It is a lonely, singular burden, that of being Andy Reid's defense attorney. But I soldier on.
The subject today is replay challenges, and the fact that Reid didn't make any in a couple of big situations on Sunday night against the Bears. One was on a close touchdown pass to the Bears' Greg Olsen in the first quarter. The other was on a close spot in the second quarter on a third down play -- and, three plays later, the Bears scored again.
It is said that Reid should have challenged both.
I don't think so.
Look -- Andy does not like to challenge. The truth is, Andy likes to challenge even less than he likes his running game. Since 1999, the Eagles have challenged fewer times than any team in the NFL (except for the Houston Texans, who weren't even a team until 2002). Reid just doesn't do it much. In all of that time, only 13 reversals have gone in the Eagles' favor (plus two more on reviews initiated from the replay booth). For whatever it's worth, his percentage of success is right there with the rest of the coaches. He just doesn't do it much.
All of that said, given the information at hand, he was right on Sunday night.
The Olsen play was a touchdown. It just was. It was close but it was a touchdown. You don't challenge just for the hell of it -- at least not there. It was called a touchdown on the field and there was nothing resembling convincing evidence on tape that it could be overturned. It just would have been a waste of a timeout and a challenge.
Now, for the spot. The truth is, the Eagles did appear to get screwed on the play. Watching it with the naked eye, in real time, as it was happening, it is fair to say that it crossed the mind of some people that the spot was overly generous. Seeing the replay, it seemed pretty clear that the spot was overly generous. If he had challenged, it might very well have been overturned.
But here was the problem -- which I didn't realized until I got home and fired up the DVR. NBC never showed a replay until after the measurment had been taken, after the ruling had been made in the Bears' favor, after the sticks had been moved and re-set. Even then, the replay was from behind the runner, not from the side -- so you couldn't tell anything definitive about the spotting of the ball, even then.
The coaches upstairs in the booth rely on the same television replays that you see to make their decisions. In the absence of a replay, they have nothing except what they saw with their naked eyes in real time. There is a chance that somebody wondered aloud about the spot and expressed that to Reid through the headphones -- but it could not have been anything stronger than wondering. Nobody got a second look at it before the decision had to be made. Given that, how can you challenge?
There was one more play, the Correll Buckhalter touchdown/no touchdown at the end. My immediate reaction was to challenge, just because. Upon further consultation with one of my co-counsels, I think that with two timeouts remaining, to blow one on a futile challenge there would have been wrong -- and it would have been futile. There was no clear evidence of anything but a train wreck. And the timeout was going to be valuable if the defense could have held the Bears without a first down.
With that, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I rest my case.