In part one of a two-part Q&A, CFL vice president of football Glen Johnson discusses the mistakes made on a key replay challenge late in Ottawa’s 30-29 win over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats on Friday. In part of two of our discussion, Johnson talks about the issues facing the current replay system and how the CFL can fix them.
Drew Edwards: Can you tell me what happened with the replay challenge in the Ottawa-Hamilton game?
Glen Johnson: There were a couple of things that went wrong, unfortunately. Our mechanic for when a play is a close, when we’re not 100 per cent sure if the ball has come out or the player’s knee is down, is to leave the play live so that replay has the opportunity to do the right thing and fix it because once we’ve killed it, there’s less opportunities to do the right thing. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
Secondly, our replay official went down a path of catch-no catch as opposed to ruling it as a catch – which it was – and dealing with the down by contact.
Drew Edwards: Why would he do that?
Glen Johnson: As soon as something is reviewable, all aspects of a play that are reviewable can be changed. So, for example, if a coach challenges defensive pass interference, we look at all challengeable elements as well as the DPI. So let’s say the quarterback was across the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball and we discover that while we’re doing the review, we fix that as well. So that’s the mindset the replay official has: fix all the things that are challengeable.
In this case, when the replay official started to look at it hid initial reaction was ‘he’s not under control, stumbling and falling backwards, so he’s got to survive contact with the ground.’ That was his initial approach to it, which wasn’t correct: it met the standard of a catch. He should have gotten past that quickly and then looked at the thing that was directly challenged.
So we had a collision of two events on the same play that were incorrect and the right thing wasn’t done.
Drew Edwards: So the issue of whether Greg Ellingson fumbled the football was never really examined.
Glen Johnson: They stopped short of that.
Drew Edwards: Are there consequences for making a mistake like this?
Glen Johnson: There always are. If it’s a first team offence from a guy whose had a stellar career, that’s dealt with differently if it’s a guy’s third or fourth mistake. It’s similar to a player: you’re unlikely to cut a player for dropping one pass. But I can guarantee that it does affect them and affects what happens to them.
Drew Edwards: What can you tell me about the replay official, Jeff Harbin.
Glen Johnson: Jeff officiated in the league for 13 years – he was on my crew for three or four of them. He’s been one of our two replay officials for a few years, splitting the games with Jake Ireland. He also works in our office as a technical advisor and works on our training films.
He’s acknowledged that he made a mistake and we spent a lot of time talking about why and how do we avoid that. He’s the consummate professional: he’s accountable and he takes his lumps. We spent more time talking about how to get better.
Drew Edwards: Did you speak to the Ticats and how did that go?
Glen Johnson: I spoke to [team CEO] Scott Mitchell. It was very professional. It was fine.
Be sure to check out part two of the discussion with Johnson coming to 3DownNation later today.