Instant replay due for further review

ON THE NFL

Nfl Week 9

November 02, 2003|By KEN MURRAY

First of all, there is no "instant" in instant replay. Secondly, all replay seems to do is invite more replay.

The firestorm Ravens coach Brian Billick created last week after two replay calls went against him has flickered at several other venues this season. He isn't the only coach hopping mad about the ineffectiveness of a replay system that has been tweaked into silliness.

After the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a Week 5 Monday night affair to the Indianapolis Colts, in part because the officials made a critical mistake allowing an illegal onside kick and because of an obscure "leaping rule" call, coach Jon Gruden was left scratching his head.

"With the officials, you understand they have a very hard job to do," Gruden said. "Sometimes you wish there was no such thing as instant replay. All it does is prolong the agony."

Officiating this season has been suspect at best. The seriously flawed instant replay process has made it insufferable.

How bad is it? Bad enough that even some of its staunchest supporters, like Colts president Bill Polian, are ready jump to the other side of the argument.

Polian is a member of the NFL's competition committee. After a Colts defensive interception was overturned in a Week 6 loss to the Carolina Panthers - without indisputable visual evidence, the league later concurred - Polian announced a shift in position on his weekly radio show.

"I think it's safe to say in March, when replay comes up to a vote, our stance will be obvious," said Polian, a longtime advocate of replay. "We'll be proponents of doing away with a system that simply doesn't work."

This is the final year of a three-year agreement in the ongoing experiment with replay. Reinstatement will require a three-fourths vote of the owners in March. It promises to be a roaring debate.

Among those still in support of replay is St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz. "I'm all for it," he said. "I think they've done a terrific job of it. Are there some of those situations that Brian went through? There's no question there is. If we expect the replay system to be perfect, then we should get rid of it. But it's not, and there is no perfect system. It's helped more than it's hurt."

Still others, such as Detroit Lions coach Steve Mariucci, are undecided.

"Can I go through the rest of the season, [and] see if I benefit from it at all? I'm hoping that it all evens out," he said.

Mariucci's opinion on replay hasn't changed much from his days with the San Francisco 49ers, in fact.

"The jury is still out, in my mind," he said. "Was then, and still is."

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Signs of success

Here are two examples of how the Cincinnati Bengals are better in 2003 under first-year coach Marvin Lewis:

1. They haven't put one player on injured reserve this season. From October through December last season, they had eight placed on IR. And when tight end Reggie Kelly misses today's game in Arizona because of a stress fracture in his left foot, it will be only the second game missed by the 22 starters this year because of injury.

2. They had been one of the few teams to depend solely on game tape to scout their opponents. But this year, Lewis hired former Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach Greg Seamon to serve as advance scout.

Sign of futility

The staggering Atlanta Falcons have given up the most points in the NFL (220) and rank last in pass defense, so coordinator Wade Phillips is benching his entire secondary for today's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Demoted are cornerbacks Ray Buchanan and Tyrone Williams, and safeties Keion Carpenter (Woodlawn) and Gerald McBurrows. The new secondary has Tod McBride and Juran Bolden at the corners with Cory Hall and Bryan Scott at safety.

Said Carpenter, a team captain: "It's a situation right now, when things go bad, it's on us. No one's excluded from that. It's hard to look at yourself individually and say, `Well, I'm doing good,' when the team's last in passing."

Favre plays on

Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre apparently will play tonight against the Minnesota Vikings despite a hairline fracture in his right thumb, extending his streak of consecutive starts to 182, a league record. Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts is second with 88 going into today.

But two of the next three most durable quarterbacks will take a seat. The Oakland Raiders' Rich Gannon, with 71 consecutive regular-season starts, is out with a torn labrum, and the San Francisco 49ers' Jeff Garcia will see a 61-game streak end with a sprained ankle.

Moving up to No. 3 on the list is New York Giants quarterback Kerry Collins, who'll start his 62nd consecutive game.

Chiefs on tear

Takeaways have become one of the strongest links to success in the NFL, so it's little wonder that the Kansas City Chiefs, with a league-high 27 takeaways, are 8-0.

They are on pace to force 54 turnovers. When the Ravens won the 2000 Super Bowl, they forced 49.

Two-minute drill

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