The use of instant replay is at times a savior for some fans while simultaneously being the bane of other fans’ existence. Since its re-introduction into the NFL in 1999, it has proven to be a sustainable system, and over the years, the NFL has expanded its role in the game. Sure there have been bumps along the way (Bottlegate anyone?), but by and large, it’s been a successful system.
Last season, the NFL handed review duty of all scoring plays to the booth. Under the format, coaches could no longer challenge scoring plays. Instead, the booth official would give the officials on the field the “okay” to go ahead with the game following the review which usually lasted only a few seconds.
This season, the NFL will be expanding that same review procedure to include all plays with a turnover. The emphasis is on reviewing game changing plays. I like the idea of getting the call right, but I also like the strategy involved with coach’s challenges.
Unlike in college football, NFL head coaches don’t have the luxury of having every play reviewed. As such, coaches in the NFL have to use their challenges appropriately or risk not having one left in a critical point in the game. It’s a nuance of the game I really enjoy, and it’s disappearing slowly but surely.
The NFL competition committee chairman, Rich McKay, told ESPN last year’s expansion of automatic reviews to include all scoring plays only added about one second of average game length. With such a low number, you can expect the NFL to continue expanding the use of instant replay.
At this point, I’m not convinced that the NFL will ever employ college football’s replay system in which every play of the game is reviewed by a booth official. While the NFL has done a great job of not slowing the game down due to unnecessary reviews, further expansion of automatic booth reviews will begin to hinder the flow of the game. It’s something that college football has fought with for some time, and it’s something that the NFL won’t likely approach for some time. Eventually, it’s possible that the NFL could adopt college football’s system of instant replay, but I don’t see it in the near future. For now, we can enjoy the NFL’s system, which I believe to be very, very efficient as it is.