Earlier in the offseason, it sounded as though there was a lot of support for the idea of adding an eighth official, a proverbial ‘sky judge’ as the XFL had, to officiating crews on game day, who would be positioned in a booth with monitors and would be able to consult with the on-field officials in order to have an extra set of eyes and the ability to review plays, in the hopes of getting things right the ‘first’ time.
Yet when the Competition Committee finally put out its own proposals for rules consideration for May’s owners meetings, there was no mention of such in their own recommendations. They only made two recommendations, pertaining to protections for return men and a dead-ball loophole.
A proposal made by the Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Chargers is being considered for what is being called a booth umpire, and another for a Senior Technology Adviser. But neither of these positions would be equivalent to what the sky judge was in the XFL, and, more damaging, the fact is that the proposals made by teams never pass.
A year after trying and failing to properly implement a review system that would allow for the correction of egregious errors in either calling or not calling pass interference penalties, the Competition Committee is not only abandoning that project, but also failing to introduce anything else that would act as a secondary correcting agency for the mistakes on-field officials make that don’t fall under the parameters of the current rules system.
One does have to wonder how long the NFL can hold out on expanding its use of technology to improve the accuracy of its officiating, which, according to reports, is already a concern within the league offices. Accuracy of officiating is more important than ever now that betting has entered the discussion.
Other sports have been much quicker to adopt more meaningful uses of technology and have seamlessly integrated it into their game, foremost among them perhaps being tennis, which can quickly and easily determine whether or not a ball was hit inbounds.
We are talking about a sport that still relies upon part-time employees holding ten-yard chains and trusting them to actually spot the ball, and the chains, exactly where they ought to be. Recent years and social media attention have shown that this is frequently not a very accurate system.
When you bill yours sport as a game of inches, it’s pretty important to make sure you know what an inch is, and where that inch is. If sharks can have lasers, why can’t the chain gang?