touchdowns) and pass interference. All plays that are under referee discretion should be reviewable via a challenge, but plays that are objectively called should be automatically reviewed. It is often not a judgment call as to whether a player scored or did not score, it can be seen from a specific angle.
I would outright remove the challenge flag and just have a sky judge correct any referee decisions. The only use for a challenge flag, in my opinion, would be to challenge pass interference calls or the spot of the ball.
Ideally, the NFL would have the technology inside the ball or on the field to ensure that plays can be ruled accurately as touchdowns, first downs, or out of bounds. While that technology might not be present now, it can be something to work forward to for the NFL.
If the NFL were able to track the position of the ball without having to use visual cues, they’d have a much higher accuracy rate in terms of touchdowns, first downs, and plays that go out of bounds.
It is a pipe dream of mine, but it would be practical for the NFL to have the ball give its precise geographical location concerning certain positions on the field. Make it happen, NFL.