The League

Zach Leibowitz
Sideline Reporter

Zach Leibowitz

A former sideline reporter for ESPN

Let Them Play ...


The league must do something to ensure what happened in Sunday's Broncos/Chargers ending doesn't happen again. It's not good for the league, its fans and Ed Hochuli's reputation. Let's do a checklist here. You've got instant replay. You've got common sense. So let's put it altogether and see what we get.

Frankly, anytime such a play happens, it should always be ruled a fumble. Quarterback's are supposed to pass the ball. The ball squirting out of the QB's hand followed by a cover-up forward motion gesture is not a pass.

So, how about the referees not be allowed to blow the whistle on such a play -- or more specifically, when there is any question at all that it wasn't a forward pass.

I understand critical judgments are made in split seconds and referees are human, but if there's any question, just let the moment play itself out. Once the ball is recovered or goes out of bounds or the player with the ball is tackled, then go to the replay if need be. If one team decides to challenge it like San Diego did Sunday, then let them have the chance. Even if the replay showed Jay Cutler was attempting a forward pass, at least allow the replay booth to confirm it.

And this should include down by contact vs. fumble plays as well. If there's any question whether a player fumbles, as opposed to having a knee down before the ball pops out, then the refs should let the play continue until the ball is recovered officially and go to instant replay.

Coaches have their challenges to use should they choose. Maybe give teams three challenges instead of two. But give instant replay the chance to serve its purpose.

This way Hochuli won't prematurely blow a play dead and players can display the fundamentals they were taught in elementary school -- namely, don't quit on the play until you hear the whistle.

By Zach Leibowitz  |  September 16, 2008; 1:25 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree with your viewpoint.It is unfortunate that Holchuli's reputation and ranking are now tarnished.

Posted by: stuesq | September 16, 2008 3:39 PM

I agree with your assessment. Let the play continue, drop the beanbag on the appropriate spot, and sort it out with consultation with the rest of the crew and the replay official. This only requires a change in official's mechanics, not a change in the rules. It is so much harder to create a rule that allows or awards possession after a whistle kills the play. I think college officials are doing this now. Maybe not intentionally, but it does seem that they let the play continue and sort it out later.

Posted by: NC Fan | September 16, 2008 3:55 PM

disagree. this would increase referees making errors, since they are already advised to treat close calls as fumbles. There would be more stripping on the ground, and dirty and dangerous play by aggresive defenders. what if there was serious injury to a player (star qb) on the defensive return? This also promotes the fumble, since reviewed plays have to have indisputable evidence to overturn. What if TV cameras didn't have as good an angle as onfield referee? What if the replay monitor doesn't function in the crucial moment? Didn't you guys see the other major missed call in the game? You cannot have a policy that promotes referees calling the wrong call, just in the hope that the cameras caught the right one.

Posted by: other nc fan | September 16, 2008 4:55 PM

How is this any different than the rule as it stands today? If Ed Hochuli thought this was anything other than a forward pass, he never would have blown his whistle.

My concern is that, for forward passes which land on the ground, the QB is now going to have to jump into the pigpile to recover what he knows is a forward pass. As a Patriots fan, I can tell you that QBs need more protection, not less...

Posted by: Steve | September 16, 2008 6:35 PM

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