The NFL’s planned preseason “Sky Judge” experiment is designed to avoid invading the purview of the referee. Indeed, the process of consulting with the replay assistant doesn’t even begin unless and until the referee initiates it.
So how will the referee even know to initiate it? The referee is doing the referee’s job, moving on to the next play after presiding over the conclusion of the last one. Unless the referee sees what the official who made a given call didn’t, the referee won’t know to ask for help.
Former NFL referee John Parry essentially has made that point in reaction to our item on the “Sky Judge” experiment.
“The referee oftentimes, if using correct mechanics for his position, officiating what he is responsible for, should not see or be aware of potential issues downfield,” Parry said. “For this to work as written, others must tell [the] referee you might wanna ask upstairs.”
Others on the crew who see a call differently could provide that nudge. For the process to work effectively, however, the replay assistant needs to have the power to say to the referee, “You might want to know what I saw.”
The goal is (or should be) to bridge the divide between what the on-field officials see amid the scrum of bodies (while trying not to be trampled by one of them) and what the rest of us see in crystal-clear HD. The replay assistant has that perspective. The replay assistant should be able to share that perspective without being asked.
So let’s dispense with the desire to not undermine the referee by giving someone else the ability to look over the referee’s shoulder. The referee should want that, because this is the kind of process that will save the referee and the rest of the crew from becoming the top story the day after a given game.