McDaniel's Red Flags

In a recent post by BShrout, part of his Just! Do! Your! Job! segment, he discussed his dislike of the color yellow. This was a review of how penalties played a part in certain parts of the Broncos season. I wanted to take a look at the other flags used on a football field, the challenge flags.

In 1993, when the current challenge system was put into place, along with instant replay, it changed that way the game was played, and according to's Top Ten Things that Changed the Game, it was the #5 thing that changed the game. Now challenge rules allow for two challenges for each team during a game. A third challenge can be awarded to a team only if they are successful in both of their previous challenges. Now on a side note, you shouldn't kick these flags either, it might end badly. So McD had a totally opportunity to challenge 32 plays, up to 48 if he go 100%. So that's a lot of plays, and were going to take a look at each flag he threw. Now I did as much research as I could, but I also got assistance from BShrout on some of the plays.

Over the 16 games played last season, McDaniels challenged a total of 9 plays. Now this may not seen like much, but I found coaches rarely throw over 15, most throw around 10. Now it is a whole other post that would deal with the price of tossing a challenge flag, and how often you should do it, but this will just take a look at McDaniels work this past season at throwing that flag.


In the words of TJ Johnson:

In the NFL in 2009, coaches were only successful using instant replay for challenges 32% of the time.   While throwing those red (or sometimes pink) flags are good exercise for the rotator cuff, they don't often result in overturning a call on the field.  

Lets take a gander at McDaniels track record:

Week 1: Cincinnati

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 2: Cleveland

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 3: Oakland

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 4: Dallas

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 5: New England

- First flag was thrown in the first quarter, during the second Broncos possession of the quarter, at the 5:33 mark. It was 1st and 10 from the Denver 35, Orton passes to Moreno for a 7 yard gain, Moreno is hit, and fumbles the ball, recovered by McGowan of the Patriots. McDaniels challenges the fumble, the ruling on the field is upheld. After watching the replay of this video at, I found that it might have been close, but if Moreno was saying he was down, and it was close, you have to show you trust your players. I would make a similar call, you are in your own territory, you don't want Tom Brady to have the ball and only 35 yards to go. New England would score a field goal on the drive, putting them up 10 to 0.

- Second challenge was in the second quarter, 1st Patriots possession of that quarter. It was 2nd and 10, New England's ball, and Brady threw to Baker for a 3 yard gain. Denver challenged the ruling, the ruling was then reversed to an incomplete pass. While it wasn't very clear the Baker got his feet in bounds, it was a risky call but also at a key time. Had he failed, McDaniels would have been without a challenge the remainder of the game, which isn't good considering it was still the first half. Here's Brian Shrout's take on the play:

IMHO, this was a good challenge as it gave the defense a breather... By challenging, the defense got a chance to regroup. This proved to be doubly important as on the next play -- Where NE tried to position themselves for a long FG -- the Patriots drew an Unnecessary Roughness penalty that forced to punt.

Week 6: San Diego

- No challenge flags were thrown

Week 7: Bye

- 4 flags were thrown, but no one cared.

Week 8:Baltimore

- 1st quarter, Broncos ball, 3:00 minutes remaining. 2nd and 9, Orton passes to Moreno for -5 yards, where he is hit, fumbles, and it is recovered by Baltimore's Suggs. McDaniels challenges the fumble, or rather whether Moreno had control of the ball before he fumbled, the ruling on the field stands. After reviewing the play myself, it was clear Moreno had caught the ball, tucked it in, and started running when he was hit. While I wouldn't normally challenge this play, Baltimore would have had the ball on the Denver 23, not a good situation, they would automatically be in field goal range. So while it was risky, McD may have felt it was worth it. Ravens kick a field goal, putting them up 3-0.

Week 9: Pittsburgh

- 2nd quarter, 7:45 left in the half, Denver has the ball and it was 3rd and 5 on the Steelers 39. Orton throws a short pass to Gaffney, but ruled an incomplete pass. Denver challenges, but ruling is upheld. It was fairly obvious that Gaffney didn't have control of the ball when he managed to get his second foot down, but because of their success so far, keeping that momentum going, especially when you are behind is key. Luckily Pittsburgh didn't score for the remainder of the half. Here is Brian's thoughts:

If you look strictly at the results and the later replays, this was an ill-considered challenge. Replays clearly showed that Gaffney lost possession prior to getting his 2nd foot on the ground. If you choose to take a broader view, this was, at the very least, a reasonable challenge... Denver had been moving the ball well -- that had just picked up 18 yards on a 3rd & 8 -- until Hochstein picked up a False Start penalty that made it 1st & 15. And incomplete pass was followed by a 10 yard pass to Marshall.

