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Replay assistants finally come under scrutiny

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The officiating blunders that occurred in Week 10 made us wonder whether it was Week Three all over again.

In one respect, it was.

The common thread between the replacement officials and the regular officials is the replay assistants.  Hidden high above field level with access to every camera angle, the replay assistants must decide whether to engage the NFL’s equivalent of the bat signal after scoring plays, after turnovers, during the final two minutes of either half, and during overtime.

The standard is simple.  Absent indisputable visual evidence that the call on the field was correct, the replay assistant must buzz down to the referee for the full-blown, on-field replay review by the man in the white hat.  If the replay assistant doesn’t call for the referee to review the play at field level, the play stands as called.

If the button isn’t pressed, the play still technically has been reviewed.  But it hasn’t been reviewed by the referee.

Executing this standard has proven at times not to be so simple.  Two Thursdays ago, a touchdown catch by Chargers tight end Antonio Gates cried out for an on-field review, with Gates losing control of the ball while going to the ground.  Though the call likely would have been upheld via on-field review, it needed to be reviewed by the referee.  Last Thursday, a goal-line touchdown plunge by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck appeared to be the correct call, but it was sufficiently unclear to compel on-field review.

On Sunday, an obvious fumble by Broncos return specialist Trindon Holliday was simply missed by the replay assistant.  Which meant that the referee never had a chance to look at whether the ruling should have been changed from touchdown to touchback.

The problem seems to be that the replay assistants just aren’t good enough.

NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos, who spent more than a decade working as an official (in his first career NFL game, Jim was the recipient of Jerry Glanville’s “not for long” rant) and more than a decade supervising officials, candidly explained during Monday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Network that the replay booth becomes the sanctuary of the officials who can’t cut the mustard on the gridiron.  The pay is less and the profile is lower, which means that the subpar officials end up with that assignment.

It’s not clear how the NFL will be able to solve this problem.  But it’s a problem the NFL needs to solve, either by tweaking the rules to allow coach’s challenges at all times, or by finding a way to upgrade the quality of these nameless and faceless folks who have a major impact on the outcome of games.

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14 Responses to “Replay assistants finally come under scrutiny”
  1. 1uniquename says: Nov 13, 2012 7:02 AM

    Actually I read somewhere that the guys in the booth are all former muppets from the 80’s. Damn Bert n Ernie always messing up a good gig for Kermit, freaking tag alongs.

  2. Patskrieg dot com says: Nov 13, 2012 7:08 AM

    The last play of Super Bowl XLIII anyone??

  3. prospero63 says: Nov 13, 2012 7:26 AM

    So in theory one of the reasons for the lockout was to have a system of accountability for officials. It’s time to see if someone “get’s benched” or if this was all just lip service.

  4. yooperman says: Nov 13, 2012 7:35 AM

    The replay both should not be for the officials that can’t cut the mustard. It should be a reward for the really good refs, that can no longer run up and down the field. This also sounds like the perfect place to fix a game, from the shadows.

  5. FinFan68 says: Nov 13, 2012 7:49 AM

    The auto review process is incomplete as it is. They only review plays that are CALLED TDs or turnovers. If the on-field ref calls the same play the other way it won’t be reviewed unless a coach burns a challenge. Treat all POTENTIAL scoring plays and possible turnovers like they treat questionable plays in the last 2-min. If it is close, review it. But that would require the replay official to actually pay attention to what he is doing. I personally feel the replay guy should have override authority to remove the need for the “old man waddle” to the hooded monitor. Just call down and tell the referee what the correct call is and where the ball should be spotted.

  6. FinFan68 says: Nov 13, 2012 7:50 AM

    The officiating errors are basically the same. The only real differences (between real vs. replacements) are the flow/timing is better (so the TV schedule is not hindered as much) and these officials are more confident in themselves and rarely question each other. Lack of confidence caused those marathon conferences in many replacement ref games. Most of the same mistakes are being made by these guys (poor spots, missed calls, phantom calls, obvious error even after replay, calling penalties on guys that were not on the field, microphone issues/bad explanations, game changing mistakes, etc.) but nobody is screaming about it any more because there are no “scabs” doing unionized jobs. Somehow these mistakes by the “real” refs have no impact on safety or game integrity but all replacement ref mistakes could have ended professional football as we know it. BS. The mistakes are just as frequent but are not as scrutinized or magnified by the media.

  7. pft0 says: Nov 13, 2012 8:05 AM

    Your picture says it all.

    The venerable Phill Lucket still being a liability for the league.

    That guy should have been let go years ago, he single handedly is responsible for the most officiating errors going back at least a decade (and for the firing of at least one head coach of the Colts, I think, on the Vinny Testaverde “phantom” touchdown, etc.) his record on huge mistakes is never ending (coin toss anyone?)

    Are the officials appointed for life, you know, like the supreme court judges or what is it that someone so bad can keep a job after so many high profile errors?

  8. mnviking1fan says: Nov 13, 2012 8:20 AM

    I still feel the correct way to go is that you have a half dozen refs or high up leage guys who have helped create the rules sitting at the nfl office in NY and have them decide. With todays technology the video can get to NY in real time and with doing this and having the top nfl staff involved they have noone but them selves to blame with a missed call. They do the same thing in the NHL.

  9. thingamajig says: Nov 13, 2012 9:16 AM

    The pay is less and the profile is lower, which means that the subpar officials end up with that assignment.

    But do they also have to blind? I’m sure I’d be a subpar official if I worked a game this weekend but I can watch a replay and tell you what happened.

  10. vietnambob2473 says: Nov 13, 2012 9:25 AM

    Everyone keeps going on about the missed trindon Holliday play but it had nothing to do with the outcome of the game, and the broncos gave the panthers a free garbage touchdown at the end to make up for it.

  11. skinsfaninnebraska says: Nov 13, 2012 10:01 AM

    It’s inexcusable how many times they STILL blow calls which are obvious to all of us Joe Sixpacks watching at home!

    It seems they’ve gone from one level of incompetence to two.

  12. bluebongzilla says: Nov 13, 2012 10:56 AM

    The Bryant play is a bad example. He had the ball secure and there was no indisputable visual evidence that he lost control after he hit the ground. I know the ball rolled slightly, but you can’t see whether his arm rotated with it or not.

  13. thestrategyexpert says: Nov 13, 2012 1:01 PM

    Well maybe next time the players negotiate their contract with the league maybe they should negotiate for the right to fine the league or have a 3rd party arbitrator adjudicate the injustices of times when the league fails at officiating the game the proper way. You can’t have everything.

    You either want to squeeze the league for every penny you can get so they can’t afford to manage the officiating, or you negotiate to hold them accountable.

  14. jelliot1978 says: Nov 13, 2012 4:59 PM

    @bluebongzilla if the ball rotated slightly I would agree but the ball did a quarter to half a turn and his arm did not move enough for a rotation like that. Even the former head of officiating thought it should have been overturned.

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