Red Flag Rule Could Get Changed

Red Flag Rule Could Get Changed

Jay Adams

Published February 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

There are so many rules in the NFL rule book that it’s hard to pay attention to all of them all the time. And usually, the most obscure ones get a spotlight shined on them due to strange circumstances, and that’s exactly what happened with the red challenge flag rule in 2012.

Since all scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed by the booth, when those situations occur, there’s no reason for head coaches to throw the red challenge flag. In fact, under current rules, if they do throw that flag under those circumstances, it’s considered a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that wipes out the chance to review the play.

Falcons head coach Mike Smith got caught by the rule against Arizona last season when Jason Snelling fumbled and the ball looked to go out of bounds but was saved by a Cardinals defender. The call on the field was that it was Arizona’s ball, meaning that the play would automatically be reviewed, but Smith threw the red flag and the rule went into effect.

The review was terminated and the Cardinals received 15 yards and the ball.

The NFL is looking to tweak that rule, recommending to the Competition Committee that it be fixed before the 2013 season. NFL executive vice president of football operations Ray Anderson proposes that the rule be changed to not wipe out the chance for review if a red flag is thrown on an automatically reviewed play. The Competition Committee may still opt to keep the situation as a 15-yard penalty, but at least the play would be still be reviewed.

A week after Smith’s infraction, the Lions fell victim to the same rule on Thanksgiving day when Houston’s Justin Forsett ran 81 yards for a touchdown that clearly included his knee hitting the ground during a tackle attempt. Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz was quick to throw the red challenge flag, not realizing at the time that it was a scoring play that would automatically be reviewed and the second look at the play was wiped out. The Texans were given the touchdown and eventually went on to earn the win.

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