The Bears lost a touchdown and possibly a game because of it to the New Orleans Saints last Sunday when a touchdown call on a pass to Zach Miller was reversed on replay review. Then the decision was upheld by the NFL’s head of officiating this week with an explanation that cast doubt on the efficacy of replay as well as the rules involved in using it.
In the process, the NFL lost something more than the Bears did on the call, although Miller’s loss with the concurrent gruesome leg injury eclipsed just about every aspect of the incident. What the NFL lost was another small modicum of credibility at a time when the shield cannot afford any more smudges than it already is getting in the public’s mind.
By now the circumstances are well known: Miller appears to haul in a Mitch Trubisky throw in the Saints end zone. The initial call by the officiating crew of Carl Cheffers is “touchdown,” which is automatically reviewed by a crew using a phalanx of views from different camera angles.
The call was reversed, inexplicably to myriad expert observers who underscored the standard that evidence must be clear and obvious for the call on the field to be overturned. Then that decision was reiterated by head of NFL officiating Alberto Riveron.
That last step is where the credibility cracks begin to appear.
Because Riveron used a 50-second video to show and explain what he maintained were shots of Miller not maintaining control of the football all the way to the ground. The shots simply do not conclusively show that at all.
This ultimately is not exactly another head-scratching incident involving the notorious “catch rule.” This gets closer to an issue of integrity, having enough of that character trait to acknowledge a mistake. That wasn’t evident on the video, either.
What Riveron and whoever else is part of his “crew” did was to overrule not only the touchdown call, but also the long-standing “clear and obvious” standard that a call is only reversed when the mistake is obvious. Then to point to a camera shot and declare that it justified the reversal is something else altogether.
The easy overarching call is that the replay system needs attention and some sort of fix. No. This situation is one of human error, and that is a problem no camera angle is going to fix.