Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew, speaking at the combine, proposed a change to the NFL's replay rules: he wants coaches to be able to throw challenge flags on penalty calls. And yes, it has everything to do with the Lions getting screwed late in a playoff game.
"If they throw a flag, you can challenge it. It doesn't solve all the world's problems, but I think one of the travesties of the game — one of the things that's going on right now that could be a lot better — is on the Monday after the game, people are talking about the officials and the officiating and the bad calls and this call happened and that call that happened. I think they should be talking about the players on the field and what the players did in the course of the game."
Mayhew wants a one-way stret, where coaches wouldn't be allowed to challenge a play where they thought there was a infraction and none was called; he only wants them to be able to challenge thrown penalty flags.
This is stuck in Mayhew's craw because of what went down in the Lions' wild-card loss to the Cowboys. Remember way back, if you can. (Before the Seahawks' heartbreak against the Patriots, before the Packers' heartbreak against the Seahawks, before the Cowboys' heartbreak against the Packers. Man, the NFC was cursed this year.)
Officials initially threw a flag on what was most observers thought was pass interference by Dallas LB Anthony Hitchens on Detroit TE Brandon Pettigrew on a crucial third-down conversion late in the game, but then picked up the flag, and failed to give a decent explanation. Under Mayhew's proposed system, the Lions would have been able to throw a challenge flag and force the officials to review the play to determine if a penalty was warranted.
I'm of two minds here. On one hand, I'll always support taking any step to get the calls right. That was a huge play in the game, and the officials got it wrong (as admitted later by the NFL). Making penalties reviewable would not slow the game down any—coaches would need to use one of their limited challenges—so what's the downside?
Complete chaos, probably. Making penalties subject to review would bare before the world the uncomfortable fact that so much NFL officiating is subjective. What constitutes excessive contact? Doesn't holding occur on the line on nearly every play? Isn't it physically impossible for seven officials to monitor 22 players? It's a nice illusion, and one the NFL, players, and fans alike would like to preserve, that the refs are spotting every instance of bad behavior. If we open penalty calls up to scrutiny, we're probably not going to like what we find.
(Lions got hosed, though.)