Cleveland Browns: Does it take a CSI crew to watch replays?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 16: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball as Kurt Coleman #29 of the New Orleans Saints defends during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 16, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 16: Nick Chubb #24 of the Cleveland Browns runs the ball as Kurt Coleman #29 of the New Orleans Saints defends during the fourth quarter at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 16, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Browns fell victim to the “replay”. The officials reversed the first. But does it really take a detective and a CSI crew to watch replays?

The Cleveland Browns lost. They found a new way to blow a lead and earn a loss. Yes, they earned this loss with poor play. But the referees did them no favors by doing what I am calling: reverse the first.

The referees reversed the first down that the Browns had earned. Yes, I sound like a loser who is blaming others. Yes, I am a frustrated fan that feels the Browns got robbed. Yes, I am going to sit and complain about it.

So call me all the names you want. Make your snarky comments that help you feel like you are better than me and more enlightened in all things football. Go on. Get it over with. But after that, listen what I have to say.

The NFL is making football too complicated. It has come to the point in the NFL where the officials no longer know how to officiate a game. Honestly, does anyone really know what a catch is? Can anyone really define roughing the passer anymore? How are defenders supposed to tackle the quarterback? What was once a simple process, the NFL has turned into deeply confusing and complicated matter.

By taking simple matters and making them more complex, the NFL has broken ties with Rene Descartes’ Discourse on Method which describes the easiest and most effective way of problem-solving. Descartes tells us to take complex things and break them down into the simplest parts. The NFL is doing the opposite. They take simple things and making them more complex.

For example, let’s talk about instant replay. Instant replay was added to correct calls that were clearly and conclusively wrong. But the NFL has found a way to take this simple process and make it more complex.

The perfect example is a pass in which a receiver “catches” while falling to the ground. The official may call it a catch. But the replay shows the ball clearly hits the ground. In this case, the replay can be used to make the correct call. Pretty simple.

It was in this vein that replay was introduced into the NFL rulebook. It was designed to get easily identifiable errors corrected. To ensure the simplicity of the process, the NFL included the clause of conclusive evidence for overturning a call. The point was to trust the official’s decision unless it was blatantly obvious from the replay that it was incorrect.

But as Browns fans have painfully learned, this is no longer how the process works. Instead of looking for blatantly obvious and conclusive evidence, the NFL now has its own private replay detectives and CSI crew splicing film to get to the truth of the matter.

There is a subtle difference occurring that needs explaining. The rule is designed to trust the official’s decision unless there is conclusive beyond all shadow of a doubt evidence on replay. Only on the basis of conclusive evidence does a call get overturned.

Last Sunday, the NFL replay crew didn’t follow this criterion. Instead of trusting the official’s call on the field, they took matters into their own hands. They decided that with all the technology that is now available, they could recreate the crime scene and get to the truth like a detective.

By the NFL’s own admission, the replay officials gained evidence from one angle added it to evidence from another angle to determine what the call on the field should have been. This is a far cry from the standard of confirming or reversing the call on the field. Instead, the replay officials determined themselves what the call should have been.

Why even have a call on the field if the replay officials are going to make the call themselves anyway? Since when did the NFL rules allow for replay officials to invasively make calls based on splicing together various angles of replay?

The NFL will attempt to rebut this by claiming that all is done in the name of “getting it right”. Surely, everyone can agree that they need to get it right. It all sounds so reasonable.

Sorry to have to burst their enlightened bubble, football is played by human beings. Officials are human beings. In the end, the game has to remain a human endeavor. Human beings make mistakes. The replay process is in place to correct the blatantly conclusive mistakes.

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Replay is not in place to eliminate the human element from the officiating process. But because the NFL has complicated the process, replay has become the big brother in New York with its watchful eye on every game. It sees and watches all things remotely to ensure the officials “got it right”. It invades the natural flow of the game like a Deus ex machina to ensure all is right in the end.

Football is a human game. Humans make mistakes. Football will always have mistakes. Replay is there to correct the blatant and conclusive mistakes. For the NFL to think they can eliminate all mistakes through replay is hubris.

The NFL has reached a point where technology can allow it to do more with the game than it ever could. Because replay is used to “get it right”, the catch rule has to be micromanaged down to the number of feet, elbows, football moves, ball control etc., that can be evaluated in a booth from the replay. Because of replay, roughing the passer has to be micromanaged to how much weight a defender is putting on the quarterback. No official can eyeball this in real time. It can only be truly evaluated by the CSI replay team whose sole purpose is to “get it right”.

The NFL needs to fire the CSI crew. It needs to come to grips with the reality that it cannot replay every mistake out of football. It cannot replay everything into the way it should or ought to be. Replay cannot ensure that the officials “got it right”.

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Instead, the NFL needs to accept that football is a human game played by human beings. It is officiated by human beings. Embrace the humanity of the struggle to defeat one’s opponent. Embrace the fact that the struggle is not always fair. Embrace that football, like life, is messy, unfair and stuff happens.