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THE NFL
Peter King
November 27, 1989
REPLAY REPLAY
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November 27, 1989

The Nfl

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FABULOUS FEET II
This season SI, with help of the Elias Sports Bureau, devised a formula for assessing the effectiveness of NFL placekickers. Unlike the traditional system of ranking kickers by points scored, this one takes into account performance on kickoffs, field goal accuracy from various ranges, and PATs (SI, Oct. 9). When we published our rankings after Week 4, David Treadwell of the Broncos led with 79 rating points, and Donald Igwebuike of the Buccaneers was second, with 74. Here's how the best and worst kickers now stand, after 11 weeks (only field goal attempts of at least 46 yards, the distance from which kickers, on average, begin to miss more than they make, are shown):

Kicker

Touchbacks/Kickoffs

Long FGs: Made/Atts.

PATs Missed

Rating Points

THE TOP FIVE

 

Donald Igwebuike, Bucs

11-53

2-5

2

109

Mike Lansford, Rams

2-60

1-3

0

107

Dean Biasucci, Colts

7-50

2-6

0

98

Morten Andersen, Saints

15-56

1-4

1

92

Kevin Butler, Bears

5-59

1-1

1

90

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Luis Zendejas, Cowboys

12-48

1-3

0

-9

Jim Breech, Bengals

0-2

0-1

1

-9

Chris Bahr, Chargers

3-37

1-3

1

3

Rich Karlis, Vikings

6-38

1-3

1

9

Scott Norwood, Bills

5-45

1-1

0

13

REPLAY REPLAY

If the NFL's 28 owners voted today on whether to retain instant replay as an officiating tool, replay would lose. According to an SI survey, executives from only eight teams say they are certain they would vote to keep it in its present form.

But every year about this time, the antireplay forces appear to have enough votes to kill the system at the annual owners meetings the following March. Yet replay has hung on for four years because many owners don't stick to their guns at the meetings. This time it may be different, however, now that former commissioner Pete Rozelle and former Cowboy president Tex Schramm, two strong advocates of the system, are out of the league. And some new antireplay converts have emerged. Only the Giants, Bengals, Cardinals and Buccaneers voted against replay last spring. They're all still against it. Now you can add solid no votes from the Bears, who were burned by a game-deciding reversal by the replay official in Green Bay two weeks ago, and from the Bills, whose executives admit they voted for the system last year out of respect for Rozelle. The Eagles and Vikings also seem certain to vote no. "It's the biggest piece of garbage that's ever been in the NFL," says Minnesota coach Jerry Burns.

That's eight naysayers, enough to prevent replay from getting the three-quarter majority it needs for survival. The Chiefs and Steelers also say they oppose instant replay, although their opposition doesn't seem as strong as that of the other eight. The Cowboys, too, seem lined up with the opposition now, especially after Sunday's experience at Texas Stadium, where the Cowboy-Dolphin game was interrupted a record 17 times for replay reviews. "I've made up my mind," said Cowboy owner Jerry Jones during the game, "and unless something changes, I'm against it. This just interrupts the game too much."

Right now 14 teams would probably vote for the system in some form, 11 would vote against it, and three are uncommitted.

Look for supporters of the system to propose revisions next March in an effort to save it. One suggestion is to set a two-minute time limit on reviews. The average replay delay has increased 20 seconds since last year, from 1:20 to 1:40, with many dragging on for three minutes. Replay was created to correct obviously wrong calls. If it takes two minutes to evaluate a call, then it's not obviously wrong. Some owners favor a system used by the USFL, in which each team was allowed to request two replay reviews per game; if the call stood upon reexamination, the team asking for it lost a timeout. But even those who favor such a revision say that its association with the hated USFL may doom its chances of being adopted.

In defense of the system, reversals by replay officials have increased significantly over previous years and only three or four of the reversals have been deemed incorrect when later reviewed by the league. So far this year there have been 53 reversals (.346 per game), compared with 53 (.237 per game) during all of last season.

And in a sense, the league is hostage to the sophistication of TV coverage. If instant replay dies, fans will be bombarded by replays of horrible calls before going to bed on Sunday night. Says Browns owner Art Modell, "The viewer will say, 'My god, I wish we had instant replay. Look how they blew that call.' "

The system has bugs, but consider this: About four bad calls per week have been corrected thanks to replay this year. The system should be saved, not scrapped.

CHIEFLY ECONOMICS

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