Here's the definitive camera angle on the play from yesterday's Packers-Giants game that everyone is so twisted out of shape about. Greg Jennings is on his way to the ground, and the ball is a fraction of a second from being wrenched out of his grasp, and you can clearly see—what? Unless I missed the day the NFL mailed out X-ray vision implants to everybody else, you CAN'T SEE ANYTHING. You see Corey Webster.
"But his kneeeeees—" Wrong. Here's the rule:
An official shall declare dead ball and the down ended:
when a runner is contacted by a defensive player and he touches the ground with any part of his body except his hands or feet, ball shall be declared dead immediately.
Yes, it's obvious that Jennings's knees didn't hit the ground before the ball popped out. Unfortunately, despite generations of announcers jabbering on and on over replays about the knee, the word "knee" isn't anywhere in the rule. If Jennings's upper ankle or calf grazed the turf, he was down.
And you can't see that part of his leg. Webster almost drifts out of the way in time, but not quite. On the other replay angle, Jennings's lower legs aren't even in the frame.
The drive for video replay of everything—Hey, let's interrupt baseball games all the time, too!—is based on the demand to get the call right. Who can argue with that? But a TV camera isn't the eye of God. It's a two-dimensional glimpse of a three-dimensional play. The camera can be aimed wrong or zoomed wrong or obstructed. The real question is: How often should play be stopped so that officials can consult another fallible, confusing, and possibly useless source of information?
And the more ambiguous the video is, the more time the officials waste before coming to a conclusion that doesn't satisfy anybody.
So: In real time, the Jennings play looked like a fumble. I'm pretty sure it should have been called a fumble.
But once the officials on the field had declared it wasn't one, the question for the replay review was whether the video could prove the call was wrong. They decided it couldn't. On that point, they were right.
(The NFL just issued an announcement defending the call in exactly those terms. Mike Florio responded by writing "the video clearly showed the ball coming out before any part of Jennings' leg was on the ground." Good thing we have replay to settle these disputes.)