The NFL needs to decide whether to officiate in real time or review everything.


Things I think about late flags, Rex Ryan, NFL cops and beautiful matchmaking …

• The penalty flag that Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back William Gay drew for his hit on Browns wide receiver Ricardo Louis on Sunday was disturbing, but only because it appeared referee Craig Wrolstad’s crew watched the jumbotron replay before deciding to make the call.

Gay was assessed an infraction for illegal contact against a defenseless receiver, and, like it or not, the contact clearly seemed to fit within the context of the rule.

The problem is the flag came out nearly 30 seconds after the play ended. This creates a potentially dangerous precedent that could lead to more referees waiting for stadium replays before deciding whether an infraction occurred.

Worse, those situations could occur arbitrarily, and haphazard enforcement is the enemy of credible officiating.

We’re approaching the point where the NFL needs to decide whether to continue to enforce penalties in real-time with live humans or to monitor every snap of every game and hand out flags upon review.

If that’s the future of football, I’m not sure many people would be interested in watching it.

• Given the choice, I would rather watch Rex Ryan coach football than listen to him analyze it.

• Ezekiel Elloitt’s success in obtaining a temporary restraining order to trump his NFL-imposed six-game suspension has dragged the league into another messy, public legal battle that will have no winner in the end.

The accusations against Elliott of domestic violence involving his former girlfriend are reprehensible, but prosecutors’ decision not to charge Elliott has weakened commissioner Roger Goodell’s position.

This case, like those of Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, Adrian Peterson and others, demands the league take action. It also underscores the great flaw in its disciplinary process, namely that Goodell has too much power to investigate, hand out punishment and hear appeals.

The NFL has no choice but to finally create an independent panel drawn from outside the league and the players union to adjudicate disciplinary cases.

No matter how damaging the actions of players might be, the league’s tone-deaf approach to the process of policing them threatens to harm its brand even more.

• Whatever its flaws, give the NFL credit for scheduling wins, even if they appear to be serendipitous sometimes.

A week after picking up their first win, Bills general manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott will return to Charlotte to face their old team, the Panthers, who just happened to look menacing again in a season-opening 23-3 victory over the 49ers.

Meanwhile, the Packers and Falcons, both coming off Week 1 victories, open Atlanta’s $1.6 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship Game.

Both matchups are reminders of how irresistible the league can be when it makes smart decisions.

John Dudley can be reached at 870-1677 or john.dudley@timesnews.com. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ETNdudley.