The NFL decided this week to make a few more rules reviewable by replay after a couple of controversial (read: botched) calls last year.
For years, Ed Hochuli has been known as the NFL referee who wears his shirts too tight so as to show off his middle-aged guns. Last year, he became the butt of jokes after blowing a critical call in the Denver-San Diego game in Week 2 of the 2008 season – a game that allowed the Broncos to win on a fumble ruled an incompletion late in the game. Now, Hochuli is part of the replay lexicon just like Tom Brady
is to the "tuck rule."
On Wednesday, NFL owners voted to make such plays subject to instant replay. When Hochuli made the call, reviewing whether a pass could be challenged as a fumble with the arm moving forward was not part of the review process. A similar change was made in reviews of down-by-contact plays that involved a fumble, and the same set of criteria will be in play for passes that slip out of a quarterback's hand.
Another tweak of the replay system involves a free ball on the sidelines. A kickoff in the NFC Championship Game was ruled to have gone out of bounds, despite replay showing that the ball never touched the sideline before being recovered by the kicking team. Now that play is included in those that are subject to being challenged and reviewed.
For opponents of instant replay, they have been forced to accept the fact that games have turned on officials getting the calls right. Replay is here to stay. As long as plays like the Jay Cutler
fumble and the Cardinals kickoff recovery are botched on the field, if either happens again, the call will be reviewed and determined on its own merit.
Brad Childress found himself fielding questions about Jay Cutler in light of a Yahoo! Sports report that the Vikings were the first team to get involved in talks concerning a trade with the Broncos and Patriots that would have sent Matt Cassel to Denver, Cutler to the Vikings and unnamed draft picks from the Vikings to New England. Childress refused to address any questions concerning the Cutler issue.
In a piece of good news, Childress did say that the team is having "pretty good dialogue" with Antoine Winfield. He is entering the final year of his current deal and Childress said talks are ongoing and that the team would like to get a deal completed. Last week, Cedric Griffin signed a five-year contract extension.
The owners also voted to re-work the draft order of playoff teams for the 2010 season. If the rules had been in place this year, the Vikings would have been picking ahead of the Eagles – the team that eliminated them from the playoffs – not behind them. Under the new plan, teams that advance deeper into the playoffs move behind those teams that were eliminated. The case was made by the fact that the Indianapolis Colts, a 12-4 wild card that had to go on the road to play 8-8 San Diego, still picks behind the Chargers in next month's draft. Because the draft order for 2009 has already been set, it was deemed too late to change the draft order this year.