Reversal rate on coaches challenges down from ’17
and also the final call on the field and as well, as whether it is reviewable or not,” McDermott said of the Tannehill sack. “So when I got the information on those two, felt that we had the potential to get points. … I felt good about the chance to challenge. The cost-benefit, you have to weigh that as well. There’s a lot that went into it. Obviously, we can do a better job there, too.”
Aside from rookie head coaches Mike Vrabel of Tennessee and Steve Wilks of Arizona (0 for 5 and 0 for 1, respectively), McDermott has the lowest challenge percentage in the NFL. However, Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin is 0 for 8 the past two years and also has lost nine straight, dating to 2016.
NFL coaches succeeded in getting a reversal of a call on 47.3 percent of their challenges in 2017. So far this year, the reversal rate on coaches challenges is down to 38.5 percent (47 of 122), according to Pro Football Reference.
On only one of the challenges did McDermott clearly get robbed. That was in the Week 3 win at Minnesota. A shovel pass from Josh Allen to Marcus Murphy bounced off Murphy’s facemask and was recovered by the Bills for a 12-yard loss. McDermott challenged the ruling of a fumble.
“That’s a pass, it’s not a run,” said CBS analyst Tony Romo. “This has got to come back.”
Retired NFL referee Gene Steratore agreed, saying “That’s a legal forward pass.”
It wasn’t overturned. The Bills scored a TD on the drive, anyway.
Like every head coach, McDermott gets advice from an assistant or assistants in the booth. He never has named exactly who is in his ear or passed the buck.
“Ultimately it is my responsibility to throw the flag or not,” he said. “You try, No. 1, not to get caught up in the emotion of the play. There’s a lot of things that go on with the emotions of a play, especially when you’re at home with the crowd. You get the best view I can from the position I’m in, and I talk to my guys up top there.”
Exactly what McDermott can do to improve his rate is ambiguous, aside from giving a different assistant in the booth authority and hoping Year 2017
2017 2017 2017 2018 2018 2018 2018 2018 2018 Week Week 3
Week 4 Week 8 Week 13 Week 2 Week 2 Week 3 Week 5 Week 8 Opp. Denver
Atlanta Oakland New England L.A. Chargers L.A. Chargers
Minnesota Tennessee New England
Week 13 Miami Result W
L L L L L L L L L that person has better in-the-moment instincts.
Many of the calls that are challenged are extremely close. The sideline catch by New England’s Rob Gronkowski in Buffalo in Week 8, which was challenged and upheld, required numerous slow-motion inspections before a ruling could be given.
One could argue it’s better to lose a challenge than get “gun-shy” about it and failing to challenge a play that could be overturned.
Either way, it’s a subject that gets fans – and even NFL owners – riled up. Bills owner Terry Pegula fumed after a TD pass to Kelvin Benjamin last year in New England was overturned on video review. Pegula said he would take his concerns to the Situation: A 44-yard Denver pass from own 11 ruled a catch. Overturned. Helped Bills force punt and get a FG.
Situation: A 39-yard Falcons pass on the sideline was ruled a catch. Upheld. A close but good call.
Situation: Raiders given a first down on fourth-and-1 run from Bills 46. Upheld. McDermott tried to get turnover on downs.
Situation: Tom Brady tripped by own RB and threw incomplete. Upheld. Bad challenge. It was obvious no Bill touched Brady.
Situation: Tyrell Williams fumbled after a 20-yard catch and L.A. recovered. Upheld. Clear-cut decision.
Situation: Tight end Virgil Green touched ball while out of bounds after fumbling. Upheld.
Situation: Shovel pass from Josh Allen to Marcus Murphy ruled a fumble. Upheld. Terrible call by replay officials.
Situation: Challenge of spot after third-down completion at Titans 22. Upheld. Close call.
Situation: Catch by Rob Gronkowski on sideline for 22 yards ruled in bounds. Upheld. Good ruling.
Situation: Challenge of spot on sack of Ryan Tannehill at Miami 1. Upheld. Close but a good ruling.
league, which in March tweaked the definition of a catch. Under the new definition, Benjamin’s catch would not have been reversed.
And in 2016, the Bills authored a proposed rules change that would have allowed coaches to challenge any play on the field. The NFL didn’t go that far, only making slight tweaks to reviewable plays that year.
With six challenges this year, McDermott is tied for the most with Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone (5-1), Detroit’s Matt Patricia (3-3) and Baltimore’s John Harbaugh (3-3).
McDermott’s worst challenge came in a home loss to New England last season. He argued Tom Brady had been sacked before throwing an incomplete pass when Brady clearly tripped on his own teammate before
throwing the ball away.
This season’s Week 2 loss to the Chargers was a case in which McDermott desperately was trying to keep the Bills in the game with a challenge. The Bills were down, 21-3, in the second quarter when he challenged an L.A. fumble play in the second quarter. (L.A. recovered.) He was looking for any way to stop the bleeding.
“There’s a lot of reasons to challenge plays,” McDermott said. “Sometimes, it’s to create a spark. Sometimes, like yesterday, it’s potential points with respect to a potential safety. You try to do what’s in the best interest of the team at all times. Sometimes, you feel good about taking a chance just to get another look at it.”