In an overwhelming effort to get the result right, the NFL has made every turnover and every scoring play automatically reviewable. The idea is that any big, game-changing moment should be correct, and the NFL has committed slowing down the game to ensure that it is correct. So, if that is the case, then why aren’t FG’s reviewable. Well, after diving into the 2020 NFL Rulebook, it tuns out that field goals are reviewable. Sometimes. First, here is what the NFL Rulebook describes as a successful field goal:
The entire ball must pass through the vertical plane of the goal, which is the area above the crossbar and between the uprights or, if above the uprights, between their outside edges. If the ball passes through the goal, and returns through the goal without striking the ground or some object or person beyond the goal, the attempt is unsuccessful.Rule 11. Section 4. Article 1c. 2020 NFL Rulebook
So, why wasn’t this reviewed on the field? The section on reviewable plays provides a little more clarity:
Whether a field goal or Try attempt crossed above the crossbar and inside the uprights is reviewable, but only if the ball crosses the plane of the goal post below the top of the uprights, or if the ball touches anything.Rule 15. Section 3. Article 11. Item 3. 2020 NFL Rulebook
So, because the ball was above the top of the upright, it made the kick non-reviewable. But even without the review, the first rule would indicate that the field goal was good as long as it passed through the outside edge of the goal post. I personally believe it did. In fact, I think it was still below the top of the goal post when it crossed through. After all, if you look at the parabolic path of the ball you can clearly see that at the maximum, the ball is past the goal post. Bass has a strong leg, but it would have taken a heck of a boot to clear the goalpost on the assent. Take a look for yourself one more time:
Enter: human error. It takes the perfect storm for a kick to be non-reviewable. First, the referee must determine that the ball was above the top of the upright AND they must believe that it passed that upright while it was above it. I understand why the rule is stated as such. We can’t say with 100% certainty that the ball was above or below the goal post so how can we determine if it was good, there are no imaginary lines that extend to the heavens.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. For more reasons than one, the NFL should make it a priority to ensure that all scoring plays are reviewed and a blown call does not effect the outcome of a game. What if that was a kick to win a Super Bowl? Do we really want to leave a history-altering kick up to an official staring 45 feet straight into the air? The answer is: we don’t have to. This is the NFL, not the twice bankruped XFL or the local varsity squad. This is the same NFL that charged companies, on average, 5.6 million dollars for a 30 second commercial during the Super Bowl. Or to think about it another way – $186,666 per second. ON. AVERAGE. Imagine what the price tag is for most expensive time slot.
Needless to say, purchasing the technology or paying someone to create the technology to put on top of a goal post is chump change to Mr. Goodell. Wouldn’t a basic camera suffice? Putting a camera inside the goal was a game changer for the NHL, allowing almost every goal to be called correctly. I am no tech expert, but I can’t imagine putting in a small camera on top of the goalpost is an unreasonable ask. Some fans recommended a laser be used to extend the goal posts, but there are some issues with that. Let’s say the ball hit the laser straight on. There is no certain way to know how the ball would have ricocheted off of an extended goalpost. A camera seems more reasonable, it would be easy to see when the ball crossed over the goalpost.
Tyler Bass’s first career FG attempt, and miss, didn’t cost the Bills the game, as they were in control without the extra 3 points, but the miss might have cost the Bills something worse: the confidence of a rookie player who has tremendous pressure at his position. Tyler Bass will go on to have a have a great career (hopefully with the Bills) and make many more kicks during that time. Some kicks will be higher stakes than others. But I wonder when he hangs them up if he will still be thinking about his first kick – wondering if his total points scored should be 3 points higher. For a multi-billion dollar machine, the NFL owes it their players to get it right.