The NFL had the opportunity earlier this offseason to approve a new rule that essentially adds a new official, a ‘sky judge’, that would have an open line of communication with the on-field officials and would allow the latter party to request insight from the former on calls for which they seek clarity.
They chose to table the vote altogether. But they did approve a preseason experiment for the role. And Peter King wonders if this isn’t actually just what the league wants—a way to quickly correct obviously wrong calls with essentially nobody really knowing that it’s happening.
King wonders if, at least within a crew that has an internal level of trust, maybe that upstairs replay official is talking to the referee with the communication piece in his ear to point out something that he thinks they should conference about and take a second look at. He even suggested that it could be used for Al Riveron to indirectly communicate with in-game officials.
I think most who are reading this already know my position. I am always going to be in support of ideas that seek to make the officiating more accurate and reliable. I would totally welcome a ‘sky judge’ role, somebody who has constant access to the video tape and can communicate with the on-field officials about what they see.
While the powers of this role can be (and in the case of this preseason trial, are) limited, the reality is that there is really no stopping the sky judge and the on-field officiating crew from communicating, and King feels as though this is what the league wants to be happening, anyway.
“Over the years, there have been some officials—call them letter-of-the-law refs—who will go strictly by the book; if the rules say the booth official cannot influence a call on the field, then the referee and crew will never change a call because of the replay official’s opinion”, King wrote.
“Other refs would have their calls influenced by the replay officials and be happy about the flow of bootleg information. Now, I think the league wants the replay officials to alert referees about plays that should be amended”.
The NFL has shown itself to be very reactionary when it comes to rule changes. We frequently see rules been changed, added, or removed based on a high-profile instance of that ruling coming to bite them in the ass the previous year. The catch rule, for example. The failed pass interference replay rule of last year. Removing the stupid rule that prevents a team from having a turnover reviewed if they throw a challenge flag for a play that is automatically reviewed (it still amazes me that this was ever a thing).