For 2014, the NFL has decided to allow the league office to talk directly to the referee before and during a replay review. The direct involvement of the league office could be the first step toward removing the replay function from the stadiums entirely.
“I think we’re moving toward a system where replays are going to be conducted by the command center in New York,” Giants co-owner John Mara tells the team’s official website. “I don’t think we’re there yet, but I see us moving in that direction.”
Mara explained that the involvement of the league office will be the first test of technology that potentially could facilitate the entire replay process.
“I think we’re going to experiment this year with communication between the command center and the referee,” Mara said. “I think there is a feeling on the part of some people that the referee still needs to be involved. Other people would argue that the system in college works quite well, the referee doesn’t have any involvement and that decision gets made upstairs. In the NHL, those decisions get made in their command center, the referee really isn’t involved in that. I can see us being in a position someday where our replay calls are done from the command center. We’re just not there yet.”
There’s no reason to keep the replay function in the hands of the referee, if the technology proves to be reliable. When it comes to properly applying the standard for overturning or upholding rulings on the field, the referees haven’t been reliable.
While it’s one thing to make a mistake while trying to dodge 300-pound armored men in real time, it’s another to bungle the examination of a video monitor during a delay of the game that can take five minutes or longer. Having the same people in New York handle the review process in a setting where factors like weather, the home crowd, the coach, and the overall background noise won’t be an issue will promote consistency — and accuracy — in the rulings.
“I think you get more consistency, because you have the same two or three people making the calls all of the time,” Mara said. “I think in terms of interpretation and consistency, it would improve in that area and possibly it would be more efficient. You wouldn’t have to wait for the referee to run all the way over to the sideline and get under the hood and crank up the machine. You’d have the decisions made much faster. I think in college the decision gets made faster. We originally had that system that they used in college back when replay was first introduced but we didn’t think that it worked well because the people that we had in the press box making the call were basically retired officials. We didn’t think we had enough capable people to have that system work very well, so we moved away from it and got back to just the referee making the call on the field. You still have up to 16 different referees working on any given weekend. That sometimes leads to calls that some people would view as being inconsistent and having inconsistent standards. If we can come up with a way to have it done in the command center, maybe it would lead to more consistency.”
There’s no “maybe” about it. With V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino and one or two others making the decisions in real time all the time, the rulings would be a lot more consistent than they are now.