At times during the 2019 season, it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that replay review for pass interference calls and non-cals would not be renewed for a second season. Now, it’s not so clear that the biggest source of 100th season consternation will be scrapped.
Via Mark Maske of the Washington Post, Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said Sunday that it’s too early to comment on whether he believes the procedure will be or should be renewed when owners gather in March. Because it was adopted on a one-year-only basis, it will take 24 votes to keep it in place. Once it becomes a permanent rule change, it will take 24 votes to scrap it.
“You have to decide from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint: Is this worth it?” McKay told Maske. “Are we getting enough bang for our buck as far as the game goes? And that’s one that the clubs have to answer that question. . . .
“I think we all saw the frustration that we all had during the year. And I do think it began to get better. But I want to see it all and the total picture and not deal from emotion.”
Even when it began to get better, it still wasn’t good. Nearly every application of it was unpredictable and, at times, flat-out maddening, thanks in large part to a standard that shifted and changed throughout the season, always without warning.
Of course, if the league doesn’t renew replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls, it will need another device for fixing mistakes like the one that applied an asterisk to the outcome of the 2018 NFC Championship. And the only viable alternative is the sky judge concept, which the league seems to be resisting, likely in whole or in part because of the cost.
Even though the NFL will make plenty of money from legalized gambling and even though sky judge could help avoid the kind of outcomes that would spark a gambling-fueled public outcry, the league ultimately authorizes expenditures that it deems necessary. If replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls can be improved to the point at which it can be regarded as satisfactory, it will be much cheaper than hiring 17 extra officials who would, ideally, serve as an extra set of eyes that isn’t operating among the gladiators, and thus isn’t primarily concerned with avoiding serious injury or worse.
Still, sky judge would be a better process, both as to pass interference and any other calls for which the officials on the field would benefit from the immediate perspective of another official who isn’t at risk of being trampled — and who isn’t limited to flashes and blurs that the naked eye often can’t discern.
Like so many other things, however, the NFL won’t embrace sky judge until it absolutely has to. Despite the flaws inherent to replay review of pass interference calls and non-calls, the NFL clearly doesn’t believe that it’s absolutely necessary to write the check for sky judge now.