Following the 2022-2023 NFC Championship game, it’s apparent that Kyle Shanahan’s approach to issuing challenge flags remains unchanged.
The NFC Championship saw a fleeting moment where the 49ers had the chance to win, only to have it slip away after a controversial catch by Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts to DeVonta Smith. Replays later confirmed that the catch was not legitimate, prompting questions about Shanahan’s decision not to throw a challenge flag.
Shanahan addressed his decision in a press conference, revealing the team’s process for evaluating potential reviews and emphasizing that if they are unsure about a big play, he typically throws the challenge flag. However, in this particular instance, the team believed the catch was legitimate based on the live angle they had seen.
“If we don’t know at all, and it’s a big play, I usually throw it. But we just thought he caught it because of what we saw and the fact that no one live from where we were standing knew it was questionable.”
Ultimately, the lack of a clear and obvious angle at the time led to Shanahan’s decision not to challenge the play, despite the controversy surrounding it. Given Shanahan’s track record with challenges, it was a calculated risk to preserve their timeouts.
Shanahan’s challenge success rate has been inconsistent, with a career record of 20 for 36. This scrutiny raises the larger issue of why coaches are put in the position of having to challenge questionable plays in the first place, rather than the league being proactive in getting the call right.
This raises the question of why coaches are limited to a few challenges to hold NFL officials accountable, which is a rule set by the competition committee that shows no signs of changing.
As the 49ers prepare to face the Eagles again, the potential for a similar controversial catch situation looms, leaving the decision to challenge or not in Shanahan’s hands once more.
The ongoing issue of coaches having to rely on limited challenges to ensure fair play continues to perplex both fans and coaches alike, as they navigate the complexities of the NFL’s replay system.
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