Allen Park — The Lions are moving on from Sunday’s gut-wrenching loss to the Atlanta Falcons, when a 10-second runoff following a replay review eliminated a final shot at the end zone and a game-winning touchdown. But if the Lions believe they have a way to improve the rule that cost them the game, there’s a process to go about making a change.
Meet the NFL’s competition committee. The group — a collective of owners, general managers, team presidents and coaches selected by the commissioner — exists to monitor and alter the league’s rules each offseason.
Here’s how a change would happen: After the season, the Lions would weigh submitting a proposal — one that would be penned collaboratively by general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell, with owner Martha Ford potentially offering input.
At the scouting combine in early March, the competition committee discusses the merit of each proposal and determines whether it should be put up for a vote. Additionally, the committee can also enter proposals independent of team submissions. The voting process is typically conducted during league meetings in May.
To pass, 75 percent of the league’s teams must vote in favor of the proposed change.
The Lions didn’t propose any rule changes in Quinn’s first year as general manager, but Caldwell worked with former general manager Martin Mayhew to propose changes to the league’s replay review system after the team’s playoff loss in Dallas in 2015.
In that game, the Cowboys were flagged for pass interference in the fourth quarter, but after the officials further discussed the infraction, the flag was ultimately picked up. The non-call played a significant role in the loss, leading the Lions to propose teams be allowed to challenge any play where a flag is thrown.
It did not pass.
It’s too early to say whether the Lions will suggest an alternation to the league’s 10-second runoff policy, which extends to automatic reviews of scoring plays. The 10-second runoff has been in place since the 1950s, and it could be argued it needs to be updated to reflect the speed and increased precision in the modern game.
Some have also suggested the 10-second runoff be reduced to a smaller number when a team is closer to the end zone, but the counter is that adds an unnecessary layer to a rule book already criticized for its complexity.
What’s clear is a runoff in the situation shouldn’t be eliminated. If a scenario played out similarly to the Lions’ loss, but with even less time remaining, it wouldn’t be fair to grant an offense a free timeout after a review when time would have clearly expired otherwise.
That happened in 2009, in a game between the Saints and Dolphins, which prompted the rule change in the first place.
In the end, the competition committee and the Lions may opt not to explore a modification, determining the imperfect rule is better than the alternative options. But both sides have plenty of time to consider those alternatives in the coming months.