NFL needs to add a video official to every crew

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The NFL has an officiating problem. The NFL knows it has an officiating problem. The question becomes whether the NFL will finally do something meaningful to fix its officiating problem, given the embarrassing outcome in the Rams-Saints game.

The simplest solution comes from an idea that has been advocated here on numerous occasions in recent years. The league should expand each officiating crew by one, and the league should put that eighth crew member not on the field but in a booth, with access to all real-time images and replay angles, and an audio link to the referee.

The video official would be responsible for bridging the gap between that which the middle-aged-and-older officials see unfolding in a blender of frenetic activity around them and that which fans see at home, on high-definition flat screens. The video official would be responsible for talking to the referee after each play, consulting with the referee as to whether there’s a reason to defer to something shown by the various available TV angles.

It wouldn’t constitute replay review; it would represent an extension of the first look conducted by the officials on the field. And the discussion between the video official and the referee would be no different from the on-field consultations that routinely happen between officials who had different angles as to the same play.

It wouldn’t take long, or at least it shouldn’t take long. And it would be used to correct anything and everything, from the missed pass interference that happened late in the Rams-Saints game to the missed Jared Goff facemask foul happening earlier in the fourth quarter to the phantom roughing the passer foul called against the Chiefs as the Patriots were trying to reverse a 21-17 deficit.

The video official would tell the referee to throw a flag, pick up a flag, fix the mark of a ball, anything and everything to supplement what the on-field officials see. And the replay function would still be available to fix the ruling on the field (as enhanced by the video official), but reversals would happen less frequently, since the replay angles would enhance the ruling on the field, resulting in fewer instances of clear and obvious evidence to the contrary.

Much more needs to be done to improve officiating. But the time has come to make this change. Actually, the time for this change arrived a long time ago; the question is whether the rarely-proactive NFL will react to Sunday’s game by finally admitting it.

70 responses to “NFL needs to add a video official to every crew

  1. Thank you, Mike Florio, for including the non-call on the Jared Goff facemask and the bogus KC roughing-the-passer call in that paragraph. Those two ref blunders weren’t as bad as the no-call PI, but they belong in the discussion. Ram fans everywhere, whom have been completely denied their rightful opportunity to celebrate the Rams victory due to the overwhelming focus on that one play out of the 130+ plays in the game, appreciate it.

  2. Refs gave the Saints the victory over the Steelers which essentially cost Pittsburgh the division and a seat at the table for the playoffs. I honestly dont feel bad for the Saints.

  3. This is exactly how replay worked when I first started watching the NFL in 1989. There was a replay official up in a booth who buzzed down to the referee if play needed to be stopped to have a slow look at a close, crucial play in the game. I thought it worked great and didn’t understand why it went away (supposedly, people didn’t like the way it broke up the flow of the game)

  4. The officiating continues to get worse every year. Both of the games yesterday had calls that changed the outcomes of the game in the biggest game of the year. The NFL will continue to lose it fans and ratings.

  5. I’m for this, as well as the BB review rule. Also eliminate the dog-and-pony show of the ref trotting to the sidelines to review plays. Let the video official do it. That official would have a head start in examining the questionable play. I bet these changes wouldn’t add that much time to the games, certainly no more than a TV timeout. Get it right, NFL!

  6. If the Saints had won by stopping the Rams from getting in field goal range, or by scoring in overtime, nobody would’ve cared about that call.

    That tells you that it did NOT determine the outcome of the game. It was a bad call but not nearly the worst I’ve seen. Why did they even throw it on first down??

  7. Stop whining about the phantom roughing the passer call. Sure looked like Edelman was held/interfered with on the pass and it wasn’t called. Now that I think about it, I don’t think KC was called for any defensive penalties other than the roughing the passer and the offside. They got away with a few defensive holding/interference penalties, especially giving the couple borderline calls on the Pats which could have gone either way. Bottom line: c’est la vie.

  8. That would be “dyn-o-mite” but humans can make mistakes watching the video. Do you scrutinize every play from every angle. That would kill the continuity of the game. Maybe give the coach one “emergency” challenge to have a play reviewed by video where a penalty wasn’t called but should have.

