On Monday night, the Texans appeared to be robbed of a first down by a bad spot on back-to-back plays, a pivotal turning point in their loss to the Raiders. And dozens of games every year see key plays turn on whether the ball is spotted a few inches one way or the other. So is there any way the NFL could use technology to improve the spotting of footballs?
NFL Senior V.P. of Officiating Dean Blandino said the league has considered using chips in balls and lasers to spot the football. But he pointed out that even if you could tell instantly exactly where the ball was in relation to the line — as you can in tennis — that wouldn’t necessarily tell you the other things you need to know, like whether the ball carrier’s knee was down before the ball crossed the line, or whether he had been touched by an opponent before he went down.
“There’s certainly new technology we can explore,” Blandino said on NFL Network. “We just have to be careful with these technologies because it’s not as simple as the football being at a certain spot. When was the elbow down? When was the knee down? You have multiple things we have to look at. In tennis it’s the ball on the line. There is no other factor. So you just have to look at the new technologies and does it make sense for our game, and that’s something that we’ll continue to explore as we move forward.”
Regarding the calls that went against the Texans, Blandino said those are always calls that will be hard for replay to overturn conclusively.
“These line to gain plays are very difficult in replay. If you don’t have a shot looking right down the line, it’s really tough unless it’s obvious,” Blandino said. “Remember, the yellow line to gain marker is just a guideline. . . . It’s just a marker, we can’t make a decision based on it. . . . The ruling on the field is that he was short. Nothing we can do to change it in replay.”
That explanation won’t satisfy the Texans. Perhaps some day technology will eliminate controversies like Monday night’s, but that day is many years away.