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Flag On The Play: NFL Needs to Change the Red Flag Rule


The NFL has been more progressive than any professional sports league when it comes to the use of instant replay in games, and in many cases, the replay rules have rescued teams from what would have been abysmal calls by officials. But twice in the last week we have seen a replay rule applied that needs to be changed.

The rule, simply stated, is this:

When a coach throws a red challenge flag on a play that would normally automatically be reviewed (scoring plays, turnovers, etc), then the play can no longer be reviewed at all, and the team throwing the erroneous flag is also penalized 15 yards.

Last week in the Georgia Dome, Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith threw the red flag on a play that had been ruled an Atlanta  fumble with a recovery by the Arizona Cardinals. The referee threw the penalty flag, and explained the rule quite clearly for all those in attendance and watching on television to hear. In the end, the play had no real effect on the outcome of the game, other than embarrassing coach Smith.

Apparently Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz didn’t watch the Atlanta-Arizona game.

During the annual Thanksgiving day game in Detroit, as Houston Texans running back Justin Forsett made a cut through the middle of the field, it looked as though he was down by contact, but the officials never blew the whistle, and Forsett kept running all the way to the end zone for a Texans touchdown.

See video clip here:   Texans touchdown that wasn’t

As coaches have been conditioned to do when a play is in question, Schwartz pulled out the red flag and tossed it onto the turf. But once again, the referee countered with a yellow flag, and much to the dismay of the crowd at Ford Field, ruled the play unreviewable and assessed a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff to follow.

Not only did this play give the Texans an undeserved touchdown, but it also now goes in the Houston record books as the longest run from scrimmage in franchise history.

This is absolutely the most ridiculous rule ever instituted by the NFL. Coaches have been told for years to get that challenge flag out there before the next play is run. The automatic review of certain plays is relatively new to the league, so some coaches are still becoming accustomed to it.

I’m not sure I even see the necessity for a penalty in these cases, but if one must be tacked on, then just take away a challenge from the team throwing the flag. That in itself should be enough to thwart most coaches from pulling the trigger next time. To basically just ignore plays that are in obvious need of review just destroys the integrity of the replay system as a whole.

Flag on the play, commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL competition committee, your red flag rule does nothing to enhance the game, and only makes a replay system that has actually involved into something useful look like a joke.


Michael Collins is a Rant Sports NFL and MLB Network Manager, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook