Nobody's missing those instant replays

September 23, 1992|By Jack Craig | Jack Craig,Boston Globe

The nicest surprise in the NFL season so far is the absence of instant replay going virtually unnoticed. There have been no disputes since the New York Jets-Atlanta Falcons season opener on NBC, when two major calls appeared to be in error.

At halftime of that game, Joe Namath called for bringing back the replay rule and forecast a season chock full of controversy without it. But a funny thing happened. Not a single obvious bad call has occurred at crunch time in three weeks of play.

Ed Goren, CBS coordinating producer for the NFL, says he has observed mistakes on several sideline calls during the 17 games on his network. "But there have been no touchdown calls in error.

"Everyone wants the right call," he says. "There is nothing wrong with the concept. It was the execution of it."

That execution was marred by defensiveness, Goren believes. "There was a 'it doesn't hurt to check' mentality in the league," he says. "Everyone was protecting himself. How many times did you hear them blame an inadvertent whistle?"

The league is silently experimenting with the replay rule this season, in hopes a better system can be adopted if it is voted back. Goren thinks a big step would be to limit the replay to such plays as touchdowns.

Meanwhile, there has been a bonus for living room fans -- quicker games in the absence of stand-around delays for reviews. Five of Sunday's games were completed in about 2 hours, 55 minutes, and CBS' key telecast, Washington Redskins-Detroit Lions, finished 10 minutes quicker than that.

As a result, after their primary game ends, viewers are being switched to exciting finishes of other games. This also has provided CBS and NBC with more time for post-game highlights while preserving the prime-time schedule of each.

But even if the trend continues throughout the regular season, a major mistake in postseason, notably the Super Bowl, probably will bring the replay rule back in a slimmed-down version.

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