I'm always amazed NFL coaches don't really seem to get how to use the NFL instant replay challenge.
Here's an example of a bad judgement call. In Week 11, Colts head coach Tony Dungy didn't call a challenge on a fumble return for a touchdown by Dallas. Replays showed Dallas linebacker Kevin Burnett was touched down during his return of a Marvin Harrison fumble for a TD. Dungy said he didn't get a good view of a replay before the Cowboys got off the next play and killed any chance to challenge. But he should have made the call without even looking at the replay.
Why? Whether or not to challenge shouldn't always be about if the camera shows it may be overturned. Instead making the correct call to challenge should often be about the risk-reward of whether a call is overturned. In this case, the Colts had to know it was a close call if Burnett was down before getting up to run to the end zone. The upside is a game-changing play that would have saved them six points. The downside was losing a timeout and a possible chance at another challenge. If the Colts thought they had even a 10 percent change to win the challenge, they should have gone for it. The risk-reward was huge. Six points possibly off the board. I'll leave it up to some stats geek to figure out the exact formula, but clearly the coaches don't get the general principle.
An example of a good judgement call was in Sunday's Arizona-Vikings game. Minnesota challenged a Chester Taylor fumble at the goal line. It was returned 99 yards for a touchdown. Even without the replay everyone knew it would be close. The risk-reward was huge. Challenge it no matter what. The Vikings lost, but it was a good call to challenge. It may have made a difference if Arizona's last pass of the game had been caught.
Here's some other rules:
* Challenge early and often in the first half. First half timeouts rarely matter. Burn them at will.
* Almost always challenge a play in the second half if it results in points on the board. Even if you think there's a small chance it could go your way. How may times have we seen announcers say for sure a challenge will go one way and then it doesn't? You just never know.
* Don't try to save a challenge for late in the game. The odds are low you'll face a situation that needs one later on. If something is urgent, like points on the board, or a first down, call the challenge.
* Throw the flag. Throw your headset. Make a scene. Make sure you get your challenge in.
Posted by Peter Schoenke at 11/27/2006 3:09:00 PM