Replay has been a part of the game of football in the era of technology for quite a while now, for better or worse depending on whom you ask. I see it as a necessity of getting things right and keeping the game as fair as possible. Others think that it should be gotten rid of entirely. And that includes some owners, I don’t doubt. Art Rooney II has never been secretive about his feelings about replay.
That happens to be one area of the game in which I disagree with him, and I usually agree with his takes when he offers them on some of the issues of more global importance to the game. But either way, there is a significant proposal on the table to be considered by the Competition Committee next week that I think makes the biggest change to the process since it started.
The proposal, one from the committee itself, will essentially take the power out of the hands of the on-field official and transfer it instead to the head of officiating or a surrogate in order to make a final determination over whether or not to overturn a call on the field.
Gone will be the on-field booth that the referee slips under for untold amounts of time, only to reveal himself like a groundhog to share his divine wisdom. Instead, he will be given a tablet to watch videos on like a child while he is told what to say.
It was only last year that the league adopted a change in which the on-field official would now consult with the officiating department in the league office while reviewing a call. Now they were giving the ultimate power outright to the league office.
The proposed new language of rule strikes out the review as being conducted by “the Referee on a field-level monitor” and replaces it with, in part, “a designated member of the Officiating department at the League office”.
The proposed reason for making this change is to achieve “greater efficiency and consistency in the replay process”, and, to be honest, I don’t disagree with it. I think a non-on-field official is more likely to be in a better position to make a ruling than somebody looking at a tablet or in a little nickelodeon.
There is too much discrepancy between individual officials about how they tend to be more liberal or conservative with what constitutes sufficient evidence to overturn a call. Moving the actual decision to be made from the stable of officials to the league office should produce greater consistency in that regard.
Considering the league is also looking into adopting full-time officials as early as the start of the 2017 season, it would seem an unusual time to take more power out of their hands, but ultimately I don’t think it matters.