Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In Defense Of Ed Hochuli

I’ve written a great deal about instant replay in the NFL, and while I’m generally in favor of IR, it has had one major unintended consequence (covered in detail here). Refs will now suspend their immediate judgment on plays, and allow them to continue longer than they otherwise would, with the understanding that instant replay can only correct a mistake if they don’t blow the whistle. There is a big problem with this line of thinking:

“The first problem is that the burden of proof necessary to overturn a play in replay (indisputable visual evidence) is very high, and that the default is the "ruling on the field." When you let plays go longer than they are supposed to, the ruling on the field is often not only wrong, but catastrophically so. As a play goes on, the chances for a turnover increase greatly. Refs let plays continue out of fear of stopping a big play with a quick whistle, but by letting defensive players continually strip offensive players even when forward momentum has been stopped, or by letting defensive players pick up a "fumble" when a QB's arm was going forward, the refs actually create turnovers, and turnovers are perhaps the most important factor in who wins or loses a game.

Under the current policy, "indisputable visual evidence" is more often required to prove that a turnover didn't happen. The original intent of replay was to fix major mistakes during games. We now have a situation in which replay creates huge mistakes.”

Ed Hochuli made a bad call, and he’s apparently been getting all kinds of hate mail. He’s also owned up to it, apologized, and, in general, done everything that you’re supposed to do when you screw up. He’s been a stand-up guy. Most refs never own up to their botched calls; they either defend them or hide behind the league.

Moreover, keep in mind that if you’re one of the idiots bothering Hochuli, that instant replay has created dozens, maybe hundreds of bad, game-deciding calls that you’ve probably never noticed.

Hochuli has a reputation as a fair, old-school official, and while his whistle was quick in this instance, I’m glad to see an official not using replay as a crutch. When discussing this issue, talking heads (Mike & Mike, for instance) frequently mention that refs should not have a quick whistle and should instead let replay decide things. The problems from this policy may not be as obvious, but they are as large, and in fact they may be worse specifically because they are not noticed. Hochuli will learn and do better. Those with slow whistles will continue to make errors under the radar.

In fact, in the post I linked to above MDS pointed this out in the comments field:

Paul is absolutely right. (Ed: Thanks Mike.) However, there's one ref who doesn't let the rules stop him from enforcing the game how he wants: Jeff Triplette. Click the link, what happened in Ravens-Bengals is that a Bengals player fumbled and a Ravens player picked it up and ran it into the end zone, but an official thought he was down and blew the whistle. That means it's Bengals ball where they had it when the official blew the whistle, but Triplette inexplicably gave the Ravens the ball. He just disregarded the rule saying nothing happens after the whistle because he thought it would be more fair to give the Ravens the ball.

The link (from December of 2005) is, unfortunately, now defunct. Had Hochuli gone the Triplette route, he may very well have avoided much of this criticism, but he also would have been wrong.

1 comment:

E.S.K. said...

so technology is incentivizing laziness and stupidity.

Hochuli4Life yo.