AAF Presents Replay Innovations NFL Should Be Considering

Brace yourselves for your daily fix of the Alliance of American Football. I might as well prepare you now that we will probably be spending some time talking about this new upstart league during the next month or so in the dead time for the NFL between the end of the Super Bowl and the start of free agency because, frankly, there is plenty of room to make it a part of the conversation.

While the NFL is not directly investing in the AAF, they are collaborating in some ways, with the NFL Network broadcasting 20 of the league’s 40 games. The AAF—which features mostly NFL alumni such as Bill Polian in charge—even has clauses in their contracts that allow their players to sign with NFL teams at any point, a clause that doesn’t apply to any other football league.

So I think it’s fair to say the AAF wants the NFL’s attention, and the NFL is intrigued. The AAF could potentially be used as a lab for ideas in the NFL as well, and one of the things that could potentially be looked at is the new league’s approach to the review process—which admittedly and unsurprisingly, could use some work.

There are two key aspects of the review process that differ from the NFL’s. The biggest and most significant is the fact that there is a replay official whose job it is to monitor the game for egregious errors that he has the authority to correct. A similar role has been proposed by some for the NFL recently, and was even an idea originally floated by Dan Rooney.

The ‘sky judge’, as it’s being called, will not be on the field but rather in the press box as he views the game, equipped with all of the technology necessary to be able to review calls on the fly with enough time to signal to the on-field officials that an egregious error had been made.

Unless I’m mistaken, this hasn’t yet been a factor in the four games played over the weekend, but we have seen the other major component that differs from the NFL in the review process, which is the blatant transparency.

The replay official wears a microphone and is broadcast on the program while he is going through the process of making the determination to either allow the call on the field to stand or to overturn it.

No doubt the decision by the AAF heads to take this approach was facilitated by the skepticism that many fans hold to the authenticity of the process in the NFL. Al Riveron wearing a New England Patriots jersey is a pretty popular meme, after all.

If these features go over well during the AAF, then it’s something that the NFL may well consider for themselves, either in the near or more distant future. This new league is of course in its very early stages and we’re watching everything unfold now, but some of their ideas are intriguing.

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