- It was the 4th quarter, Denver had the ball and it was 3rd and 10 on the Denver 26. Orton was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Pittsburgh. This was challenged and reversed. This was a fantastic and very necessary call. Had the ball changed hands that close to the goal line, Pittsburgh would have walked away with a field goal at least. After watching the play, it was clear the Orton was bumped while trying to get the ball off, making it an incomplete pass. While it didn't change the game, it did allow Denver to not get in a bigger hole then it was already in. Brian has a few words to share:

This was a good challenge. When trailing by 2 scores in the 4th quarter, a team has to challenge anything that would result in a change of possession. Replays clearly show that it was an aborted pass: As Orton's arm came forward for the throw, Pittsburgh's Keisel destroyed Weigmann and shoved him in front of Orton's arm. The ball hit the side of Weigmann's helmet just after leaving Orton's hand.

Week 10: Washington

- No challenge flags were thrown

Week 11: San Diego

- 2nd quarter, 2nd Broncos possession, with 2:06 remaining, it was 1st and 4 on the San Diego 4 yard line. Moreno rushes up the middle for a 3 yard gain, and fumbles. McDaniels challenges the ruling, but the ruling on the field stands. After watching the play myself, it wasn't a matter of a fumble or not, he obviously lost control of the ball, but to me it seemed he crossed the plain of the end zone before fumbling, thus causing a touchdown, not a fumble at all. I watched it quite a few times, but each time, it seemed the ball and his arms crossed that plane. This was also a key time, nearing the end of the 2nd quarter, down, and needing that score. But on the plus side, San Diego was forced to punt on their drive.

Week 12: New York Giants

- 3rd quarter, Giants ball. On 3rd and 2 on the Denver 34 with 9:34 remaining, Eli Manning throws a pass to Manningham for a 10 yard gain. McDaniels challenges whether the pass was a completion or not, but the ruling on the field is upheld. This was a risky call, since it was pretty clear that Manningham had his feet in bounds, but because of the field position and the fact that this was a key 3rd down, it might have been worth it in McDaniels mind. The Giants had been struggling to move the ball in the first half, but had started to pick up the pace, so stopping them here would have been a big change to halt that momentum. But no matter how you look at it, it was pretty clear he was in bounds. New York would go on to score a field goal, making it 16-3.

Week 13: Kansas City

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 14: Indianapolis

- No challenge flags thrown

Week 15: Oakland

- Oakland had the ball in the 2nd quarter with 8:29 remaining. On 3rd and 6 on the Denver 48, Frye passes the ball to Murphy for 7 yards and a 1st down. Denver challenges the pass completion and it was upheld. From a perspective at the time, this was a terrible call, it was apparent that he was in bounds. And I would agree that this was a terrible call, but Brian has a though about this as well:

The following should also be considered: Oakland was leading 7-6. After holding the Raiders through 2 downs, Denver drew a Roughing the Passer penalty on Dumervil which gave Oakland the 1st down. After holding the Raiders to 4 yards on 2 runs, Denver had a chance to break Oakland's momentum if they won the challenge. The effect of this challenge was to serve as a time out as much as anything else.

Week 16: Philadelphia

- With 14:18 remaining in the 1st quarter, and the ball on the Denver 32, Denver takes the ball on 3rd and 10. Orton throws a pass to the flat, but it was ruled a backwards pass and recovered and returned for a touchdown by Philadelphia. Denver challenges the play and it was reversed. This was an great challenge, whenever you are in a game where you know it will be tough, and the opposing team scores like that, you have to challenge. Whether or not the play could have been reversed is dangerously close to no, but it was and it allowed Denver to not get in a hole that early in the game. While it was ruled an incomplete and Denver punted it away, it saved them from an even bigger lose then what actually happened. Brian has a nice take on the play:

This was a play that announcers said had to be challenged. I'd be inclined to agree. You cannot allow the opposition to score on a turnover on the 3rd offensive play of the game. It's hard to say whether or not the play should have been reversed. One angle gives the perception that the ball did, in fact, travel backwards. A different angle gives the impression that the ball traveled forward slightly before dropping to the ground and then rolling behind the line of scrimmage. The referee apparently felt that the ball had traveled forward first.

Week 17: Kansas City

- No challenge flags thrown.


  • Success rate: 6 failed to 3 succeed, or a 33% success rate, or about completely average.
  • McDaniels challenged 6 plays when the Broncos were on offense to 3 plays when they were on defense.
  • Of the 3 successful challenges, 2 were offensive plays, 1 was defensive. This matches perfectly with the 33% success ratio actually, I was kind of surprised it worked that well.
  • Of the offensive challenges, Moreno was part of 3 of them, all fumbles, and while this may look bad, it shows McDaniels trust in Moreno, plus the fact that this includes almost all of Moreno's fumbles. If the Vikings challenged every one of Adrian Peterson's fumbles, they'd be in a lot of trouble.
  • Overall, I question some of McDaniels challenges, but overall I think he did a pretty average job, some good challenges, some he had to make because just giving them the turnover was to risky.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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