Sunday's NFC Championship Game showed us, Football America, that we might need to reconsider the NFL's review policies.
But if the NFL does make changes, where should it set the new boundaries?
That's the question posed by Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay, who also doubles as the chairman of the NFL competition committee. McKay understands the public desire for more plays to become reviewable. Sunday's pass interference no-call near the end of regulation changed the outcome of the game, and there's a case to be made for the facemask penalty that went uncalled on the previous possession, when the Rams were deep in Saints territory and threatening to take the lead.
But if we make plays reviewable, what's the limit?
"Where do you stop in that process?" McKay asked rhetorically during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. "And I think all of those things need to be talked about, because it doesn't mean it's not possible, but it does mean you need to figure out exactly how you would implement and not impact the game negatively."
They do need to be talked about, because they're vital to this entire dilemma. Does the committee make every play reviewable? If so, what limits will be placed on the power to initiate a review? It's difficult to imagine an NFL that's essentially a free-for-all, allowing unlimited reviews of all plays. Games might end up taking two days.
Limits are good. They're also, at this point, undefined. McKay was understandably vague when responding to questions about potential changes to the review process.
"As you talk about this, you've got to look at a holistic program," McKay said. "You can just say 'well, they can challenge anything' because the question then becomes: What does that mean when you're challenging? What's the standard, and what are we going to review?"
Some floated proposals include a monitor reviewing all plays in real time and remotely triggering a replay review of a close call. Others rely on the existing challenge system, but expanding its capabilities to review penalties. And still, additional ideas land somewhere in between: more challenges; separate challenges to review rulings and penalties; NFL senior VP of officiating Al Riveron getting involved in some fashion. The replay world is your football oyster.
But McKay cautions us to be patient and nuanced in this process, starting with the definition of the review.
"Any time you get into the subjective world, it's what standard are you going to apply?" McKay said. "In other words, is the independent person, let's call it Al Riveron in New York, is that person going to apply their judgment to the play or are they going to apply some standard that says it's got to be, like we do for overturns, it's got to be open, obvious and absolute before you're going to overturn it. What's the standard that's going to apply, and then what's going to be reviewed?
These comments run similar to fellow competition committee members who cautioned refereeing from replay.
McKay mentioned that a current replay review takes into account the entire play, including the parts that aren't necessarily being challenged. The entire call, from snap to whistle, has to be correct.
That creates a possibility for the opening of a new can of worms: If a coach challenges one portion of a play, officials will have to review everything. Again, where does it stop?
"So if a coach were to challenge a play, whatever the play is, and say 'I'm challenging because I think the defense lined up offsides,'" McKay proposed. "OK, what else are we going to look at in that play? Are we going to look at offensive holding? Is the play played out? Are we going to look at hands to the face, are we going to look at a facemask on the quarterback?"
It seems as if something is going to come from this infamous finish. What that product might be remains to be seen.