We've all seen it, the head coach with his hand shoved into his pocket waiting for confirmation from the booth. Should he throw the red flag and risk a time out in a game that may depend on the last two minutes of the match, or should he save it for a more obvious blunder of the officials. The problem is that if it's THAT obvious then the statement is about the ineptness of the officiating crew and less the skills and strategic thinking of the victimized team. Justice in such games have a price. That price is cashed in whenever a head coach decides to throw out the challenge flag.
Now the game is no longer about team vs. team, but team vs. officials. It's a head coach saying to the officiating crew "Are you blind? You couldn't see that and you were only ten feet away? I was on the other side of the field and I saw both feet in-bounds!!" But even some of the head coaches need to have their eye's checked, as the success rate of challenges does not lend itself to the "obviousness" of the error. Often the officials are right. So who is being protected from whom? Refs from an onslaught of angry fans, seeing the challenge ruling as a system of redemption, or teams from these football police squads attention deficits during play.
Don't get me wrong. I think that the ability for a team to challenge a call has been healthy for the league. The outcome of many games have been fairly affected by this system. But where I begin to lose touch with the gravitational pull that the challenge flag delivers is when I realize that the ability to acquire justice is as strategic as whether to run or to pass on third and goal at the one yard line.
I'm not sure what the answer is. I can only recommend one thing, but I know that there is a lot of justifiable resistance to this offering. I suggest that ALL reviews are called by the booth. Hold the booth squad accountable to identify possible missed or mistaken calls by the on field crew. Have the officials check themselves throughout the entire game rather than only in the last two minutes of each half. If it's close, review it as a matter of practice.
Yes, yes, yes... I know. A five hour game is not only possible, but very likely. But the outcome will be less questionable than we have today. Today's outcomes are certainly less questionable than before the replay system started, so don't accuse me of bashing a better than before procedure. But now it's time to graduate, use the gift of today's technologies, and make a good system better.
The game of football should be solely about the two teams facing one another. The officiating crew should ensure that both teams are abiding by the rules. The word "challenge" in and of itself states the purpose of the system... to compete against our beloved men in zebra suits.