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Point, counterpoint: Is automatic replay review for turnovers a good rule change?


! Staff Writer Mike Spofford says yes.

When instant replay was expanded last year to include automatic review of all scoring plays, I had several conversations with my brethren in the press box that the next logical step would be to automatically review turnovers, too.

It only makes sense. Other than the obvious (points), what statistically has the biggest impact on winning and losing football games? Turnovers. They're too important not to make sure the calls are right.

I don't care if it takes a few extra seconds or minutes. I'd rather spend a few minutes to get a critical call right than countless days discussing avoidable controversy later.

A coach shouldn't have to challenge a play that's ruled a fumble or interception. Remember those back-to-back Packers games in 2010 against the Jets and Cowboys?

The Packers benefited from a questionable interception against the Jets and a bogus fumble on a kickoff that was returned for a touchdown against the Cowboys. The opposing coaches couldn't challenge because they were out of challenges and the plays didn't happen in the last two minutes of either half. Those moments highlighted the shortcomings of a system that needed this type of modification, because the plays were so impactful.

I'm not sure if Charles Woodson's pick against the Jets would have been overturned, but it at least should have been looked at. I know the Dallas fumble that Nick Collins scooped up and ran back for a score would have been overturned, because the return man was down by contact. It was a gift touchdown that either last year's expansion of replay or this new one would fix very easily.

This change to replay also eliminates the possibility, however far-fetched, of a really absurd situation based on last year's new rule. Imagine a player picks up a fumble that might not be a fumble and takes off down the sideline toward the end zone. If he's aware enough to realize the other team is out of challenges and the clock isn't under two minutes in either half, he just might step out of bounds on the 1-yard line rather than score. That way, the play won't be automatically reviewed because it's not a TD. Or, a player in pursuit of the fumble returner may decide not to tackle him because if he scores, the whole thing might come back.

Yeah, I know, that's nuts and insanely unlikely to happen, but when I just saw a Super Bowl decided by a player who was being allowed to score, yet, was trying not to score and fell inadvertently across the goal line, I'm not ruling out anything in the realm of the absurd.

The NFL is probably moving toward a system in which all close calls ultimately get reviewed, and as long as the league can find a way to do that quickly and efficiently, I'm all for it. Let's face it, modern technology has provided better eyes in the sky than humans can provide on the field. There's no debating that.

Then, again, maybe it won't get to that point. I don't know. In the meantime, selecting the most statistically significant plays in a game – scores, and now turnovers – for automatic review is progress for a replay system that the league is smart enough to realize should always be "under review."

! Editor Vic Ketchman says no.

I'll be brief and to the point.

OK, so in the never-ending pursuit to get it right, we're now going to lengthen the time of game so we might review all calls that result in a turnover. I have a question: What about all plays that were wrongly ruled on the field to have not resulted in turnover? Are we going to stop the game and automatically review them?




Oh, that's great. Longer games and more selective use of the replay review system, and we're still not going to get it right.

Hey, guys, don't you understand what you're doing? You're upsetting the balance between right and wrong. It's not evening out because you're selecting some wrongs to correct and allowing other wrongs to stay wrong.

I like the idea of automatically reviewing all turnovers. Every coach will tell you that turnovers are the difference between winning and losing, so if we're going to get any call right, let's get this one right. But what about the plays that should've been ruled turnovers?

The answer to that question is that the coaches will still have to challenge those calls, and that leads me to my next question: What about the down-by-contact play? It's a close call and the coach wants more information from his coaches upstairs before he decides to spend a challenge he might need later in the game, but TV is slow with the replay and the opponent rushes to snap the ball and the coach has neither the time nor the information he needs to throw his red flag.

Then, a few seconds later, we see the replay and the broadcasters loudly proclaim, "That's a fumble!" but it's too late now because the system doesn't allow for repair, only regret. It turns out to be the play that decides the game, which means that a wrong wasn't fixed and the team that won probably should've lost. Yuk!

So why can't we automatically review that play, too? If we're going to spend this extra time to get it right, can't we spend a little more time to make sure we get ALL turnovers right? Or shouldn't all calls involving the potential for turnover at least be treated the same?

What do you think?

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