Ravens again propose a booth umpire

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At a time when the NFL will be considering an expansion of replay review to include roughing the passer, the best solution to clear and obvious blunders comes not from slamming the brakes on the game for a frame-by-frame search for forcible contact with the quarterback’s head (for example) but from putting an official in the same position as the millions watching at home.

Toward this end, the Ravens have again proposed a “booth umpire.” The goal is simple: To add an official who has access to all TV angles and who can help the on-field crew make the right calls.

PFT has obtained a copy of Baltimore’s submission to the Competition Committee, and Baltimore’s arguments remain very persuasive. The booth umpire would be expected to provide pertinent information to correct clear and obvious officiating errors of every type, with the directive of doing so without disrupting the normal timing of game administration.

Currently, officiating crews routinely caucus on the field when one official has seen something that another official hasn’t. The referee, who runs the crew, makes a decision.

The booth umpire would report to the referee, like all other crew members. The booth umpire would bridge the often wide gap between the things we all see on TV and the things the officials see on the field with the naked eye while trying to avoid being trampled.

How many times have we witnessed an official who is looking right at, for example, a receiver making a catch and blowing the ruling of whether the player did or didn’t get two feet down before going out of bounds? The booth umpire, seeing what the rest of us see, could quickly say to the referee that a clear and obvious mistake had been made.

It’s not replay review. It’s active officiating via TV angles. The replay process would remain, as an added level of protection against mistakes. In many cases, replay review wouldn’t even be needed, because the mistake would be caught by the booth umpire.

So who would become booth umpires? As the Ravens note, the league would be able to employ “valuable officiating minds” who may no longer want to be on the field.

It’s hard to come up with strong arguments against having a “booth umpire.” The eighth member of the crew actively helps his or her seven colleagues by preventing mistakes from remaining mistakes. Every on-field official should want this and would benefit from it.

And here’s the inescapable reality. Eventually, the booth umpire will be adopted. (Indeed, the spread of legal gambling will make it a necessity.) So, as the Ravens argue, why not do it now?

The league is notoriously reactive. Booth umpire is both reactive and proactive. It’s reactive because it’s the right response to the Rams-Saints pass interference debacle and the blown calls that are making roughing the passer possibly eligible for replay review. It’s proactive because it goes beyond the normal confines of tweaking the formal replay process.

37 responses to “Ravens again propose a booth umpire

  1. Booth umpire is an easy win for everyone, teams, fans and officiating staff. That’s why the NFL won’t do it.

  2. 100% put this in. It never has to become part of the broadcast. Just the head official has access to the booth official to make correct calls and still has overall officiating responsibility.

  3. If this favors the offense and adds more scoring to games then the “competition committee” will approve it!

  4. This sure seems like a simple, effective way to improve the integrity of the game. Of course they could just “test” it for a year and completely ignore the booth official then scrap it and say it didn’t work.

    Not that that would ever happen.

  5. It increases officiating costs 13% or about $3.2M per year or 100k per team (assuuming $200k per year per official). And billionaires for some reason will cling to that “chump change” until they get a clear ROI proposition.

  6. Absolute no brainer! Which means the ultraconservative NFL absolutely will not enact it.

  7. 100% agree. With today’s technology, a booth umpire could quickly confirm/reverse clearly erroneous calls on the field.

  8. Look out !! The last time the Ravens pushed for this before 2015 they had a season of some of the most ridiculous officiating I’ve ever seen. Officials pretending they didnt see Lineman report as eligible to remove a TD when the signal was on camera. Giving the Jaguars extra time to kick a game winning field goal etc

  9. After their OT proposal I was expecting this one to read like: “The booth umpire would only be able to review running plays where somebody other than slot receiver had been in motion UNLESS the defense was in the nickel package with 3 down lineman, at which point he’d be able to look back at a questionable play from the previous quarter.”

  10. But this will mean more efficient gameplay. Which will mean fewer replays. Which will mean fewer TV timeouts. Which will mean fewer advertising dollars coming into NFL coffers. So not happening.

  11. I must be in the minority here because I hate this idea.

    I miss the days where a referee made a judgment call and life went on. By and large, I feel that replay has ruined sports. We spend so much time analyzing grainy sideline footage to see if a player’s shoelace was on the white line or not. Is that REALLY what you all want? Why not just have a billion cameras and robots officiating the game?

