To err is human, but the NFL has never been too comfortable with the possibility of human error determining the outcome of important games. Thus, the league has spent the better part of the last quarter century working to devise a system that would somehow ensure fairness.

Instant replay was first introduced back in the 1986-1987 and 1991-1992 seasons -- not soon enough for the Houston Oilers, victimized by one of the worst calls in NFL history. Trailing the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-10 late in the third quarter of the 1979 AFC Championship game, Houston thought it had scored a game-tying touchdown, but the officials ruled WR Mike Renfro out of bounds, even though replays clearly showed he got both feet in.

The "Mike Renfro" game proved one of the catalysts for the NFL to explore a system where plays can be reviewed. Replay returned in 1999 and has become a part of the NFL landscape, but certainly not without controversy.

The most memorable play in the history of instant replay occurred in snowy Foxboro on January 19, 2002, when an apparent Tom Brady fumble against the Raiders was overturned, helping the Patriots advance to the AFC title game. Two weeks later, New England won Super Bowl XXXVI

It seems clear no system will ever make officiating mistake-proof, but it is fair to wonder how replay might have altered the course of history, had it existed as far back as the 1960's. Likewise, how might history be different today had instant replay never been introduced, and calls such as Brady's fumble had stood.

-- David Mosse

http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=2764251