The NFL has introduced several new rules for 2016. None of the changes address the league’s increasingly-controversial replay system. Yet.
The discussions regarding possible improvements to the existing replay rules are fluid and ongoing. With several proposals made by multiple clubs, there’s an increasing sense that something needs to be done. It remains to be seen whether a 24-vote consensus can be reached in support of any one specific proposal.
The best approach would be to supplement the official replay-review process (however it’s configured) with a full-time member of the officiating crew who assists the on-field officials in real time. Not as a second look but as part of the first look, with the booth official in constant contact with the referee (and perhaps the rest of the crew) regarding the question of whether the video images being disseminated to and digested by millions of fans suggest that a certain ruling or call should or shouldn’t be made.
It would be done quickly and expeditiously, with the member of the officiating crew who is in the booth funneling information to the rest of the crew in the same way that an on-field official would confer with the crew. That decision then would be subject to a separate replay process, with the league office involved and the standard of “indisputable visual evidence” applicable.
The game is consumed via television. It’s marketed via television. It became what it now is thanks directly to television. Why shouldn’t the televised images be part of the consideration for officials — not as part of the cumbersome dog-and-pony show that happens after the ruling on the field has been made but as part of the making of the ruling on the field?