Welcome to Replay Redux. Or, in light of the NFC title game, Deja Blew.
The NFL's annual meeting convenes Sunday with all 32 owners and head coaches mulling the state of the game. Which means, another league meeting, another gnashing of teeth when it comes to instant replay. Now more than ever after the Saints' bid to advance to the Super Bowl was foiled when arguably the most obvious pass interference call in post-season history went uncalled with no help from the camera.
They've been wrestling with this since Paul Brown, the Bengals' first head coach, was on the NFL Competition Committee in the '70s and '80s and they're still doing it now at Zac Taylor's first league meeting as the Bengals 10th head coach.
How long have they've been doing this? Longer than Taylor's been alive. In a 1976 pre-season game between the Cowboys and the Bills, the league tried a primitive experiment with director of officiating Art McNally using one stopwatch and one video camera to gauge the length of delays for a review. He said he could have reversed a call involving Bills running back O.J. Simpson, which wouldn't be the last time Simpson starred in a mistake-filled reality show.
The NFL is still taking heat. The competition committee has fired up two proposals, but neither addresses the Battle Cry of New Orleans. As profootballtalk.com observed this week, one proposal "allow (s) for review of pass interference penalties while the other covers pass interference, roughing the passer and unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. Neither would allow for replay to look at a missed call."
Meanwhile, the teams have seven proposals related to replay on the table and the owners are going to be challenged with vetoing their own committee and passing one like what Washington proposed:
"Once a challenge is initiated, the Head Coach must provide the Referee with the specific (jersey number) and the specific foul that was committed on the play, regardless of whether there was a penalty called by the on-field officiating crew."
Do you think Saints head coach Sean Payton would have been able to specify the number 23 of Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman?
It's pretty safe to conjecture how Paul Brown's son, Mike Brown, is going to come down on this thing. Maybe the play last January moved him, but we won't know for sure until he gives his annual end-of-league-meeting sit down with the Bengals beat scribes on Wednesday.
The Browns were and have been a solid no, at first, on instant replay, and then its expansion.
Go back 24 years to this meeting at this place, the Arizona Biltmore. With replay in its infancy and people pushing for more, Mike Brown, a member of the competition committee, mused about being unable to put the genie back in the bottle.
He feared the more replay was used, the longer the delays that would damage the flow of the game and turn off the fans. He thought they were putting the officials in even more impossible positions with each passing rule. Split seconds, he talked about, and how well the officials did most of the time. If it got to be too complicated for them, Brown wondered, what about the poor fan at home or in the stands?
Now here we are and what he has feared has mostly come to pass. Back then he said there was no magic solution that could solve it all and it sure looks that way 24 years later. What's interesting is that he's got a head coach that isn't looking to expand replay either for the sake of clarity.
Yes, Taylor was on the winning end of it back in January as the Rams quarterbacks coach, but he's for the status quo for familiar reasons.
"(Replay) has evolved over the years. It's certainly well documented," Taylor said this week. "At some point, you've got to be careful. It almost gets too confusing in what you can challenge and what you can't. It slows down the game. I think we're at a good point right now of how we use it. Everyone's got a better understanding of how we're using it. I'm satisfied with where it's at right now."
But since this is March and it's a league meeting and it's replay, let the debate begin. Again.
"I'm open to hearing any suggestions anyone's got," Taylor said. "But right now I'm comfortable with the way (replay) is being used."
He won't have to worry about hearing suggestions. There are already plenty.