Chip Kelly, Eagles need to change approach to replay challenges
After Sunday’s game against Washington, the Eagles have their bye week. It’s likely that coach Chip Kelly already has the extra time planned out in some detail -- some self-scouting, maybe adding a few new offensive wrinkles for the stretch run and what-not. But he needs to carve out a half-day next week, interview a couple of retired NFL officials and/or replay officials and hire one of them to sit in the coaches’ booth on Sunday and take over the decision-making on challenges.
The current system has offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and whoever helps him out making the decisions. It isn’t working. Twice on Sunday against the Packers, the Eagles failed to challenge plays that clearly should have been challenged. On a day when referee Mike Carey had a couple of really tough calls to make after checking out the video under the hood of the NFL’s way-back machine, these would not have been so difficult.
On the most obvious play, Green Bay receiver Jarrett Boykin’s elbow was clearly out of bounds before his second foot touched in bounds. On another, it seemed pretty obvious that Packers tight end Ryan Taylor was down before the fumble the squirted the ball forward and allowed him to get a first down.
On the Boykin play, Kelly said the booth did not have the television angle it needed -- although every angle on TV was very clear. On the Taylor play, Kelly said the judgment in the booth was that he had the first down anyway -- which is debatable, at best.
The point is, the Eagles need to get better at this. I never thought they would be in the middle of a playoff race, but here they are -- and this kind of thing can lose you a game if you aren’t careful. What was supposed to be a season of learning and growing and developing suddenly is more than that, and any errors from here on will have post-season ramifications.
Having a former official in the booth, another set of experienced eyes, would involve little expense and a lot of potential benefit. He might see something that Shurmur, et al, don’t see. He might see it with eyes that are better informed, more experienced, and understanding of how an official under the hood might view the play.
Even if it only results in one correct challenge in the final games of the season, it could be the call upon which a game turns. It happens all the time in the NFL. It happened Sunday in Green Bay. If Carey had ruled that Jordy Nelson indeed had his hand under the ball and made that touchdown catch in the fourth quarter -- I thought he did, but it was a ridiculously difficult call -- the Packers would have been within a touchdown with 9 minutes to go. Instead of running out the clock with a two-score lead, as the Eagles did, Kelly acknowledged that he probably would have decided to attack the Packers and try to score more points -- and then, who knows what might have happened.
One call. One challenge. It is worth Kelly’s time next week to make this better.