  9. I would add that the person in the booth be the actual referee. Add a position of assistant referee to be on the field in the current position. That way the person upstairs has the final say. The referee would also handle all replay reviews upstairs to speed the process and be able to use decent sized screens instead of a tablet.

  10. There will always be controversy. Learn to live with it. I would prefer a more simple rule book and let the calls just stand. Can’t even watch a NFL game that isn’t on a DVR any more. The more the NFL tries to get everything right the worse it has gotten. Too many rule changes, too many grey areas leave the job of officiating in this league nearly impossible. I never once blamed a game that I played in on the officials. Sometimes you get the call, sometimes you don’t but you win by making plays.

  11. computojon says:
    January 21, 2019 at 12:05 pm
    Thank you, Mike Florio, for including the non-call on the Jared Goff facemask and the bogus KC roughing-the-passer call in that paragraph. Those two ref blunders weren’t as bad as the no-call PI, but they belong in the discussion. Ram fans everywhere, whom have been completely denied their rightful opportunity to celebrate the Rams victory due to the overwhelming focus on that one play out of the 130+ plays in the game, appreciate it.
    ———
    Do you feel the same about the multiplie 20-40yd phantom defensive pass interference calls that were called against JC Jackson aiding in KC touchdown drives? What about the blatant, textbook pick play KC had for another score? Can these be included, or are we picking and choosing which ones we care about more? Asking for a friend.

  12. Either let New York buzz an official that they missed a blatant call so they can throw a flag, or make every play something that can be challenged.

  13. A video official with every crew would be good—-BUT—You should be able to use your remaining challenges to challenge anything including challenging a penalty that was called to overturn it as well as challenging that a penalty should have been called when one was not called

    It doesn’t add any additional time to the game as you have the same amount of challenges that you have now you are just being able to use them to challenge more things.

    I can’t imagine the majority of owners not finding value in expanding what challenges can be used for

  14. There will always be bad or missed calls and they usually even out. It been that way for the entire history of the NFL. The good teams will overcome it, just like they do with injuries or anything else. The only way an official can cost a game is with a scoring play or turnover at the end of the game and those are already automatically reviewed. The games are already too slow and choppy and the last thing they need is to add more interruptions.

  15. I don’t want the video, but I am glad you mentioned Goff facemask. It changed the final 5 minutes of the game and the pressure on the saints being down 24-20 would have been huge. People seem to forget it because the pass interference came last.

  16. A call was missed no doubt. But how many plays did the Saints miss without any influence of an official. Dropped passes, missed blocks, missed tackles and assignments. Its a game, its not that important. Human error is part of the game. In life, if you let anyone other than yourself control your destiny, you usually lose. The remedy is simple, do better next time.

  17. There were a lot of bad calls/non-calls in the KC NE game. Don’t forget the blatant illegal pick which didn’t get called which directly led to a late KC score.

  18. This is the most elegant solution to the problem. It would greatly expand the “coverage” of the eyes of the officials in the same way that replay does, without expanding replay to involve more challenges and/or more plays covered (with would mean more dead time). Make it happen!

  19. I agree with an official in the booth. I do question whether officiating is truly worse now than it was or if we just have more camera angles and more penalties. I’m not talking about the obvious pass interference that should have been called in the Rams vs. Saints game, but just in general. Officials didn’t have to worry nearly as much about pass interference back in the day, but the rules have been changed to create more offense. Another example is that they have to be aware in real time whether a defensive player’s helmet or arm makes contact with a quarterback’s helmet. There are times when it looks obvious on television, but that doesn’t take into account the angle the referee has with all the commotion going on around him in real time. The logical solution is to add the video official and hopefully it happens soon.

  20. 2 things here, the replay system needs revamping and everything should be challenged but keep the challenge system in place. 2 Challenges and awrded a third if you win first 2. The replays though should be done with every available camera angle and add even more cameras (hello pylon cams, first down marker cams ref cams all brought to you by GoPro or some other manufacturer that would provide them). The caveat should be all replays are in real time, not slowed down and went over with a microscope. This keeps the replay time at a minimum but also forces a human to make the call based on speed of the game. Could you have overturned the Edleman muff without super slow mo and zoom?

