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NFL History of Replay


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Even though I tried to tighten it up, it s still a long read.  But does show where replay has evolved from in the last 40 some years.


History of NFL Replay-


1976 - Art McNally, director of officiating, experimented with a stopwatch and video cmaera from a press box at a MNF game between Cowboys and Bills.  He saw a missed call on a play involving O.J. Simpson that could have been corrected with replay review. McNally knew then: Replay could help football.


In 1978 the league tested replay in 7 preseason games. It was lackluster.  It was costly, TV crews didn't hav eenough cameras/angles, and lengthy reviews were still often inconclusive. It was shelved.


1985 - The NFL tested a review system during eight preseason games in 1985 — producing promising results. The system performed so well that owners held an unprecedented vote to determine if the league would use instant replay in the upcoming playoffs — even though the system had never been used in the regular season. The motion failed narrowly.


“[Owners] didn’t want a playoff game decided by a bad call, and so they tried to push it through right there,” Art Modell, Cleveland Browns owner, said after the vote. “But that was a little too quick for some people.”

Prior to the 1986 season, the owners voted 23-4-1 — 21 votes were needed to pass — to adopt limited use of instant replay in the upcoming year. The initial process lacked the coach’s challenges and technology familiar to today’s fans. Most reviews were initiated upstairs by the replay official, except when game officials requested a review of their ruling after conferring on the field.  


Replay officials sat in a booth in the stadium with two nine-inch television monitors showing the broadcast feed and two videocassette recorders. The two VCRs were capable of recording and immediately replaying individual plays. Reviews would be a maximum of two minutes, timed from the moment when the umpire signaled timeout.


Instant replay’s first regular season saw an average of 1.6 reviews per game. Of those plays in question — 374 in all — only 10 percent ended with a reversal of the ruling on the field.

Replay was re approved for 1987, but now using 12" monitors.


Terminology was changed when an on field ruled TD pass was called Incomplete up in the replay booth. But the Ref heard complete through the walkie talkies and the TD play stood (when it should not have). Tagliabue vowed to upgrade the system. The commissioner’s hopes were dashed. After a six-season run, instant replay met its demise in 1991 when 17 owners voted against renewing the system. The belief: The system delayed games too much and failed to get enough of the calls correct.   1986 - 1991 results:


1986–1991  1,330 games  2,967 reviews (2.2 per game)   376 reversals (12.6%)


Also, the league later determined that nine of the 90 reviewed calls in 1991 were overturned incorrectly.


1996, replay approved for 10 preseason games. Coaches could challenge (minimal items). Owners did not approve for various reasons.


1999 - Competition committee revises replay rules to-

Cut the number of challenges from three to two per half.

Coaches, unwilling to trade a timeout for any review, would now be charged a timeout only for unsuccessful challenges.


And so coaches could focus at the end of each half on which plays to call and not which calls to challenge — a replay assistant initiated all reviews inside the final two minutes of each half.


Tweaks to replay review have continued throughout the since. In 2004, a reward was added for coaches who were successful on their first two reviews: a third challenge. With a 30-2 owner’s vote in 2007, instant replay became a permanent fixture in the league when the league switched completely to High Definition systems.

For the 2014 season, senior officiating staff members inside Art McNally GameDay Central in the league’s New York headquarters began consulting directly with the referee during reviews. The move helped ensure that calls were being made consistently across the league.


It's never been a perfect system, nor is it now. But they have moved from walkie talkies, 9 inch TV's and stopwatches to Wireless headsets and High Def cameras / display monitors.

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