Owners have excellent opportunity to streamline replay

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When the NFL first used the replay system as a tool for correcting bad calls on the field, the decisions were made in the replay booth.  After a decade or so without replay review of any kind, the procedure returned a decade or so ago with the referee physically performing the inspection of the available camera angles on the field.

There are reasons supporting the notion of having the captain of the officiating crew be the one to engage in the actual second-guessing of a call made in real time by another member of the officiating crew.  But those reasons fail under the weight of the reasons for returning the process upstairs, as the Bills wisely have proposed.

And so, when the owners take up the question on Wednesday, here are five compelling reasons for taking the replay process back upstairs.

1.  It will take less time.

One of the biggest complaints about the entire replay process comes from the amount of time it takes.  While the actual inspection of the video is limited, the process of getting the referee in position to review the video consists of multiple opportunities for delay.

He walks to the sideline.  He puts on the headset.  He talks into the headset.  He gets under the hood.  He stays under the hood.  He emerges from the hood.  He talks on the headset again.  He takes off the headset.  He talks to the coach.  He talks to other members of the crew.  He walks to the middle of the field.  He turns on his microphone.  He announces the outcome.

Sending it back to the booth eliminates the dog-and-pony aspect of the protocol.  The official in the booth reviews the angles, makes a decision, tells the official, the officials tells the rest of us, and the game proceeds.

That’s reason enough to do it.  But five reasons always sound better than one.

2.  The booth provides a better environment for studying the replays.

The chances of performing any work that requires a high degree of attention in the best way possible are increased when the work is performed in the quietest possible conditions.  So when choosing between a closed booth with multiple screens and relative serenity or a portable peep show that is viewed in the elements and noise and activity of the pit of a football stadium, which environment is more conducive to making good decisions?

For that reason, the NFL should go one step farther and consider conducting all replay at the league’s war room in Manhattan, just as the NHL reviews all questionable goals in Toronto.  It’s the closest thing to a detached laboratory setting.

3.  The current system disrupts the referee’s overall work flow.

Being a referee entails a far different skill set than analyzing a TV screen.  Forcing the referee to stop what he’s doing and do just that necessarily takes him out of whatever groove he otherwise may be in.

Sure, plenty of referees can adapt.  But why should they have to when there’s a perfectly good alternative?

4.  The mobile replay booth can go on the fritz.

On multiple occasions over the years, problems have arisen with the replay equipment.  With a rolling box on the sidelines into which the images are pumped remotely, that’s just another piece of machinery that can fail while in use.

While this doesn’t mean that the replay booth won’t have technical issues, the monitors in  the booth remain in a static, controlled environment once they are connected to the network truck, making them necessarily more reliable than the contraption that is in the open air, on the field.

Also, getting rid of the on-field HD boxes makes the overall system cheaper.

5.  No one complains about the college system.

For years now, college football has allowed replay decisions to be made upstairs.  And there has never been a single complaint that the system needs to be taken out of that person’s hands and sent down to the field.

That should count for something, especially in light of the many complaints about the replay process that the NFL now uses.

And so, as the owners consider the rule changes for 2012, here’s hoping that they consider one that could go a long way toward making the replay system more accurate, reliable, and ultimately more efficient.

28 responses to “Owners have excellent opportunity to streamline replay

  1. There is one major complaint about the college system: sometimes the refs obviously made the wrong call and the replay booth doesn’t stop the game to review it.
    The dumb announcers and fans are left wondering what the hell just happened.

  2. 6. The head ref is usually very tight with his crew. They don’t like to overturn each other’s-or their own-calls. A replay official won’t have the same connection, making it easier to overturn blown calls.

  3. 100% agreement with this article. The current system needs to be rectified — they gotta go to the booth.

  4. Well stated Mike! I’ve thought for years that the booth on the field is just a sham, a way for the league to show that the on-field refs still control the game.
    In this day and age it is ridiculous to think that a guy looking at a small screen with a sun/rain shield can see it as well as the guy in the booth and all of us at home with our big screen HD’s.
    Every crew should have a replay official, and when the red flag is thrown, they look and respond quickly.
    The official in the booth is already in the game – he decides what needs a 2nd look in the last two minutes of each half, and he does the quick confirmation on touchdowns.

