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Sunday Night Football producer explains absence of replay on Vick pick


We’ve been peppered with emails and Twitter questions regarding a comment made Monday by Eagles coach Andy Reid regarding his decision not to challenge the ruling that Falcons defensive back Kelvin Hayden had intercepted a pass thrown by Philly quarterback Mike Vick in Sunday night’s loss at Atlanta. Reid, who typically keeps the red flag tucked deep in his pocket, said he didn’t throw it in that instance because his staff didn’t get a second look at the play.

“Well there was no replay for us to look at, and I actually had the people from the broadcast apologize, send me an email and apologize on that, but listen, that’s hindsight now,” Reid said.

Reid is right, for the most part. NBC generated a replay. Actually, NBC generated multiple replay angles. But it was only after the window for challenging the play had closed (i.e., the next snap of the ball) that NBC detected an angle that would have triggered a reversal of the play, if Reid had decided to throw the red flag.

Fred Gaudelli, the producer of NBC’s Sunday Night Football and a long-time veteran of live pro football telecasts, explained the situation to PFT by phone on Monday afternoon.

Gaudelli said that, when he saw the play live, he immediately wondered whether Hayden had caught the ball cleanly. And so Gaudelli ordered up immediately the angles that he thought would show whether the interception had indeed been made.

“We looked at the replays as fast as we could to show if he mantained possesion,” Gaudelli said. He pointed out that, for a ball caught in the middle of the field that possibly was trapped, the best possible looks come from the cable cam, the low end zone camera, or the high end zone camera. “The two low end zone cameras were blocked,” Gaudelli said, “and the high end zone camera was blocked by Hayden’s body.”

During the process of checking the replays, the Falcons smartly hustled to get the ball snapped, so that no review could be conducted. Gaudelli said that 40 seconds elapsed before quarterback Matt Ryan got the next play started. And two plays later, the Falcon had scored a touchdown.

After the touchdown, while the game was in a commercial break, Gaudelli decided to indulge his lingering curiosity. “We checked the 45-degree angle from the opposite end of the field behind the Eagles offense,” Gaudelli said, “and it showed that [Hayden] didn’t catch the ball.”

Gaudelli knew at that point that the information needed to be shared with audience. “The No. 1 objective was to get it right, even though it was going to bring warranted criticism,” Gaudelli said.

Given that 22 players and seven officials are on the field, there’s no guarantee that clear images will be available. “There’s a certain amount of luck that’s involved,” Gaudelli said.

And so Gaudelli relied on his experience in ordering up the replay angles, his team did as much as they could with the 40 seconds that were available, and in the end they simply didn’t see the right angle until it was too late.

After the game, Gaudelli apologized for failing to get the fourth replay angle up sooner. “I feel badly about it,” Gaudelli said. “I would have sent that to any coach.”

Notwithstanding our partnership with (and my separate employment by) NBC, it’s easy to admire Gaudelli for showing on the air the definitive angle after it was too late for the Eagles to challenge the play, for apologizing to Reid for failing to show the definitive angle before the next snap, and for explaining the situation both to me and, separately, to Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.