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THE NFL
Peter King
November 26, 1990
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
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November 26, 1990

The Nfl

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ENVIOUS OF THE GREEN

If you hang around an NFL locker room long enough, someone will eventually bring up the subject of money. Bears center Jay Hilgenberg, a Pro Bowl player who is making $540,000 this season, did so recently. "I went to the [baseball] All-Star Game this year," Hilgenberg said, "and watching those guys during warmups, it made me sick to think how much more they make than we do." Here's a sampling of how football and baseball salaries compare in 1990. (All figures include base salary, prorated signing bonuses and deferred compensation.)

FOOTBALL

BASEBALL

Incredibly Overpaid Relief Pitchers

FRANK REICH, Bills

$870,000

MARK DAVIS, Royals

$2,125,000

On the Way Up and on the Way Out

DAVE MEGGETT, Giants

$90,000

KEITH HERNANDEZ, Indians

$l,750,000

Atlanta's Saviors

ANDRE RISON, Falcons

$485,500

NICK ESASKY, Braves

$1,350,000

Pssst, Ottis! Who Is This Guy?

OTTIS ANDERSON, Giants

$500,000

DAVE ANDERSON, Giants

$500,000

Guess which One's Going to the Hall of Fame?

MIKE WEBSTER, Chiefs

$330,000

MITCH WEBSTER, Indians

$645,000

Worth Their Weight in Gold

WILLIAM PERRY, Bears

$325,000

RICK REUSCHEL, Giants

$750,000

Here's One for You Baseball Players

ERIC DICKERSON, Colts

$1,450,000

ROB DIBBLE, Reds

$200,000

AFTER FURTHER REVIEW

From Day 1, I've supported the NFL's decision in 1986 to adopt instant replay. I believed that a staid league was entering the modern age by using technology the whole world could understand—the rerunning of a play on a TV monitor—and that someday the outcome of a significant game would be hugely and correctly influenced because there was an eye in the sky.

Others, of course, didn't see it that way. "You're just adding another layer of error," Bengal general manager Paul Brown told me. "You're taking the human element out of the game," said Giants general manager George Young.

Nonsense, I replied to both. But now I know they were right. While I can't say specifically what changed my mind, I do know that the league must dump instant replay. As I watch games this season, I realize the only effect that instant replay is having on the sport is negative. In its fifth season, the replay delays good games unnecessarily, and the bugs still aren't out of it. The game ain't broke, and instant replay ain't fixing it.

This is probably a futile plea, because when SI polled executives of all 28 teams last week, six said they will vote against instant replay when it comes up for renewal again at the NFL meetings next March, and another two said they are leaning in that direction. True, only eight nay votes are needed to shelve the replay, and at times over the last four years it has looked as if eight owners were ready to turn their thumbs down. But every year instant replay has had the prodding support of the commissioner—first Pete Rozelle and now Paul Tagliabue—and twice (in 1987 and '90) it has survived by a 21-7 vote. If any owners are listening, here's why instant replay must die:

It's not worth the trouble. Through Sunday's games, the NFL had run 159,348 regular-season plays in 1,023 games since the adoption of instant replay, and a replay official had overruled an on-field official 257 times. So, one in every 620 plays has been changed—one play for every four games. Few reversals have left imprints on games.

It's not foolproof. The main argument for implementing instant replay was that it would prevent the wrong team from winning a game. Well, only once since '86 have two teams stood on the field in the final minute, awaiting a replay official's call that would decide the outcome of the game. Chicago was at Green Bay in November 1989, and Don Majkowski of the Packers had thrown a TD pass that on-field officials nullified because they said he had stepped over the line of scrimmage. However, the replay official ruled the TD should be allowed, because he believed the ball wasn't over the line of scrimmage when Majkowski released it. A few days later, league officials privately admitted to the Bears that the on-field officials' call should have stood, because there was not indisputable evidence that a reversal was in order.

It doesn't improve officiating. Art McNally, the league's director of officials, says he's convinced the replay isn't making his men on the field indecisive. That's hard to buy when it seems that two or three times a game, after a play has ended, seven officials run to the spot of the ball, staring at one another without anyone making a call. I don't remember that happening very often before instant replay.

It destroys the momentum of a game. Last year Dallas was giving the playoff-contending Dolphins an excellent game, leading 14-10 after the first half at Texas Stadium. But the flow of the game was stopped 17 times for replay reviews, with only one reversal. Miami won 17-14.

Instant replay was a good idea, a noble idea. The nobler idea now? Kill it.

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