  21. Sounds good, but:
    1. The thought this won’t delay games is flawed from the start.
    2. There are infractions on EVERY play in every game. If you call everything, the game will triple in playing time; heck you may never finish a first quarter.
    3. Extended dead time is the kiss of death for ratings, both in stadium and on TV/media.
    4. Today’s system accepts that some errors will happen, but they will even out over time.
    5. It sucks when you lose when a bad call happens, but in the final analysis, it’s all part of the game. You’ve probably won some games on bad calls as well.
    6. How to make it better (Note that I didn’t say fix it): More emphasis on referee competency and explore adding additional on the field refs. If you can, add technology, but don’t let it delay games any more that they do today.

  22. Didnt matter when a phantom pass interfear call when in favor of the saints on their game winning drive in over time of the 09 championship game or the fact that their running back fumbled the ball on a 4th an 1 when he was stopped short and incorrectly given a 1st down, i dont remember a congressional hearing for those plays that basically gave the saints a win….boo fricken hoo humans are part of the game like it or not

  23. This makes way too much sense.
    This is the NFL we’re talking about here.
    Don’t forget how expensive technology is for the poor little NFL.

  24. The NFL knows it has an officiating problem, but it doesn’t care because it has no revenue problem.

  25. there was a legit foul against Tom Brady, he took a karate chop to the left arm after he released the ball. I wouldn’t say this call would have made any difference anyway. The call on Edelman’s punt return was accurate after seeing it from about 6 different angles, I thought the ball had touched him also at first, but that I believe was a good call also. THE NO CALL in the Saints game?? Thats a different story. If I was a Saints fan I’d be quite upset.

  26. Hopefully, no one expects perfection, bad calls and subjectivity are part of the fabric of sports. The angst and dissatisfaction is heightened these days largely because the casual fan has more information in real time about a given play than the refs on the field. Vinovich said he didnt see the PI contact but we all did, from multiple angles. The back judge thought Brady took a shot to the head but a simple camera view from the front showed the arm merely grazed his chest. They need an official in the booth communicating in real time to the officials on the field. Officials need at least as much real time info as the fans.

  27. Mike Peirera was in the television booth and he saw it. The whole tv crew saw it. Use those extra eyes to tell the refs on the field, they blew it.

  28. There already is a replay official assigned to each crew. My friend’s father is a former line judge and he travels to a different city each week as part of the crew. These on site members of the crew are the ones that help decide all of the replay calls. What do you think happens when 8 games are going on simultaneously? New York isn’t deciding all of those.

  29. They have the resources and the technology to do it. Maybe not every play but all close plays or chosen challenged plays. If the TV networks can show numerous camera angles instantly, why can’t the NFL?

  30. And it would be used to correct anything and everything, from the missed pass interference that happened late in the Rams-Saints game to the missed Jared Goff facemask foul happening earlier in the fourth quarter to the phantom roughing the passer foul called against the Chiefs as the Patriots were trying to reverse a 21-17 deficit.

    Or the obvious pick play that resulted in a TD for KC…

  31. They should also consider just adding more officials. The players have gotten bigger, faster, stronger over the years, while teams use more and more motion and deception. But, we still have old dudes (and 1 or 2 women) trying to stay out of their way and call the game at the same time. Instead of having officials try to run down the field with receivers to see if there is anything to call, how about starting with a couple more officials that are deeper on each play? Money shouldn’t be the issue.

  32. Belichek is right. Every play must be able to be challenged because every play can win or lose a game, and the purpose of replay is to right a wrong. Further, coaches should have an unlimited number of challenges, as long as they are right. Two wrong and you are out of challenges. Keep overturning calls and you get to keep challenging.

    I don’t like the Saints, but I feel really bad for them this morning.

  33. I’ve wondered why they don’t have this implemented already. It seems so obvious. The only big disadvantages I can think of is that it would either slow the game down (the next play needs to wait until the video is reviewed), or up-tempo offenses would give it no time to be useful (the next play has started before the video official got a good look at the previous play).

  34. I like the idea of having a video official upstairs. On a any controversial call, the video official can stop play and review the situation. He may ask the ref to officially review the play, or chose to play on. I believe the college officials already do this to some extent. It seem to work well in college. I take about a minute to a minute and a half to review a play from the replay official in the booth. The object should be to get the call right. I’m sure I speak for the majority of NFL fans. I hate to see a blown call decide any game!

