Ed Hochuli has been an NFL official since the 1990 season. He is known for his pinpoint explanations, his accurate calls and his bulging biceps. However, regardless of how many Super Bowls he officiates, or how big those muscles get, his name will live in infamy for the blown call he made in Week 2 of the 2009 season. The game featured the San Diego Chargers and the Denver Broncos in a typical AFC West shoot-out. With 1:17 left, and the Broncos on the Chargers’ doorstep to tie or possibly win the game, Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Chargers linebacker Tim Dobbins. However, due to Hochulis’ “inadvertent whistle,” the play was ruled dead as an incomplete pass, and even though replay review showed it was in fact a fumble, the ball could not be awarded to the Chargers, who later lost the game 39-38. This is a prime example of the replay system not enhancing the game or helping to correct an officials’ error. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Under current NFL rules, instant replay may only be used to review 13 scenarios, including whether a pass or interception was legally caught or whether the ball was spotted in the proper place. Coaches have two challenges that they may use at any time during the first and third quarters, and during the first 13 minutes of the second and fourth quarters, assuming they have a challenge left to use or a timeout left to sacrifice. If the coaches are successful on both challenges, they are allowed a third challenge. The prevailing question, then, is whether or not two challenges are adequate enough. On one side of the coin, some feel that challenges slow down the game and take away from the game the way was meant to be played, involving human error. On the other side, you have the folks that feel the large amount of money associated with football warrants a system that makes the game a pinnacle of fairness and corrects the flaw of human judgment, no matter how long it takes. As of now, the current rules are here to stay, and that’s the way it should be.
Another issue commonly associated with instant replay is whether penalties should be inserted into the criteria of reviewable plays. This corner says no. Penalties and infractions in football are often times the most debated, controversial topics found in a game. Was that a hold? Pass interference, anyone? The list could go on and on. If instant replay was to be allowed to decide penalties, the next step would be placing a GPS in the ball to determine when it was touched, whether it crossed the goal line and where it should be marked. While the enhancements may improve the fairness of the game, there are numerous cons. The biggest setback would be the number of plays that could be reviewed. It is widely believed there is holding on every play, and it would be next to impossible for an official to go under the hood and decide if a player was illegally being held. The second drawback would be the factor of human error slowly being erased from the game. Football is often referred to as a sport that offers many life lessons, and one of the most common life lessons is learning to deal with bad breaks and things that are not always fair. If we replace minds with computer chips and video lenses, we lose a lot of the opportunities to teach young kids about life.
In closing, the instant replay system is now an integral part of the game, surrounded by much controversy and discussion. There are some cons to the current system, but there are also many pros. It is an ever-evolving element of the game, a technological advancement in today’s ever-growing tech society. Should it continue? You decide.