In the Packers at Vikings game yesterday we witnessed one of the unfortunate flaws in the Coach’s Challenge system. Let’s chat about that.
In a weird play, Vikings QB Christian Ponder threw a pass that was tipped, bounced around by a few players, and finally recovered by a Viking. All of that was legal. But what wasn’t legal was the “catch” at the end of the play. It was initially called as a catch by the Vikings, but after a second look it was easy to see that the ball had actually grazed the ground and was not a legal catch.
But it wasn’t reviewed or recalled. Here’s why:
In order to challenge a ruling on the field, using the red Coach’s Challenge flag, a team has to have a challenge to use (they get two per game – if they are right on both, they get an extra one) but they also have to have a time out. Why? Because if what the coach challenges is reviewed and is not ruled in the coach’s favor, the team is charged one time out. So that means they can’t challenge if they don’t have a time out.
And the Packers had a challenge remaining, but they didn’t have a time out. So the Vikings were quick to get the next play underway before any type of official review could be called, and the end result was a touchdown for the Vikings.
Now, in my opinion, not having the challenge ruled in your favor is punishment enough. Having a time out extracted just feels like salt in the wound. But I’m guessing that’s what they want to do to keep coaches from challenging more than absolutely necessary. That’s all well and good, but when it results in a bad call standing and points being put on the board later, that’s not well or good. And the Vikings ended up winning the game by a field goal…and as a Packers fan, that’s like the ultimate of unwell and ungood. There needs to be some sort of contingency plan.
Also, remember the last time we talked about Coach’s Challenge? On Thanksgiving when Jim Schwartz threw the flag on an unreviewable play and a call that would have been overturned stood because of it? A similar situation occurred in this game. Mike McCarthy threw the flag on a scoring play, which seemed like what happened with Schwartz on Thanksgiving. However on this play, the official had already blown the whistle and called for the review, which meant that the play was not deemed “unreviewable” because of McCarthy’s flag-throwing, but the Packers were given a 15 yard penalty anyway.
If you are confused…you’re not alone. The rules regarding the Coach’s Challenge seem legitimate to basically no one and really need to be revisited ASAP. Since the whole system is relatively new it makes sense that the kinks are still being worked out. But really, there are some sizable kinks, and hopefully they are resolved in the off-season.
As Mike Pereira said, “The object of replay is to get the call right.” At the end of the day, that’s what the replay system needs to make happen.