  35. Isn’t that how it works in college football? I always thought that worked really well. Plays get looked at really quickly and there’s much less interference in the game than the current system of looking at a tablet on the sideline.

  36. PS, told my wife its funny but I think they have a ref in the stadium for the Cris Collingsworth games because often times he is saying, wow it didnt look like a catch to me, then just when they are about to hike, the refs call a quick time out and then review the play Collingsworth was talking about.
    In other words they missed something on the field but Collingsworth caught it and they are using the ref listening in to help them correct it.

  37. I’ve been saying this for years! If fans can get the replay instantly at home, so can the officiating crew. Why on Earth they use that stupid little black sideline booth is anyone’s guess.

  38. Referees can determine games with a penalty for reasons of incompetence as much as corruption.

    Making everything reviewable removes the incentive to cheat and the ability for bad officials to go unpunished.

  39. The NFL will still find a way to screw it up. They would probably hire a bunch of Mr. Magoos.

    There have been some occasions where refs have reviewed plays and still got it wrong.

  40. PGA used to allow viewers watching the game on tv to call in a penalty on a golfer (ie Tiger’s illegal drop from water hazard). Problem was, not every golfer had the same airtime as Tiger. Outrage against this finally got rid of this “video official”.

    Same thing here. There are 22 players on the field – but tv coverage only focus mostly on QB and not the WR on routes or line play. A WR getting mugged outside of camera range won’t get the call, so how is this really fair?

  41. They should have about 3 guys in the booth. They can just about officiate the games from the booth, and for the most part, it doesn’t have to delay the game. But if a 3 1/2 hour championship game ends up taking 3 hours and 45 minutes, I’m totally ok with that too. That roughing call on Brady could have been a game changer. That was just as bad as the no-call that screwed the Saints.

  42. In 2009, didn’t the Saints go to the super bowl based on a blatant non-call in the NFC Championship game? It happens, get over it and next time don’t put yourself in a position where a game is close enough to be lost by one bad call.

  43. Simply…

    Rather than doing more contortions in this vein and complicating further…

    ISSUE ONE *WILD CARD* CHALLENGE to each team in every game.

    That is, one challenge that is not confined to any rules about what is reviewable and what isn’t.

    Done.

  44. It won’t matter if the outcome has already been decided. Which it obviously was in the Saints game.

  45. The video official is a good idea – as is telling the officials not to flag ticky tack stuff like Dee Ford being 3 inches offsides or and end not being 3 inches off the line (if indeed historically the officials warn the players of this). Also not throwing a personal foul unless you clearly SEE IT – not “guess” it happened if your back was to it.

    Basically, reduce flag noise and focus on real fouls.

  46. The league should expand each officiating crew by one, and the league should put that eighth crew member not on the field but in a booth, with access to all real-time images and replay angles, and an audio link to the referee.

    —————————————————

    The “video official” should be not be assigned a regular crew. This will prevent any influences the ref may have on the rest of his field judges.

    I guess the difficult part is who’s at fault if the video official misses a call because of no huddle or the need to review multiple angles. Are they going to stop the game? Or are they going to call just what’s obvious from immediate replays?

  47. chickensalad43 says:
    January 21, 2019 at 12:17 pm
    If the Saints had won by stopping the Rams from getting in field goal range, or by scoring in overtime, nobody would’ve cared about that call.

    That tells you that it did NOT determine the outcome of the game.
    —————————————————————————————
    Lol, Not a fan of either team but If they got the call right there wouldn`t have been time left so they wouldn`t have needed to stop them from the FG and there wouldn`t have been a OT so clearly it DID determine the outcome. Not the first game decided by refs but it was clearly decided on that missed call.

  48. Yes, I wish it had been changed years ago along with the other video changes of that time. As a Vikings fan, the Saints get no sympathy from me as we should have been the ones to go to the 2009 Super Bowl. The high low hit on Bret Favre should have been reviewable at that time and a 15 yard penalty added on. Now they know what we have felt for 10 years and as Peyton said “we’ll probably never get over it”!

  49. If they do so the Patriots and Cowboys would be horrible and the NFL would finally earn some credibility.

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