The next slate of owners meetings is scheduled to take place next week, during which they are expected to vote on a number of new rules proposals — some of which will pass, and some will not. According to Tom Pelissero, one of the proposals favored to be adopted is the folding into the role of replay official the ability to communicate in real time with on-field officials regarding play on the field.
The language of the proposal, submitted by the Competition Committee, describes the effect of the change as “permitting the Replay Official and designated members of the officiating department to communicate to the referee certain objective and administrative aspects of the game.” They cannot instruct officials to throw a flag.
The #Ravens have withdrawn their proposal to add an eighth official off the field (AKA the “sky judge”), but the competition committee’s proposal for expanded booth-to-official communication with video has strong support among coaches and is likely to pass next week, per sources.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) April 16, 2021
Basically, what the change does is turn the replay official into something of a game official with a more immediate and direct role, though with restrictions on his authority, serving in an advisory capacity. The on-field official will ultimately have final say, but the replay official can instruct the on-field officials about what they are unable to see without the benefit of TV camera angles and replay.
The replay official was already empowered to advise on-field officials on administrative matters, such as spotting the ball and clock management concerns, but this proposal expands his authority to weigh in on what is described as “objective aspects of play,” such as possession, the completion of a catch, loose ball and boundary matters, down by contact, and things of that nature.
It is worth noting that the Baltimore Ravens submitted a separate proposal that would have formally added an additional game official who operates in a booth, a concept often referred to as a ‘sky judge’ as adopted in other leagues. They have since withdrawn that proposal.
Proposals submitted by the Competition Committee are infinitely more likely to be adopted by the owners than those submitted by teams, which pretty much never are. Sometimes ideas originally submitted by teams will eventually be adopted by the Competition Committee, perhaps in an altered form, and passed years later.
This is far from the first time that a proposal has been submitted with the suggestion that there be some real-time advisory role between those with tape access for those on the field. Other leagues, such as the XFL, had already adopted this in the past. The NFL is often behind the times, so to speak, in matters such as this.