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NFL Considering Replay for Playoffs

December 8, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ Three botched calls by officials has done what six years of NFL politics couldn’t do _ bring back instant replay.

While nothing’s official yet, it looks like some sort of replay system could be in place as early as this season’s playoffs.

That came as Seattle coach Dennis Erickson was contacted by Jerry Seeman, the NFL’s supervisor of officials, about the touchdown by the New York Jets that beat the Seahawks 32-31 Sunday. Replays showed a 5-yard run by Jets QB Vinny Testaverde went only 4.9 yards and ended up short of the goal line.

As expected, Seeman said the call was wrong, but the loss stands.

He said, `The guy who called it saw the helmet go across the line and thought it was the ball,‴ Erickson said incredulously.

That play may have been the last straw. League officials say they might have the 24 votes of 31 teams, including Cleveland, needed to implement instant replay for the playoffs. Last March, it fell two votes short, getting 21 of 30.

The new system would take the form used in preseason experiments _ with coaches given two challenges per game and referees making the final decision from monitors on the sideline.

But it also would allow a coach who is out of challenges in the final two minutes to make one with the referee’s consent. That would apply to plays like the one by Testaverde.

Sunday’s call, plus a questionable call that allowed New England to beat Buffalo a week ago and the botched coin flip in the Pittsburgh-Detroit game on Thanksgiving Day, have had a ripple effect around the league.

``The fans can see it at home. There’s no reason we shouldn’t implement that in our game, and hopefully it will change the outcome of a number of games,″ Denver coach Mike Shanahan said Monday.

``I don’t think the officiating has really changed, but people are getting to see it very quickly first-hand, the mistakes being made.″

The ``no″ votes last March came from seven teams that have voted regularly against replay _ the New York Giants, Arizona, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Chicago and Tampa Bay. They were joined by San Diego and Oakland.

Rich McKay, Tampa Bay’s general manager, indicated Monday that the Bucs could change their vote to ``yes.″

And so will Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson, who complained about the officiating in Buffalo’s last-minute loss to New England and was warned he could be fined $50,000 for his remarks. He shot back at commissioner Paul Tagliabue, saying he didn’t need ``pompous lectures.″

Tagliabue spent most of Monday discussing the problem with owners and league officials.

He couldn’t have missed Monday’s New York newspapers, all three of which had a front-page picture of Testaverde lying on the ground a foot short of the end zone.

The call in the game’s closing seconds kept the Jets tied with Miami in the AFC East and knocked the Seahawks from playoff contention. It also had an impact on Wilson’s Bills, Miami and New England, which are in a four-way scramble with the Jets in the AFC East.

As for replay, the technology is in place because of the experiments during exhibition games. All that’s needed is a phone or internet vote by the owners. No timetable for that has been set.

The system that has been tried in exhibitions involves giving coaches challenges on calls _ perhaps two a half or two a game _ with the referee making the final decision after viewing the play on a sideline monitor.

That would help end the objections to the old system, which used a replay official in a booth and was beset by endless challenges and endless delays, some lasting longer than five minutes.

Few pretend that replay solves everything. Dan Rooney, president of the Steelers, said last week he thinks officials are overly managed already, leading to indecision.

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