As the off-season chugs along with free agency and draft evaluation going on, another very interesting aspect is any potential changes in the rules and the officiating. And next week, the NFL owners will be considering how, if it all, to alter the use of instant replay to officiate potential penalties that were missed by the on field crew.
Obviously, this comes on the heels of the very controversial moment at the end of the NFC Championship Game. That’s when, the on-field officials clearly missed pass interference on the Rams that would have allowed the New Orleans Saints have a first down, and very likely kick a field goal to win the game in the final seconds to go to the Super Bowl. There has been tremendous outcry, from the Saints and their fans specifically, but a lot of fan bases and observers in the NFL, too, that replay should expand to include calls being missed.
However, whether 24 of the 32 owners will actually eventually agree on how to implement this: is a whole other story.
One suggestion that has already been embraced by the new spring Alliance of American Football league is to use an extra referee in the press box, who is only looking at video replays. And, that official becomes the “sky judge,” who can immediately Buzz down and call a penalty that wasn’t called on the field.
On Friday, Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and former Buccaneers GM who chairs the very important NFL Competition Committee, basically dismissed any talk that their committee would recommend to the owners let there be an extra sky judge put in for NFL games.
This sky judge idea seems like a no-brainer, especially with technology in 2019 and the fact that, the NFL is already utilizing a “Central Replay Command Center” in New York to officiate calls and overrule the referees on the field, if they miss them. It seems simpler and it seems easier to have someone on site do this with replay, too, but apparently, the NFL is not embracing it yet.
There is also another proposal that will be discussed by the competition committee, but it’s unclear as to whether it will go to a vote of the owners, either. That proposal being suggested by the Redskins is: a coach would now be able to say the on field officials that they are challenging a specific penalty on a specific player that they want reviewed. Currently, penalty review is not allowed under replay rules.
Apparently, the New England Patriots advanced a similar idea previously but it gained no traction either.
Obviously, there is a strong consideration that has to be made for how much longer games are going to be, especially with replay reviews, going on to constantly challenge penalties.
We at F.F.I., and everyone else, should want to see critical calls that are obviously wrong be corrected and, hopefully, quickly.
However, we also understand, and everybody else should too, that you could be opening a real “Pandora’s Box,” when you start talking about the ability of coaches to challenge judgement calls on penalties or non-called penalties. It will will cause more delays, and more times than not, you will have the refs “cop out” with the “call on the field stands.”
In the end, we will eagerly await to see what the competition committee wants to recommend and what the owners vote on next week at their annual meetings being held in Phoenix
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