Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II made it pretty clear in his comments yesterday that he was not a big fan of the half-dozen or so rule proposals set to be considered next week at the annual league meetings that seek to expand the usage of the replay system, allowing more plays, including penalties, to be reviewable.
However, that doesn’t mean that he’s opposed to everything on the table, and there is even one proposal he is willing to entertain that does affect the officiating aspect of the game. The Competition Committee is expected to entertain a proposal about adding a full-time eighth official to crews.
Whether that eighth official will serve in an on-field capacity or be in the booth is another matter. Rooney said that he would not support the former, but regarded the latter idea as being “probably worth some consideration”.
A booth official, also colloquially referred to as a ‘sky judge’, would have the ability to review every play of the game in real time using video analysis and would have the opportunity to relay information to the on-field crew—such as getting a second look at a play, or perhaps even slow motion, etc.—that they otherwise would not have access to.
“If anything, I think the question would be: do we add an eighth official to be the sky judge? And the consideration there, for me, would be does that take some of the pressure off the league office to have a lot of plays reviewed by the league office, as opposed to plays actually being reviewed in the stadium?”, Rooney said.
“I think there is some merit to the idea to have the crew at the stadium really have control of the officiating of the game, and so that part of it is probably worth some consideration”.
For what it’s worth, the Alliance of American Football is experimenting with the use of a ‘sky judge’ in its league right now, and there have been a couple of instances in which that extra pair of eyes from off the field has come in handy to intervene to make the right call.
The NFL is surely watching this play out—it’s not exactly a secret that the league is interested in monitoring the AAF’s progress, and many are involved, their network even airing games—and using that data to drive their decisions.
In fact, I would expect the AAF to be routinely used as an incubator of sorts for ideas that the NFL would hope to consider in the future. The league’s co-founder, Bill Polian, is deferential to a fault about the AAF as an incubator of talent for the NFL, so why not ideas as well?
Rooney also indicated support for the rule proposal that would allow both teams in overtime to get at least one possession. Of the four or five postseason games that have gone into overtime since the rules were changed, three have been won on the first possession. Including the Tim Tebow game.