The NFL needs to do a better job of enforcing the rules that protect quarterbacks against hits beyond the shoulders-to-above-the-knee strike zone. There are high-tech ways to do it, like using replay review. There also are low-tech ways, like adding another set of eyeballs on the field.
Appearing on Thursday’s PFT Live on NBC Sports Radio and NBCSN, NFL senior V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino explained that the use of an eighth official would make it easier to ensure that the quarterback his being protected.
“The referee has to start on the left tackle on passing plays,” Blandino said regarding the current approach with seven officials. “So he’s going to look across and watch that left tackle but then anytime there’s a threat to the quarterback, they have to leave that tackle and go to the quarterback. So there is a transitional period and sometimes if we don’t get to the quarterback in time we may miss a hit on the quarterback. So that’s part of it. I think where we’ve been mechanically is we say, ‘Look you leave wherever else you are if there’s any threat to the quarterback. Any potential defender who’s going to be coming down on the quarterback.’ So we have to get there as quickly as possible and that’s just something we continue to drill mechanically.”
So why does the referee focus on the left tackle at the snap?
“Well, you have seven officials and you have twenty-two players so you can’t just focus on one area,” Blandino said. “We have to look at several areas. . . . He’s looking right through and he can see the left tackle and he can also for the most part see the quarterback in that same line of vision, so he doesn’t have to turn his head. He should be able to see everything in his line of sight but that’s something that we’re looking at. As we explore going to an eighth official that would alleviate some of those other responsibilities for the referee and allow the referee to focus more on the quarterback. So that’s something that we’re looking at.”
Even if an eighth official is added, replay review also could be expanded to include roughing the passer.
“It’s certainly a possibility,” Blandino said. “It’s been discussed at length and any time we have an opportunity to get the call right we think that’s a good thing. In the way the technology has advanced we can introduce it and implement it more seamlessly in the game. So I think that’s something that is definitely a possibility; we’ll continue to look at it.
“I think player safety is a great place to start when we look at reviewing some of these fouls. I don’t know if reviewing every holding call or every illegal formation call is the right way to go but certainly player safety is a good starting point and that’s something that will be discussed on the offseason agenda.”
For everything Blandino said — and he said plenty in more than 10 minutes on the show — check out the video.