On Friday morning, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hinted that the league may use increased technology to support the officiating function during the 2015 postseason. The NFL has separately confirmed that improvements are possible.
“There are some items under consideration,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told PFT by email. “Not able to get into specifics.”
Expanded use of the formal replay process isn’t the answer. The NFL needs to use replay not as a stand-alone second look but as part of the first look, with either the league office or a dedicated member of the officiating crew using the available video angles to correct mistakes in real time, contacting the referee through the communication device the league now uses to tell the referee when an error has occurred.
PFT recently reported that the NFL is considering providing assistance to the officials in stand-alone games, fixing obvious administrative mistakes that folks in the league office notice unrelated to the actual making of calls during games. NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino recently explained during a visit to PFT Live the concerns regarding the potential use of an in-game video official.
“The idea of a video official has come up,” Blandino said. “I think there’s certainly merit to having the ability to look at something quickly and helping the official on the field. . . . You get those angles that the official on the field doesn’t get. So all of that will be on the table. We also have to be mindful of the officials on the field. We need to empower them and they need to feel empowered to make decisions without somebody over their shoulder constantly reviewing their work immediately and possibly changing it. And I know the goal is to get it right and we understand that, but we also have to empower our officials to make decisions and not worry about somebody looking over their shoulder in every situation.”
If the video official is a member of the crew, however, no one will be looking over anyone’s shoulder. They’ll be collaborating in the same way they do when officials confer on the field.
Besides, who cares if someone is looking over someone else’s shoulder? When the goal is to get it right, there’s no time for tiptoeing on eggshells around an official who doesn’t like being second-guessed. If an official doesn’t want to be second-guessed, the official shouldn’t make mistakes.
And if the official truly cares about the job, the official should welcome any device that will help ensure that every call is the right call.