Colts coach says system doesn't work

Updated: October 16, 2003, 1:35 AM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Tony Dungy thinks the NFL's replay system needs to be reviewed, and he believes the last two weeks have provided indisputable evidence the system does not work.

On Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts lost an interception because of a reversal, a decision that still confounds Dungy.

A week earlier, the Colts' miraculous comeback at Tampa Bay began with what the league now describes as an illegal onside kick -- a play Dungy believes could not even be challenged.

Dungy wants answers.

"I want to know how it can happen and how it can be prevented," he said Wednesday. "I understand that a mistake was made or whatever, but if we say this is the process, then how should it be followed?"

Dungy, the easygoing, soft-spoken Colts coach, is a liaison to the NFL's competition committee and has been an outspoken opponent of replay since his arrival in Indianapolis last year.

The recent problems have cemented his position -- and apparently that of the Colts, too.

"I think that it's safe to say in March, when replay comes up to a vote, our stance will be obvious," team president Bill Polian said during his weekly radio show. "We'll be proponents of the doing-away with a system that simply doesn't work."

The system gives coaches two challenges per game and requires conclusive evidence to overturn calls made on the field, something Dungy believes did not exist Sunday.

If the call on the field is upheld, the challenging team loses a timeout.

Dungy said replay was installed primarily to rectify what he called "gross" mistakes on critical plays, but he believes it is not being used properly.

He cited Sunday's play as an example.

Colts defensive end Chad Bratzke intercepted a pass by Carolina's Jake Delhomme pass, but the ball was ripped away a Panthers player. Indianapolis' Raheem Brock fell on the loose ball, which was ruled a fumble on the field, at the Carolina 5.

After reviewing the play, referee Larry Nemmers announced Bratzke never had control and called it an incompletion.

Dungy acknowledges the play did not dictate the outcome in Carolina's 23-20 overtime loss, but he was still upset three days later because he believes the replays were inconclusive.

The Colts (5-1) have a bye this week.

"They're fortunate this only went into two markets or there would be a furor over this," Dungy said. "Not many people have seen it."

Dungy said he expected to get the "typical" response from the league office after a bad call but refrained from elaborating.

Steve Alic, a league spokesman, said the NFL would not comment.

But it's not just the process that has irked Dungy; it's the rule itself.

Dungy said he was notified by the league that Mike Vanderjagt's pop-up onside kick -- snatched out of the air by Idrees Bashir -- against Tampa Bay was illegal. The reason: The ball did not touch the ground, and the Colts didn't give the Buccaneers a chance to catch the ball.

Indianapolis should have been penalized 15 yards, and Tampa Bay retained possession. But according to the rules, the Bucs might have had no recourse.

"We've not said anything in the rules about whether a kick hits the ground or not," Dungy said. "Now that's as big a play as you can have, and if the official doesn't think it hit the ground, you can't go back and replay it."

The Colts took advantage, driving 58 yards for a touchdown and eventually became the first team in league history to rally from 21 points behind in the final four minutes of regulation. They won 38-35 in overtime.


Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press