8 alternatives to the red challenge flag

It’s not hard to find things to criticize the NFL about lately. You’ve got bountygate, scab refs, an impending lawsuit from former players who can’t remember their own name, and a power-crazed commissioner whose been more than willing to throw his cock onto a boardroom table when he’s needed to remind the players and refs just who the hell’s in charge here.

But despite all that, I’ve got a different issue with the NFL:

The red challenge flag.

The fact that Jerry Jones was one of the original pioneers behind the idea should tell you all you need to know. But just in case, let’s subject the use of the red challenge flag to further review. First, it’s not so much that the red flag exists. That I’m fine with. It’s the tossing that gets me. And if you’ve ever seen Bill Belichick condescendingly “throw” the red flag with all the limp-wristed guile of a tailgater 10 beers in still playing beanbag toss, you’ll know that I’m not alone. Second, why not just tell the referee? You don’t see coaches using t-shirt cannons to call a timeout. They simply form a ‘T’ with their hands, or tell the referee, “I’d like a timeout.” So rather than continue the charade of throwing the red flag, I present to you five ideas that would improve the way challenges are called:

Challenge Frisbees

Most NFL coaches are either old as shit or horribly out of shape. So asking them to actually throw something might be asking too much anyway. Can you imagine a decrepit Marv Levy if he was still coaching trying to physically throw a red flag out onto the field? His arm might actually fall off. But because Marv Levy is a badass, he’d keep coaching.

Flare Guns

There’s already a little bit of WWE in throwing the challenge flag. It’s a gimmick that is supposed to alert everyone that the coach disagrees with the call on the field. You know, cause it’s red. But even the flag is a bit too subtle at times. A flare gun on the other hand, would allow coaches to say to the refs in the most emphatic way possible, “YOU ARE A BLIND WASTE OF HUMAN DNA WHO I HOPE HAS HIS EYES CHEWED OUT BY RABID AIDS-CARRYING WOLVERINES.”

The flag must be thrown at the committing referee

Ever notice how refs seem to revel in calling a penalty on a specific player in front of 70,000 people? This would put the shoe on the other foot. And if coaches had to actually throw the red flag in the direction of the ref they disagreed with? Holy shit would that be entertaining. Can you imagine if this were in play when Jim Harbaugh was RAGE FROTHING week one versus the Packers? A ref could’ve been killed.

Make the backup QB throw it

Unless your name is Tim Tebow, being a backup QB pretty much means you’re a cheerleader in pads. Your job is to A.) Hold a clipboard and B.) Dish out as many butt slaps, high-fives and bro hugs as possible as reward for good play. But if they actually had a role in challenges? Imagine the quarterback controversies that would ensue from some 7th round draft pick throwing the flag 70 yards downfield on a rope.

Add a new penalty for upheld challenges

This wouldn’t fundamentally change anything about throwing the flag, but it might cause it to be thrown less. Instead of penalizing the team by taking away a timeout (because if you’re Andy Reid, you have no idea how to use them anyway), I suggest after two failed challenges, the other team gets a Power Play, which would allow them to take one of the challenging team’s players off the field for a quarter. Call it the three strikes and you’re out rule.

Throw a piece of equipment

Most NFL coaches these days are hooked up like they’re going into the damn Matrix. And while there’s something to be said about the hilarity of watching a coach frantically search for the red flag tucked in his waist, why not just grab something immediately within reach? Obviously, most coaches would start off with your basic removable items like hats and headsets. But eventually, you have to think the more hotheaded coaches like Rex Ryan would start launching TV monitors or Gatorade jugs onto the field.

Put it on the scoreboard

Currently, here’s what modern NFL stadiums feature on their scoreboard:

  • The score
  • The time
  • The weather
  • The down and distance
  • Other scores from the league
  • Scores from other sports
  • Stock tickers (likely for the owners)
  • Replays of the game
  • Disney movies to shut your kids up

And only one of those is made up. Doesn’t it make sense to just go ahead and give the coach a buzzer to alert the scoreboard guy when he wants to challenge a play? People are watching it 70% of the time anyway.

Start sponsoring the red flag

This is probably going to happen within the next year anyway, but if we have to keep seeing the red flag get thrown onto the field, let’s at least have some fun with the possibilities of ridiculous taglines. A few just off the top of my head:

  • The divorce attorneys of Davis & Davis “Mutual Differences” challenge flag
  • Stein Optical ‘Going Blind’ challenge flag
  • Gamblers Anonymous ‘Are you trying to throw the game?’ challenge flag

The possibilities are endless.


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