  5. 6 – A ref is less likely to overturn his own call (ie. admit to his own mistake), whether it is right or wrong. An “impartial” booth review wouldn’t have to be admitting a mistake to overturn a call.

  6. Not sure you have ever watched the college reply system but only thing that the ref does not do is go under the hood.

    The ref still walks to the sideline, puts on a headset, talks into the headset, wait for the replay official to make the call, talks to the other officials, talks to the coach, and finally walks to the middle of the field to announce the outcome.

    So the only thing you are cutting out is the ref going under the hood.

    The only thing that would change is that someone else besides the head official would be making the call the process is still the same.

    Oh and the college replay equipment can also malfunction.

  7. It should be mentioned that the officials on the field don’t even use full-HD monitors, which means that the replay I see at home is actually a little clearer than what the ref is looking at.

  8. I like this change as long as it is coupled with a commitment by the league to start following it’s own rules.

    The rules have stated all along that the referee once under the hood had no more than 60 seconds to make the call. While I agree that the time it takes to get the ref under the hood adds to the delay, I have absolutely seen referees spend two to three times longer than the rules allow reviewing the play.

    So the fact is that this change will shorten delays ONLY if an enforceable time limit is placed upon the booth official. I would go so far as to place a timer on the monitors that shuts them off when the limit is reached.

    Otherwise, the only thing that will change about the delays is the person causing them.

  9. 6. The league makes billions of dollars in profits every year and can easily afford the expense of having remote review.

    In fact, fewer replay review delays = more time for commercials = more money for the NFL. Not really the way I’d care to see it, but that will be the reality once they realize they’re shaving five minutes off telecasts. They’ll fill that space with something.

  10. Yes, do this. In fact, have a designated league office conducting the replays, a la Mike Pereira. Someone completely arbitrary to the crew on the field.

  11. One more reason: You remove a lot of the resentment and hatred directed at the head official by delegating a possibly contentious and divisive to a nameless guy who nobody sees or knows. I’ll never forgive Walt Coleman for the insanely stupid reversal of his ruling in the 08 Ravens-Steelers game to indisputably declare that Santonio Holmes broke the plane when it was the most disputable claim in the history of disputable claims.

  12. The best reason to support having all replays being conducted in the NFL war room a la the NHL?


    Reviewing them in the war room would eliminate the inconsistent rulings that exist between different crews. “Was that a catch or not a catch” would no longer be dependent on the officiating crew in charge of that particular game as the same set of eyes would be reviewing every play.

  13. 100 % thumbs up. And please get rid of the childish “throw the red flag.” A business worth billions of dollars and the best they can come up with is throwing a 2 dollar red handkerchief? Thats ridiculous.

  14. I’ve said this at least a dozen times on this site:

    They need to use rugby’s replay system. The referee has an earpiece and simply makes a box with his hands if he needs a review. The TV official then speaks directly into his ear. It usually only takes a few seconds.

    Then again, that would limit commercial time, and the networks would not be happy about that.

    Here’s an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMIkVTOpoBo

  15. The announcement of the call should come from the booth over the PA in a voice made to sound like the bellowing voice of God.

  16. I don’t care if it is done in the booth, the league office, or on Mars as long as the guy making the call can in fact make the call! None of this “irrefutable evidence” crap. If the play is disputed, the person reviewing the call looks at all of the views and makes the call. Hell I would even be in favor of him not knowing what the call on the field is. Someone asks him, “in or out”, “fumble or not”, “completion or not”. That way he has no bias. He makes the call with all the HD, super slow motion shots that are available. He gets 60 seconds to make a call the ref on the field had less than a second to make!

  17. I propose they leave the hood on the field and use it to reenact the play. Using puppets.

  18. One more thing. They have to post a screen shot or shots that led them to make the call they did somewhere on line for every play the officiate. And the Head of NFL officiating has 72 hours to say wether or not the replay guy got it right!

  19. If the NFL goes to remote replay review, there should probably be cameras on the replay crew, wherever it is located. A lot of fans already don’t trust Goodell… imagine what would happen if a critical playoff call went to the NFL equivalent of the Deal or No Deal banker in a dark room, and the result wasn’t something people expected. That would get really ugly.

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