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Red flag rule on track to be tweaked


The Texans-Lions game on Thanksgiving had everything. Included a horrible call that led to a long touchdown run that wasn’t reviewed via replay because Detroit coach Jim Schwartz threw the red challenge flag when he shouldn’t have thrown it.

The blunder arose from a rule that penalizes a coach who has the nerve to ask for a replay review when he’s already entitled to get one. And the penalty for improper use of the red flag is more than the yardage marked off after a yellow one is thrown. Under current rules, if a coach asks for a review in a situation where review is automatic (i.e., scoring plays, turnovers, final two minutes of either half, overtime), the review doesn’t happen.

The Competition Committee plans to recommend that the owners change that rule when they meet next month in Arizona.

“The bottom line is that we will get resolution on that play where we will get it right, where the play on the field is correctly administered,” NFL executive V.P. of football operations Ray Anderson said Wednesday after emerging from the Competition Committee meeting in Indianapolis, via the Associated Press.

There was early momentum to change the inherently unfair rule during the 2012 season. But many believed no coach would be dumb enough to throw the red flag on a scoring play ever again.

Until one of them did.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy threw the flag on a scoring play during a Week 17 game against the Vikings. Receiver Jordy Nelson quickly picked it up, and the officials looked the other way.

“I think we need to clean up the situations about what is reviewed, with Detroit and I think it was the Green Bay-Minnesota game,” Giants co-owner John Mara said. “I think we’ll address that. I’m not sure what the language will look like yet.”

The solution is simple. If the coach throws the red flag when a review is automatic, automatically treat that as a use of the red flag. And if the call on the field is upheld, take away a time out.

Automatic review is aimed at ensuring that, in certain specific circumstances, the engine for replay review will definitely be ignited. If a coach wants to override that process by pulling the rip cord via the throwing of the red flag, a coach should be able to do that.

This approach would also help protect against those situations in which the replay assistant, who has way more power over the automatic review process than the replay assistant should, opts for whatever reason not to press the button initiating the on-field replay review process.