Vic Fangio: Replay review of Broncos fumble changed when “the head guy overruled the first guy”

Although there were no major controversies from the NFL’s new instant replay system in Week One, there was a case in which a head coach got conflicting information as the New York replay command center reviewed a play.

That coach was Denver’s Vic Fangio, who says he was first told that the Broncos would be getting the ball back because a replay appeared to show the Giants did not recover a Broncos fumble, but then told that the final decision would be to let the call on the field of a Giants recovery stand.

Broncos tight end Albert Okwuegbunam fumbled and Giants safety Logan Ryan recovered along the sideline. Replay appeared to show that Ryan was already out of bounds, however, before he had possession of the ball, which would have meant the ball stayed with the Broncos.

Fangio says the officials first told him that he could send the Broncos’ offense back on the field because the replay showed the Giants had not recovered the ball inbounds. But the officials then informed him that the final verdict from New York was to let the play stand.

“They first told me — and you guys probably saw that they were talking to me the whole way — they first told me it’s going be our ball,” Fangio said, via the Broncos’ website. “They were just figuring out where to exactly place it and the timing element of it, and then he came back and said, ‘You’re not going to like this.’ The head guy in New York came in and said, ‘Let it stand,’ and the head guy overruled the first guy’s verdict on it.”

The “head guy in New York” Fangio referenced is former NFL referee Walt Anderson. Although others in the officiating office work on replay reviews, especially when multiple games are going on at once, Anderson is the head guy.

Anderson’s decision to let the ruling on the field stand — as well as his decision to let the ruling on the field stand on a crucial Dalvin Cook fumble in the Vikings’ loss to the Bengals — suggests that Anderson is going to defer to the call on the field unless there’s clear and obvious evidence that the call was wrong. That’s what the replay standard is supposed to be, even if Fangio wasn’t a fan of the way it was communicated to him in one particular case.