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The Grueling Truth - Where Legends Speak / CFL, Change the Instant Replay System on Challenges!

CFL, Change the Instant Replay System on Challenges!

Publish Date: 07/11/2016
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster
CFL, Change the Instant Replay System on Challenges!

I don’t like instant replay in the CFL.

Oh, I understand the reason it exists. It’s just set up in such a terrible way these days that its issues outweigh the benefits.

Coaches being able to challenge calls is my biggest pet peeve with the current system. Instead of using the challenges to attempt to overturn bad errors, coaches use the system to attempt to eliminate big plays for the opposition over technicalities. To me, it’s not the end of the world if a defender makes contact with the receiver a split second early, or slightly jostles the receiver in some way. It’s also not the end of the world if a defender’s hand grazes a QB’s helmet in passing. If the Command Centre has to slow the play down frame by frame to see if there’s a problem, there is no problem.

I asked Mark Fulton (@fenderguy69 on Twitter) if he had statistics on how coach’s challenges have turned out, and he was able to provide me a treasure trove of information. For 2014, he reckons that, of 100 challenges, 55 were over defensive pass interference in some way. He was able to give me much more on 2015.

In 2015, coaches challenged 102 calls, with 61 over pass interference. That tells me that coaches are doing exactly what I thought they were doing, trying to gain an advantage and hoping for a favorable outcome when it goes to the Command Centre. A further 24 challenges were over catches, 14 were over down by contact calls, with three others rounding out the 102.

What’s worse is that coaches weren’t very good at challenging. When it came to pass interference, they were right only 22 out of 61 times in 2015, a 36.07% success rate. For catches, coaches were right only 8 of 24 times, a 33.33% rate. They were also about that good at down by contact calls, going 5 out of 14 for a rate of 35.71%. The three “other” challenges all failed, giving coaches a 35 out of 102 total, only 34.31% right.

For the first two weeks of 2016, the coaches have been a bit more on point, hitting on 7 of 15, but still only going 2 for 6 on pass interference challenges.

Of course, the week 3 games weren’t included in these numbers, and they featured plenty of challenges that were frivolous or completely handled wrong. One of the “roughing the passer” challenges that dramatically changed a tie game in the last 3 minutes happened to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on a quarterback that had become a runner long before the contact was made, and one of the offensive pass interference challenges that was not upheld occurred on a play in which the receiver didn’t even make contact with a defender that fell down.

The CFL can do better, and here’s how:

  1. Eliminate the coaches challenge. Coaches aren’t officials.
  2. Make the “eye in the sky” matter.

What I’d like to see is for one person to sit in the booth and watch the game. If they see something that makes them go “that’s not right,” they buzz down to the officials to let them know a replay review is in progress. Simple, right? No more challenges that drag on and on over a defender grazing a receiver’s back when the ball was a foot away from the receiver. Keep the automatic review for turnovers and scoring plays, but otherwise, let’s save replay for calls that are clearly missed.

If the league were to do this, it would speed up the game and eliminate a lot of the frustration fans feel about the replay system.

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