The NFL learned the hard way Monday night that no instant replay system can take the place of getting the call right the first time.
One of the oddest replay scenarios of the season occurred when Broncos QB Brian Griese dropped back to pass in the second quarter of Jacksonville's 27-24 victory over Denver. DE Tony Brackens hit Griese and forced a fumble that the Jaguars recovered inside the Broncos 20.
Thinking Griese's arm had been going forward in a passing motion at the time of the fumble, referee Gerry Austin blew the whistle and signaled an incomplete pass. When Jacksonville Coach Tom Coughlin asked for a review of the play, Austin agreed that Griese had fumbled. But because the whistle had blown before Jacksonville recovered, officials had to award the ball to Denver back at the spot of the fumble.
"The line judge was very honest," Coughlin said yesterday. "He told me, 'You're not going to get the ball.' He said you can get the ball declared a fumble, but you're not going to get the ball back. He was very open about it."
Coughlin said he understood the ruling, but he persisted in asking for a review because, at the very least, he wanted the ball spotted at the point of the fumble.
Jacksonville also was forced to burn a timeout because officials didn't respond to Coughlin's initial efforts to challenge the call. After viewing the replay, Austin initially restored Jacksonville's timeout, but then he reversed that decision, saying the Jaguars had taken the timeout before they made the challenge.
EXTENSION FOR McGEE: TE Tony McGee agreed to a three-year contract extension, keeping another component of the Bengals' offense in place. McGee agreed to an extension through 2002.