How long after an incident can you complain before sounding like a sour grape? Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula dangerously toed that line with his recent comments regarding NFL replay review rules.
Pegula, obviously, is upset about the league’s decision to overturn Kelvin Benjamin’s touchdown at the end of the second quarter against the Patriots on Sunday. It felt like a huge moment in the game at the time, because the Pats had a 13-10 lead and the Bills had to settle for a tying field goal rather than take a 17-13 lead into halftime.
The Patriots won 37-16 so the overturned touchdown ultimately mattered very little to the outcome of the game. But that doesn’t change that the officials’ call upset plenty of folks. A close look at replay revealed that they ultimately made the right call to rule the TD incomplete – but the “close look” part is exactly why Pegula and others are mad. It wasn’t exactly an obvious reversal; it was only possible with the aid of super slow-motion and freeze-frames.
Terry Pegula: Solid Case or Sour Grape?
Pegula went on the Sabres’ local hockey show on Tuesday, where the conversation eventually steered toward that controversial call. He did not hold back on NFL officials, calling out senior vice president of officiating Alberto Riveron by name.
“[The officials] obviously weren’t looking at the same television the rest of the country was looking at, were they?” Pegula said. “You know what, you can probably find somebody in this country that disagrees [that it was a touchdown], and I know one guy would be Al Riveron sitting in New York City. But everybody I talked to – and they’re not Bills fans and they’re not necessarily anti-Patriots – they’re all baffled by that call, which just wasn’t consistent with what replay [should be].”
Kelvin Benjamin doesn't get credit for the TD catch. Had his foot and toe scrape but not given possession during that brief time. pic.twitter.com/7QyCvPOE1a— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) December 24, 2017
Pegula continued by calling for changes to the league’s review system. It sounds like he wants officials to ignore video evidence that advanced technology can provide for them in order to stick with the call that helped his team.
“Replay was developed by this league to correct obvious mistakes,” Pegula said. “And if you got to look at that play 30 times from five different angles, and keep looking at it, and looking at it and looking at it, you go with the call on the field. That’s what the league has been doing ever since replay started. … I don’t know what’s going on, but we have to fix it. And I’m not saying that as the owner of the Bills; I’m saying that as a football fan. We can’t have stuff like this happening in our league.”
What does Terry Pegula want?
The Bills owner has a point, but it speaks more to questioning the point of replay reviews in the first place rather than whether the call was correct. It did take an insufferable amount of time for the officials to review Benjamin’s touchdown. But there are moments in the replay where you can pinpoint that Benjamin did not have both his feet down in bounds once he gained full possession of the ball. That’s obviously what the officials saw.
Maybe there should be a time limit on replay reviews. Give them 30 seconds to go over the angles, and if they can’t find obvious evidence, the call stands. It would at least zip games along and perhaps a lot of viewers would put up with the occasional incorrect call in the name of keeping things moving. A quick review and “The ruling on the field stands” clearly wouldn’t have had much of an effect on the Patriots, who outscored the Bills 24-3 in the second half.
Officials can use high-definition cameras and ultra-slow-motion to their advantage in order to correct calls that are correctable, but not necessarily obvious to the naked eye. So in their quest to avoid controversy with judgment calls by the officials, reviews are starting to instead have the opposite effect. Now the controversy lies in putting every close play under an HD microscope in the name of getting it right. And it’s bound to piss some people off.
But in the case of Terry Pegula…
He’s simply coming off as sour that the call didn’t go his team’s way in the end. He makes some salient points about the over-officiating of games. But it’s unlikely he’d be raising these issues this week if either the call on the field stood or if the Bills won the game.
At the end of the day, any legitimate gripes people have about this particular play are being drowned out by complaints about not the call itself, but the team that it benefited.
— By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff.