While the NFL tabled discussion about a potential expansion of the officiating staff to include a ‘sky judge’ role that would allow an in-game official to consult with the on-field referees with the benefit of video review that he can use, the idea is far from dead.
“There was some discussion about, and there were some proposals about adding a so-called sky judge, which some of the coaches are strongly in favor of”, Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II recently told the team’s website. The owners were willing to listen to the coaches last year, so strong support from the team’s coaches could help this effort as well.
“That didn’t have any real support, or large support”, from the ownership group, he said, however. At least in the current form. “They are going to potentially experiment with some version of it in the preseason, but I would say that content has a long way to go”.
Rooney, of course, has been on record on numerous occasions of being opposed to most anything that would expand replay or officiating roles, generally things that would run the risk of slowing down the pace of the game or introducing additional variables, in other words, more things that can go wrong.
“What we thought we could do in the preseason, this test allows for the ref to have communication with the replay assistant”, said Rich McKay, the head of the Competition Committee and the president of the Atlanta Falcons, via the AP and Barry Wilner. “We have always allowed that communication, and now there are more areas given them to seek consultation. We always liked that idea”.
McKay sounds a little more optimistic than Rooney, but the long and short of it is that it sounds likely the owners will later this offseason approve of a preseason experiment to allow this role, in some capacity, to be implemented. This was already on the strength of the recommendation of the Competition Committee, which I talked about earlier this week.
I would imagine that regular readers can already divine my opinions on this subject. I am always in favor of ways to improve the accuracy of officiating, and I believe this is something that has the potential, if implemented with any semblance of order, to be of service to that task.
I look forward to seeing how it is utilized in the preseason, assuming we do get to that point, not only in how it works, but also in what the limitations of its powers will be. The NFL is gun-shy right now after the pass interference review rule that was horribly botched last year.