NFL owners to vote on return of replay Modell will cast yes ballot for new version of rule

March 09, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Jerry Jones, who usually does things his way, may become a team player this week in the NFL ownership lodge.

The maverick owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who raised the ire of his colleagues by making his own marketing deals, is likely to have the pivotal vote when the owners decide whether to bring back instant replay at their annual meetings in Palm Desert, Calif.

Jones was one of 11 owners who voted to throw out instant replay after the 1991 season and has remained a public foe.

"It is not practical. It just doesn't work. I see no ways to make it work," Jones said at last year's meetings.

But the current proposal, which was tried as an experiment during preseason last year, is radically different than the plan that was discarded five years ago.

It might be called Instant Replay Lite.

It would use a coach's challenge system, similar to the one implemented by the U.S. Football League in the 1980s. A coach would have to request a replay and the number allowed would be limited, probably to two per half or per game -- the exact number will be debated -- so there would be few delays.

Reversals would be made by the referee using a sideline monitor, not by a replay official in a booth. Sideline, scoring and change of possession could be challenged, along with too many men on the field.

Jones took a low profile on his view of the modified system last week, saying through a spokesman he didn't want to discuss his views.

That could mean that if his vote is the deciding one, he may go along with the majority this time. According to several sources, he has told colleagues that if the vote is 22-7, he will vote yes to allow the league to bring back replay.

After battling his colleagues on other issues, Jones may not be ready to fight against replay.

Tex Schramm, former Dallas president who was ousted when Jones bought the team in 1989, jokingly suggested Jones will go for it if the league can find a sponsor.

"In true Jones fashion, I'm sure you could get him to support it if you call it, say, 'RCA Instant Replay,' " Schramm said.

Regardless which way Jones goes, it will be a lively debate because it takes 23 votes to pass the measure, which means eight negative votes will kill it.

Of the 11 teams that rejected replay after the 1991 season, only three -- the Philadelphia Eagles, Detroit Lions and New York Jets -- appear to be willing to vote yes this time.

The Eagles and Jets have had a change in administrations, while in Detroit executive vice president Chuck Schmidt said he still has reservations about replay, but will vote yes because the majority favors it.

Seven teams remain strong opponents. They are the New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals, Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

If Jones votes no or one of the 17 teams that voted yes last time -- the two expansion teams are expected to favor it -- switches to a no vote, replay won't return.

One unpredictable vote belongs to Al Davis, the Raiders owner who is often difficult to figure out.

Although he voted yes last time, Davis said, "I thought we could develop a system that would be simple, acceptable and realistically good for the game."

Davis doesn't appear convinced this is it, but said, "I have to hear what they're talking about."

Ravens owner Art Modell, who supported replay when he was in Cleveland, said he'll vote for the modified plan.

Opponents believe it's not needed because it didn't affect that many plays even in the old form.

During the six years of replay, there were 38, 57, 53, 65, 73 and 90 calls reversed. The average delay in each game because of replay increased each year from 55 seconds in 1986 to 1: 48 in 1991.

Opponents also point out that mistakes were made in reversals. In 1989, officials correctly ruled on the field that Green Bay's Don Majkowski crossed the line of scrimmage while throwing ,,TC touchdown pass against the Chicago Bears. The replay official incorrectly reversed the call and gave Green Bay the touchdown and a victory. The Bears listed the result in their media guide as a victory.

Mike McCaskey, the Bears' owner, said: "Only one game ever had its outcome decisively affected by instant replay. We played that game and it went the wrong way."

It's strange that what started the debate about returning replay was a correct call on Jim Harbaugh's Hail Mary pass on the final play of the 1995 AFC title game between Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.

The official ruled correctly that the ball fell off Aaron Bailey's lap for an instant and touched the ground for an incomplete pass and Pittsburgh won, 20-16, and went to the Super Bowl. But the ball was quickly grabbed by Bailey and if the official had been screened, the Colts could have been awarded the touchdown and a Super Bowl victory.

The oddity in the debate is that Pittsburgh had the lead in the first place because of a bad call. Pittsburgh's Kordell Stewart was awarded a touchdown catch that shouldn't have been allowed because he stepped on the back line and was out of bounds before he caught the ball.

Ted Marchibroda, the Ravens coach who was then Indianapolis coach, said with a smile: "They said the wrong team could have gone to the Super Bowl. The wrong team did go."

Replay history

The number of plays reviewed each year and the number reversed in the old system that was used from 1986 to '91:

Year .. ..Reviews .. .. .. Changes

1986 .. .. ..374 .. .. .. .. ...38

1987 .. .. ..490 .. .. .. .. ...57

1988 .. .. ..437 .. .. .. .. ...53

1989 .. .. ..492 .. .. .. .. ...65

1990 .. .. ..504 .. .. .. .. ...73

1991 .. .. ..570 .. .. .. .. ...90

Pub Date: 3/09/97

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