We’ve all often wondered what the “eye in the sky” sees that results in head coaches around the league tossing the red flag to initiate a challenge of a referees call.
Sometimes the decision to challenge is obvious, while at others, though it’s not so obvious, it’s worth the risk on the chance it plays out in your team’s favor.
Around here, we’re often puzzled by the challenge choices of one John Harbaugh.
During the 2014 regular season, that eye in the sky often left many of us shaking our heads in disbelief as the red flag was tossed onto the field.
Harbaugh threw the challenge flag eight times last season. Care to venture a guess as to how many of those eight got reversed to the Ravens’ favor?
If you guessed “one,” come on down!
That’s a whopping 12.5% success rate. (Though, as you see above, Harbaugh was 1-for-1 in the postseason).
The lone reversal came in Week 10 against Tennessee when Titans rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger passed short over the middle to tight end Delanie Walker for a gain of 14 yards. Ravens safety Terrence Brooks delivered a crushing blow resulting in Walker fumbling the football. Titans wide out Kendall Wright recovered the spinning football, returning the fumble six yards. The play was ruled a catch on the field, but Harbaugh was quick to throw the flag, challenging the initial catch by Walker.
Referee Walt Coleman’s ruling was subsequently reversed after several minutes under the hood.
“I thought he did a great job of seeing that [play],” Harbaugh said about Matt Weiss, the defensive quality control coach and linebackers assistant whom he credits for advising him to throw the challenge flag. “He saw the bobble first on the first step, which gave us a chance to understand that it wasn’t a completed catch.
“Once we saw that, it was clear cut that it was going to be overturned. You never know, obviously, but we felt like that was pretty certainly going to be overturned.”
That was it. The one success.
However, it hasn’t always been like that for Harbs.
Although last season left a lot to be desired in terms of coach’s challenges, Harbaugh has fared particularly well since taking over the Ravens in 2008.
Per the team’s stats, in Harbs’ first six seasons he has had an NFL-best 28 plays reversed on a league-high 57 challenges.
In 2013, seven of his NFL-high 12 challenges were overturned in the Ravens’ favor. His 58 percent success rate ranked 14th in the NFL.
As we look ahead to the 2015 season it isn’t clear who will be the Ravens’ eye in sky as Weiss was promoted earlier this offseason to be the team’s new cornerbacks coach.
One thing for sure – let’s hope whoever it is can return the Ravens to their successful form, saving us all a lot of yelling at the television screen and second guessing every time the red flag comes out.
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