In 2016, the CFL will be doing something that the NFL needs to be doing, too. But the NFL needs to go even farther.
Via the Canadian Press, the Canadian Football League has added a video official, with the goal of correcting blatant officiating mistakes quickly. The video official will operate from the CFL’s command center in Toronto, monitoring the action from a feed that shows the entire field.
The expectation is simple: The video official will be asked to fix obvious errors that cannot be challenged via the replay review system.
The CFL also has expanded the universe of plays that fall within the normal replay review function to include offensive pass interference, illegal contact, roughing the passer or kicker, and other previously non-reviewable plays. In 2014, the CFL made defensive pass interference reviewable.
The NFL has resisted making pass interference reviewable, based on the notion that interference is a judgment call. Still, officials can make significant and clear errors when determining whether interference did or didn’t occur; why not allow it to be fixed?
As to the use of a video official, the better approach would be to assign a video official to each officiating crew in each stadium, helping spot mistakes and consulting with the referee as a first look — not as a second, after-the-fact review. The replay function would still be available, but an in-stadium official watching the game the same way that millions watch it at home would have a pipeline to the referee, with the ability to tell the referee what the HD images show.
Why should the video official who has the benefit of seeing what the fans see have any say in the crafting of rulings? For starters, the video official wouldn’t primarily be trying to avoid being run over by a much young, larger, and stronger person. Wearing armor.
With each passing year, the NFL becomes a bigger deal — and the outcome of each and every game becomes more important, too. The biggest challenge for the NFL currently is to bridge the gap between what a handful of officials see at field level versus what millions of viewers see at home.
The sooner that happens, the better off the sport will be.