Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jul 2005

Replay Specialist, Redskins Part Ways

In theory, hiring a former NFL official to serve as a replay specialist is a good idea. The only problem was that Joe Gibbs would often overrule him. (the Redskins lost five of their first six challenges in 2004) As it stands, only the Miami Dolphins will have a full-time replay official on the payroll next season. (free registration/bugmenot required)

Posted by: P. Ryan Wilson on 05 Jul 2005

11 comments, Last at 05 Jul 2005, 8:53pm by Ryan Mc


by MDS (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 10:45am

I wonder what guidelines the league sets regarding teams employing former officials. If a referee calling a game knows that some day he could be interviewing for a job with that team's coach, could that present a conflict of interest?

by Theo (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 10:52am

I don't think so. I guess there is a rule that you cant contact refs while they're ref. Only after they retire or quit their job.
And I don't see a senario happeining where a coach yells "if you make such a call again, you can forget that job we offered you for next season!"
I also guess there aren't players that play less if they know they could go to the opponent next season.

by Zac (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 1:02pm

It seems like the teams that hire a person like this aren't any better off. It's like the Jets, who had a guy who dealt with when to call timeouts and that sort of thing, and they still had a bunch of mistakes.

by Basilicus (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 2:28pm

Re #1: Of course, if officials regularly ruled in your favor because they were hoping for a job with your team, then you'd do pretty well on challenges, and thus you wouldn't really need a replay specialist anymore.

by zach (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 2:41pm

it seems to me that some error would be created simply by virtue of the fact that reviewing replays is a guy's entire job. if the guy is required to call for a certain number of successful challenges in order to appear useful and keep his job, he might be more inclined to call for challenges in less-certain situations. the head coach, on the other hand, has less of an interest in challenges themselves, and much more of an interest in the final outcome of the game.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 3:13pm

Re #5: "if the guy is required to call for a certain number of successful challenges in order to appear useful and keep his job, he might be more inclined to call for challenges in less-certain situations."

That would just hurt him because then he'd end up with a lot of unsuccessful challenges.

by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 3:23pm

So then to appear useful, he'd only recommend challenges only when the challenge is likely to go his way.

by Josh (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 4:17pm

Re 1 and 2
I'm pretty sure the Jets were going to have a former NFL offcial be their replay guy a couple years ago, and the NFL told them they couldn't do that.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 5:28pm

Well, of course he would only recommend a challenge if it would go his way. That's the entire reason the guy was hired.

The reason it's important to have a person in charge of challenges is to ensure that you don't waste them - to have someone that can say "DON'T CHALLENGE THIS" in a situation where the head coach REALLY WANTS TO.

Now, he may say "We can challenge this play and win," in moments where it would be a waste to use a challenge - that's OK. He shouldn't be the one that makes the decision of whether to challenge or not - that the head coach should do - but he can certainly buzz the coach each time there's a play that a review would overturn.

Of course, as was shown in this case with Mr. Gibbs, there's always the chance that the head coach simply decides he's GOING TO CHALLENGE regardless of the recommendation of the replay official.


by B (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 6:31pm

If the head coach isn't going to listen to the replay specialist, there's no reason to keep him on the payroll.

by Ryan Mc (not verified) :: Tue, 07/05/2005 - 8:53pm

Agree with #10, but still think the idea of having an 'impartial' (and knowledgable) person make the decision to challenge or not makes sense. Coaches are terrible at judging when a play's going to get overturned and issue unnecessary challenges.

My favourite example is from the Bucs-Raiders Superbowl. The Raiders challenged a 2-point conversion which was ruled out-of-bounds. The receiver (I believe it was Porter) landed at least a yard (!) out-of-bounds, and whether or not the receiver was pushed out by the DB is NOT reviewable. Took the official very little time to look at the play and uphold the call.

Considering the Raiders were trailing this was a terrible waste of a timeout. I'm pretty sure a replay specialist would have said not to challenge it.