From time to time, the powers-that-be on Park Avenue with the power to overturn on-field rulings in any and every stadium become tempted to use replay review as a fresh look at a play. The standard that supposedly applies can be forgotten.
The ruling on the field can be overturned only if clear and obvious evidence shows that a mistake was made. Previously known officially as “indisputable visual evidence,” the bar has been informally described as “50 drunks in a bar” would agree that it was a bad call.
As to one of the most important plays of the Week Two game between the Chargers and the Chiefs, it’s fair to ask whether the league office applied the proper standard when determining that the ruling on the field of an interception by L.A. cornerback Asante Samuel Jr. was wrong.
It was a huge play. The Chargers led by 10. They would have had the ball at the Kansas City 30. The road team could have gone up by 17 and sent the home-team’s fans home early.
Said NFL senior V.P. of officiating Walt Anderson to pool reporter Joe Reedy after the game: “What we saw was that the ball did hit the ground and that he had not secured and maintained control of the ball after it hit the ground. We saw movement of the ball after it hit the ground, an then the ground ended up helping him re-secure it.”
Added Anderson: “The ball hit the ground as he was going down, and . . . he did not maintain control of the ball.”
But is it clear and obvious that the decision that Samuel actually secured control of the ball before it hit the ground wrong? That question wasn’t asked. That question wasn’t answered.
That’s the only question that needed to be asked, and that needed to be answered. What there clear and obvious evidence that the ruling on the field was wrong?
In other words, would 50 drunks in a bar (watching on DirecTV, so they didn’t have to worry about buffering) have said it wasn’t an interception? I don’t think they would. Which means that, even if the ruling would have been incompletion if the rules required no deference to the decision made on the field, the outcome under the very high standard for replay review should have been interception.
Here’s another rule of thumb for assessing whether the evidence to justify overturning the ruling on the field is clear and obvious. While Peter King and I were talking about the issue during Friday’s PFT Live, I found myself leaning toward the monitor under my camera to get a better look at the critical moments of the play.
That’s when it occurred to me. If you have to lean forward to watch the play and determine whether the ruling was correct, can it ever be “clear and obvious” that the ruling on the field was wrong?