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
Time for concern after XFL TV ratings declined again last week?
For the second consecutive week, the XFL televison ratings continued to slide in the wrong direction. And, the troubling part is that if the trend continues, the XFL will have no leverage for sponsors and revenue to keep it going long term.
First, here are the specifics on the bad viewership news: According to Showbuzzdaily.com all four XFL broadcasts last Saturday and Sunday afternoon had lower ratings in their slot than the previous week.
That includes the Tampa Bay Vipers home debut against Houston, which was the early game on ABC Saturday. And, while that window had 400,000 less viewers than week 2, the bigger concern is ABC has lost almost 40% of the audience from the 3.3 million average that watched their Week one debut game on Saturday afternoon.
The ratings downward trend is following the same pattern as last Spring’s Alliance of American Football, where the ratings dwindled to under a million fans for broadcasts by week five and eventually the league shut down after just eight weeks. This was in part because of concerns on how the AAF could make any revenue, through television in specific, if they had very little audience for the end of year one and to sell off of for year two.
Now, WWE owner Vince McMahon, who folded the XFL the first time in 2001 in large part because the television audience plummeted over the course of the first month or so of its existence and never recovered, has the same issue in 2020.
And, as we wrote previously, this audience decline while negative is far less McMahon’s original XFL and it’s first season of 2001. That’s when, it debuted on its first Saturday night on NBC with a massive 10.1 rating, which translated 18 years ago to more than 9.5 viewers on network TV. A Smashing success.
However, the XFL’s ratings plummeted starting the following week and had fewer than 25% of that opening night audience just a month later with the games still being shown on a Saturday night coveted slot on NBC. It doomed the league from a P.R. and sponsor standpoint and McMahon pulled the plug.
Now, in 2020, McMahon reportedly has money to burn and is apparently prepared to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in year one. So, even if the XFL TV ratings continue come down significantly, it will not spell the end of the XFL (like it did nearly 20 years ago) after just a single season.
At least, that’s what we think.
Vipers better but drop third straight game in home opener
Although their play was improved offensively, in the end it wasn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Vipers after they dropped their third straight XFL game to start the season 34 – 27 to Houston Saturday afternoon in Tampa.
Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, as Houston scored early in the fourth quarter to go up by seven and held off the Viper the rest of the way.
The Vipers offense came to life after they had failed to score in the offensive touchdown in either of their first two games. Both of which were losses on the road. Quarterback Taylor Cornelius, subbing for starter Aaron Murray who missed his second straight game with an injured foot, once again had modest numbers 16-31 for 193 yards 1 TD, 1 INT.
However, he did pull the game even at 18 – 18 at the half after scoring on a one yard QB sneak and Tampa Bay got the two-point conversion.
Still, the former Oklahoma State quarterbacks day was inconsistent and the home crowd at Raymond James Stadium began to chant the name “Flowers, Flowers” for former USF Star Quarterback Quinton Flowers, who played sparingly for the third straight game in a reserve role.
Flowers got Tampa Bay’s first offensive TD on the young season with a seven yard run in the first quarter, but only played QB sparingly in the game, again. He was just 4-6 for 57 yards passing with 29 yards on six attempts on the ground.
Meanwhile, the former Temple star Walker found receiver Cam Phillips for the third of their three touchdown hookups from 17 yards out to give Houston a 34 – 27 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Phillips devastated Jerry Glanville’s Vipers defense for 194 yards receiving on eight catches with the three TDs.
The Vipers look like they were going to have a chance to re-tie the game when Cornelius (above) completed a pass to his top target on the day, Jaylen Tolliver, at the two-yard line. However just like a week ago in Seattle when a critical fourth quarter drive stalled and Tampa Bay came away with no points in a 17 – 9 lost the Dragons, the Vipers got no points after Cornelius threw incomplete on second, third and fourth downs.
Many in the crowd and observers in the media were curious, as to why coach Marc Trestman didn’t go to Flowers as the dual threat running QB to at least try something different on one of those plays? Flowers even questioned why he did not play more after the game to the media.
The Vipers got the ball one final time, but Cornelius was picked off near midfield with just over a minute left to seal the defeat.
The Vipers played the first spring professional football game in Tampa, since the closing of the USFL 1985 season. That’s when Steve Spurrier’s Tampa Bay Bandits were a popular item at Old Tampa Stadium. Saturday’s home opener drew and announced crowd of 18,117.
However it’s little consolation for former Bears and CFL coach Trestman and his team, as they remain winless on the season. The L.A. Wildcats playing Sunday are the other 0-2 team in the league, currently.
And, you have to wonder whether Trestman will be forced to go to Flowers for the start when they host the D.C. Defenders next week.