Rich McKay discusses the challenge flag rule

Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay and general manager Thomas Dimitroff in a file photo.  (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)

Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay and general manager Thomas Dimitroff in a file photo. (D. Orlando Ledbetter/AJC)


FLOWERY BRANCH — Falcons coach Mike Smith and Lions coach Jim Schwartz should have known they would be penalized by throwing challenge flags when they couldn’t under the rules.

But should that mean they also lose the ability for those plays to be reviewed by the replay official? That’s what happened to Smith in a game against the Cardinals on Nov. 18 and to Schwartz during a game against the Texans on Nov. 20.

The referee might have overturned on review what was ruled a fumble recovered by Arizona. The referee almost certainly would have ruled that Texans running back Justin Forsett was down well before he ran for an 81-yard touchdown.

McKay said situations like those of Smith and Schwartz could influence the committee to at least take another look at rules that call for a team that commits a penalty before the next snap to lose the right to challenge the next play.

“Any time you have big plays in a season, it usually creates the discussion, but it doesn’t mean it creates a change,” McKay said. “Because the one thing you are always paying attention to in the rules business is what are the unintended consequences of a change.”

It’s clear enough that coaches are not allowed to challenge plays that are automatically reviewed by the replay official, after the two-minute warning or in overtime or if the team does not have any timeouts remaining. Included among the plays that are automatically reviewed are scores, interceptions and fumbles recovered by an opponent

The rule book also states: “If there is a foul that delays the next snap, the team committing that foul will no longer be able to challenge the previous ruling.”

If a team commits a foul that delays the next snap, “the replay official cannot initiate a review that would benefit” that team and it is penalized 15 yards. If the replay official had initiated a review before the coach throws the challenge flag, the referee will review the play, but the coach is still assessed a 15-yard penalty.

McKay said that ruling was adopted in 2011 after teams purposely delayed the next snap by committing a penalty in the hopes that it would allow more time for the replay official to initiate a review.

“The appearance of it is you are being Draconian because you are being penalized two ways,”McKay said. “But the reasoning behind it is no one wanted to present a situation where you could benefit by creating a foul.”


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10 comments Add your comment


December 8th, 2012
11:01 am



December 8th, 2012
1:28 pm

Stupid rule. Really a disproportionate penalty for the crime. Let’s make sure that the call is the right call. Penalize for unsportsmanlike conduct, but get the call on the field right.


December 8th, 2012
3:33 pm

have a green light installed on the scoreboard that lights up when a play is under review so the coaches and everybody else can see that it is in progress, the replay official would press the green light before he starts the review for all to see right where it shows how many time outs left for each team, now if I can just figure out what to get my wife for Christmas


December 8th, 2012
3:48 pm


December 8th, 2012
1:28 pmStupid rule. Really a disproportionate penalty for the crime. Let’s make sure that the call is the right call. Penalize for unsportsmanlike conduct, but get the call on the field right.


@Bill: You’re stupid for not knowing what the rules are. If the Head Coaches like Mike Smith aren’t going to take the time to learn the simple rules regarding the Red Flag Challenges, then they deserve to be penalized severely, hell they should be thrown out the game to boot. They are the Head Coaches for crying out loud, they should know the Red Flag Challenge Rules beter than anyone else, they should know them backwards and forward. Don’t be a putz and blame the rule instead of the Head Coaches.


December 8th, 2012
6:00 pm

@Esquie: First of all, I think it’s cool when people call folks they don’t know things like “stupid” and “puts.” It takes a big man to do that; you should be proud of showing off your superiority. Well played.

Second, your statement doesn’t really make sense: “Head Coaches…should know the Red Flag Challenges better [sic] than anyone else.” How should that be the case? Don’t you think the officials, who are the ones actually judging the game and calling the fouls, should know the rules better than anyone else? They are enforcing the rules; what good would it be if the coaches knew the rules but the officials didn’t call the game according to the rules? That would be like a judge not knowing the law better than an attorney.


December 8th, 2012
6:23 pm

Hey Esquie…………….you’ve taken on a persona all your own!! What a dip $hit.



December 8th, 2012
6:48 pm

This is really an opportunity to revisit what an idiot SceneThisB4 or Esquie is since he can’t spell my handle. As many of you know he is being relentlessly attacked on the NOLA blogs and he thinks it’s me. But speaking of knowing the rules look at this post I saved from STB4:

This is what this dunce hat wrote back in Sept., like he knows anything about football.
Scene This B4
September 21st, 2012
8:27 am
@Jimmy: You don’t get any points on the field of play if you catch the ball and the ground causes it to become dislodged. The rule in the endzone is different so as to remove any doubt. You have to maintain possession through the end of the play, including landing on the ground, cause six points are at stake. On the normal field of play, the reciever gets the benefit of the doubt, in the endzone, he has to earn it.

Note to SuxThisBZERO:

NFL Rule 8 Section 1 Article 3 Item 3
“The requirements for a catch in the end zone are the same as the requirements for a catch in the field of play.”

What an idiot!

Esquire out………………….!!!!


December 9th, 2012
6:52 am

The rule is draconian and needs to be changed. If the play is being reviewed what is the harm or delay if the coach throws the flag?


December 9th, 2012
6:03 pm

I doubt very seriously that either Mike Smith or Jim Schwartz was tryng to “delay the game” by throwing the challenege flag. That’s different, and the league ought to be able to figure out how to deal with that difference.


December 10th, 2012
7:49 pm

Woody Paige suggested that a coach who feared that an automatic replay might reverse a bad call that benefited his team might be able to throw the challenge flag to kill any possible replay and accept the lesser cost of a fifteen yard penalty. This might be a flaw in the rule that Mike Smith could use similar to his ploy of calling for a fourth timeout at the end of the first Carolina game.