In an announcement long on promises, but short on specifics, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said last night that instant replay will not be brought back for the playoffs next month, but predicted it will return next season.
After a conference call with members of the eight-man competition committee, Tagliabue said they voted 7-1 to reject the idea of bringing it back for the playoffs so the proposal will not be presented to the owners.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was the only executive in favor of it.
Tagliabue said that Cincinnati Bengals president Mike Brown was the only member of the committee definitely against bringing replay back. He also said that Rich McKay, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager who voted no last year, was now more open-minded.
Tagliabue, though, acknowledged that the committee hasn't come up with a specific proposal to present to the owners next year or whether it would include the controversial coach's challenge system that many coaches oppose. His comments were almost as confusing as an on-field officials' conference.
"I don't think I'd declare it dead," he said of the coach's challenge system.
Since it takes no votes from only eight of the 31 owners to keep replay from returning, Tagliabue may be overly optimistic.
Until the league puts a specific proposal on the table, it's impossible to predict whether the league can come up with a system that 24 teams will approve.
For example, New York Jets coach Bill Parcells, who voted yes last year when replay fell two votes shy of approval in a 21-9 vote, now indicates that he'll vote no to any system that includes TTC the coach's challenge system or is tied to timeouts.
It's not significant that the committee favored replay by a 6-2 margin for next year because those six teams favored replay last year and it didn't pass.
Tagliabue also contradicted an announcement that the league made last week when it said the system proposed for the playoffs would give the officials a chance to call for replay in the last two minutes if a team was out of timeouts.
He said the proposal the competition committee discussed was the one that was voted on last March that didn't include that feature. He left open the possibility that a system proposed for next year would include it.
The league announcement last week that it would consider replay for the playoffs was an obvious reaction to a series of bad calls in recent weeks that affected the outcomes of games.
But Tagliabue found out after the league made the announcement that the committee considered replay only for the playoffs last March and rejected the idea.
"I was unaware of that, frankly," he said.
Tagliabue seemed to have little sympathy for coaches who are victims of bad calls that can cost them their jobs.
"Coaches who usually lose their jobs usually lose a number of games," he said. "An accumulation of mistakes and shortcomings over time leads to people being fired. You win or lose at the line of scrimmage. You don't win because of officiating."
He brushed off the officiating controversy as being caused by a "few high-profile games," ignoring all the mistakes made in low-profile games.
The Ravens have had four games turn on bad calls -- one in their favor and three against them -- but those calls got virtually no notice around the country because they're a losing team.
He also brushed off the criticism made by Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney of the grading system run by director of officials Jerry Seeman. Rooney said the system caused the officials to worry about their grades and be "gun-shy."
Tagliabue said: "We haven't found anybody who feels that's a major issue."
Besides Jones, Brown and McKay, the other members of the committee are general managers Bill Polian of Indianapolis and Charley Casserly of Washington and coaches Mike Holmgren of Green Bay, Bill Cowher of Pittsburgh and Dennis Green of Minnesota.
Pub Date: 12/16/98