“Sky Judge” experiment won’t involve pass interference calls and non-calls

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A year after being burned by the unintended consequences (and ill-defined standards) of extending replay review to pass interference, the NFL hopes to avoid a similar outcome when it comes to an alternative device for preventing another Rams-Saints NFC Championship debacle.

And so the league is treading lightly, adopting a preseason experiment that entails expansion of the existing replay assistant’s duties.

As approved by the NFL on Thursday, the procedure makes clear that the replay assistant cannot initiate the process. The referee must request information from the replay assistant “during a normal crew conference on the field” or before the play clock reaches 25 seconds. The replay assistant will then provide input to the referee, if requested, based on the video provided by the network broadcast of the game.

In other words, the referee must first realize that something is amiss. Otherwise, the referee will never know to ask the replay assistant for any type of information.

The categories for a conference initiated by the referee with the replay assistant are limited to six areas: (1) game administration; (2) complete, incomplete, or intercepted pass; (3) touching of a loose ball, boundary line, goal line, or end line; (4) location of the ball in relation to a boundary line, the line of scrimmage, the line to gain, or the goal line; (5) down by contact, if the rule was not ruled down by contact on the field; and (6) status of the game clock subject to the limitations in Rule 15, Section 3, Article 9 (Item 1) regarding when time on the game clock can be restored.

Missing from the list is pass interference calls and non-calls. Which means that this year’s effort to fix the problem that provided the impetus for change — an egregious non-call of pass interference in a playoff game — will not fix situations like that.

So what’s the point? While this effort to bridge the gap between the observations of the on-field officials and the images the rest of us see on TV is better than nothing, the reluctance to undermine in any way the authority of the referee, the unwillingness to pay for a system that would entail hiring an additional member to each officiating crew, and the refusal to provide a break-glass-in-event-of-emergency option for the kind of play that turned the NFL on its head after the Rams-Saints postseason game makes this, at best, an effort to create the impression that the league is doing everything it can to get the calls right when, in reality, it really isn’t doing all that much more than it already was doing.

Before the end of the preseason, the officiating department must submit a report to the Competition Committee, with the goal of determining whether any aspect of this half-hearted half-measure will be implemented for the 2020 regular season.

18 responses to ““Sky Judge” experiment won’t involve pass interference calls and non-calls

  1. Sky Judges won’t challenge any on field calls. Instead, they will monitor social media to ensure compliancy to NFL whining rules.

  2. Yeah the Sky Judge should be the one with the authority to stop the game and say hey ref you might want to take a look at the play in question.

    To leave out pass interference just proves the game is rigged. PI is the worst officiated call in the game. The gamblers can shave a lot of points with it.

  3. Why is this so hard for the NF’inL to figure this out? Well, because the NFL is cheap and don’t want to admit they screw up on calls. Everyone outside the NFL seems to know how to figure this out.

  4. I think this is a prudent approach.
    Don’t overreact and panic. Analyze the setup and make a decision after you have discussed unforeseen issues.

    As opposed to changing something without careful thought like RTP in 2018 and PI in 2019.

  5. Why would anyone expect a ‘Sky Judge’ to review P.I. calls and non calls anyway? They just eliminated the rule …. it’s kind of common sense that’s not gonna be something theyd be looking at.

  6. Just agree to getting a sky judge. The other stuff will come eventually. Make this happen. It’s a no-brainer.

  7. The league simply HAS to figure this out and get it right. What happened to the Saints in 2018 cannot be allowed to happen again. The problem is that 28 teams aren’t playing in Conference Champonships, so they aren’t really concerned as it has no real impact on them…..until the day comes that it DOES. Then their ownership and fans will be SCREAMING for something to get done. Every team’s goal is to make it to the big dance. Losing the Championship game is one thing, but having it taken from you by an inept officiating crew is something else entirely. The league didn’t give the PI non-call rule a chance last season. They need to get the Sky Judge experiment done right, and they need to do it NOW.

  8. Just change the penalty from a spot foul to 10-15 yards. All too often its a 40 yard penalty and QBs fish for it! Problem solved.

  9. I continue to be amazed that some people actually believe judgment calls could be handled successfully with review. In theory you could stop another Saints debacle but in practice you very quickly get into the grey areas where a questionable, borderline call gets changed by an equally questionable review. It’s bad when a call gets missed live but it’s far worse when the replay re-call is equally as iffy.

  10. So the referees can continue determining the outcome of games. Terrific.

  11. “Just change the penalty from a spot foul to 10-15 yards. All too often its a 40 yard penalty and QBs fish for it! Problem solved.”

    Originally it was a 15 yard penalty IIRC. But that creates a different problem. Once a receiver is 15 yards downfield the DBs will outright mug them to prevent anything that looks like a long reception knowing that the other team will only pick up 15 yards and not 20-30-40 or whatever.

  12. “Sky Judge” experiment won’t involve pass interference calls and non-calls

    Sure it won’t, they have to be able to alter the outcome of games to where Vegas wants them, this once great game is looking more & more like the WWE every year!

    For one of the very few times I agree 100% with Florio, that doesn’t happen often.
    Like he says “WHAT’S THE POINT”? A little smoke and mirrors to cover up the egregious calls and non-calls these horrible refs make on a weekly basis now days! This is equivalent of cutting your femoral artery them putting a band-aid on it and telling you “everythings going to be OK” = NO IT’S NOT!

    I can see right now this is going to be just like last year for me if there is football, a whole lot more college ball and a whole lot less NFL! I’m sick and tired of games where the refs determine the outcomes of way too many games. Why can college refs get it right most of the time and Pro refs can’t? Maybe they need to switch positions, HMMMMMMM.

  13. SaintsGotRobbed says:
    May 29, 2020 at 10:50 am
    Just change the penalty from a spot foul to 10-15 yards. All too often its a 40 yard penalty and QBs fish for it! Problem solved.

    Than if I’m a DB and I see the receiver is going deep I’m taking him out every time because a 10-15yd penalty is a hell of a lot better than a 40-50yd completion!

    Hell no you so-called soultion ISN’T problem solved, it’d create even more problems!

  14. Does the NFL not watch NCAA football? There is a “Sky Judge,” or something similar in the booth watching replays on every play. If they see a problem, they buzz the field referee to stop the game while they take a look. This seems to work great! I watch a lot of college football, and I’ve never felt like this system slowed the game or that there were egregious errors in officiating. The multi-billion dollar NFL needs to open its pocketbook and pay for an extra official per crew. Period.

  15. I wouldn’t be surprised if the NFL — being incapable of implementing new changes that actually work — put the sky judge on top of the roof of closed-domed stadiums.

  16. Maybe they should change PI to a 15-20 yard penalty and rewind the game clock to the point when the ball was snapped on the penalized play.

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