Upon Further Review
Replay Already Under Fire
When Mike Perreira, the NFL's supervisor of officials, gathered the league's 16 referees in Dallas last Friday to pass out final instructions on the new instant-replay system, he stressed that no call should be overturned without "absolutely indisputable evidence." Said Perreira last Saturday, "We grilled them on it."
Maybe 10th-year referee Ed Hochuli was in the men's room at the time Perreira made his key point. Hochuli's overturning of a Bucs completion against the Giants on Sunday enraged the NFL's most mild-mannered coach, Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy, and cast doubt about whether the league's $10 million instant-replay system can work. "The system stinks," Dungy told SI on Monday. "There's no way for that referee to say there was indisputable evidence. When we voted replay in, it was to correct the obvious visual error, not to overturn a play that could go either way."
Tampa Bay trailed the Giants 17-13 when, with 1:37 left, Bucs wideout Karl Williams dived to catch a tipped pass near midfield. It was ruled a catch on the field, but the replay official in the upstairs booth called down to Hochuli and asked him to review the play. (In the final two minutes of each half, only the replay official can challenge a call.) The best one could tell from the four replay angles was that Williams had possession of the ball and that it never touched the ground. In none of the replays was there indisputable evidence to overturn the call, but Hochuli still wiped out the 28-yard gain. "After the game," Giants co-owner Wellington Mara said on Monday, "I told Tony that call should not have been overturned."
Of the 10 calls that were challenged (eight of them by coaches) in Sunday's 14 games, four were overturned. The only replay decision that sparked a controversy was the one that went against the Bucs. "I don't think we should throw it out now," Dungy said. "But it's not working right. We need consistency."
Testaverde's Freak Injury
Jets Must Rally Behind Mirer
Even if you didn't blink, you still might have missed it. As he moved to recover a fumble by running back Curtis Martin in the second quarter of the Jets' 30-28 loss to the Patriots, quarterback Vinny Testaverde dropped to the turf. Though untouched on the play, he had ruptured his left Achilles tendon. In an instant his season—and, in all likelihood, the Jets' Super Bowl hopes—had ended.
The uneven play of backup quarterbacks Tom Tupa and Rick Mirer did nothing to brighten New York's suddenly bleak prospects. Tupa's deceiving numbers (six completions in 10 attempts, 165 yards, two touchdowns) owed a great deal to the brilliance of wideout Keyshawn Johnson, who finished with eight catches for a career-best 194 yards. The well-traveled Mirer, now with his fourth team in seven seasons after being acquired in a trade last month with the Packers, appeared overwhelmed. His second interception of the fourth quarter—on a pass into triple coverage—set up Adam Vinatieri's game-winning field goal with three seconds left.
Mirer, who completed four of 11 passes for 28 yards, admitted that his reads had been slow and that he felt uncomfortable in the pocket at times. Nevertheless, Jets coach Bill Parcells named him the starter for Sunday's game against the Bills, hoping that Mirer can resurrect a once promising career just as Testaverde did a year ago, when he threw for 29 touchdowns, led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game and went to the Pro Bowl.
"Do you think we're going to put the white flag up?" a defiant Parcells asked in his postgame press conference. "No way." A more accurate assessment of the team's mind-set came later, however, when a crestfallen Keyshawn said, "Never in a million years did I think I'd lose my starting quarterback today." He then bolted from the interview room while launching into an expletive-filled tirade, sounding for all the world like a man who knew he'd just lost much, much more.