    The very definition of a referee is one who uses his/her best judgement to call a game. That means your favorite team will benefit at times and also get screwed at times. That’s part of being a sports fan!

    Count me in as a hard NO for a booth official.

  12. Doing this should enable fewer “full replay reviews”. Then we could go back to having just 2 challenges per team and not have auto reviews of every turnover and scoring play.

  13. Good Idea for a booth umpire, but the NFL and referees would still make a ton of mistakes.

  14. Booth umpire should be a no brainer.. but it hardly matters when the NFL(and its refs) decided one team gets to play by different rules.

  15. I am in. And I think it has a chance of passing. These aren’t “grainy images.” For the vast majority of us they are full HD if not 4K and the number of questionable (yes I am focused) RTP penalties last year changed too many outcomes. I could argue DPI/OPI too. But I do hear a previous commenter about more scoring/offense friendly. It’s good for the league, bad for true fans of the game. That is the risk of it not passing in my brain.

  16. What about all the times we see penalties for things like holding and DPI, etc., go uncalled? Will the booth umpire be blowing the whistle on those? Because if we’re being honest, you could call a penalty on almost every play. Let’s not get to that point.

  17. Booth umpire should be part of every NFL officiating crew, with the power to overturn or make any call, as part of a collaborative effort. Like occasionally when the refs confer with each other and sometimes pick up a flag or decide to call a penalty.

    The booth umpire can help correct obvious mistakes by reviewing the replay between plays as part of the crew. I wouldn’t use it for full blown slo-mo review of pass interference and things like that, unless a red flag is thrown or a scoring play or under two-minutes, as is the case now, but the booth umpire could help with a lot of other calls that are either missed or are mistakes.

  18. I agree with many above – not a fan of the Ravens OT rule proposal but the booth umpire idea is way overdue – we should never have the referee on the field going under a hood to watch the video when you can have a qualified person on top of it in the comfort of a booth – save time and get the call correct

  19. ireadpftforthecomments says:
    March 5, 2021 at 12:42 pm
    I must be in the minority here because I hate this idea.

    I miss the days where a referee made a judgment call and life went on. By and large, I feel that replay has ruined sports. We spend so much time analyzing grainy sideline footage to see if a player’s shoelace was on the white line or not. Is that REALLY what you all want? Why not just have a billion cameras and robots officiating the game?

    The very definition of a referee is one who uses his/her best judgement to call a game. That means your favorite team will benefit at times and also get screwed at times. That’s part of being a sports fan!

    Count me in as a hard NO for a booth official.

    ___________________________

    Yeah…let’s have the fate of NFL seasons hang on judgment calls. We have the tech to make replays make the correct call. This rule is a smart one and wouldn’t ruin the game.

    Do you have a cell phone, or are you still using your old rotary dial-up phone? Get with the times!

  20. Please! Anything to take “New York” out of it, whoever that’s supposed to be. They suck or on the take.

  21. How about adding the booth official and eliminating challenges and other replay review?

  22. This is the only idea the Ravens have ever come up with that makes sense. Just like in college where the replay booth buzzes down to the refs. same college OT should be the OT rule in the NFL.

    Its the NFLs arrogance that won’t allow them to admit someone else is doing it better.

  23. Who among us has not screamed at the TV over a bad call? Make this booth thing happen!

  24. Replay is the reason we have such horrendous officiating now. It makes then tentative and therefore useless because they fear second guessing. The answer is hire fulltime officials, train them and scrap replay. Sure you will have some missed or wrong calls but they will be less apt to throw flags unless they are sure of a penalty and ultimately isn’t that what a real fan wants, a game decided by players, not officials. After all it is a game!

  25. Add anything and everything to make the game as accurately officiated as possible. Bring in electronic tracking like tennis and (unofficial) baseball strike zones. The technology exists. Imagine sensors in the tips of the ball! Perfect placement, every time. I’m sick and tired of the “human element.” It isn’t 1942 anymore.

  26. What are the physical requirements of a booth umpire?
    Does the person have to watch 2, 4, or 6 screens, and are bifocals/reading glasses required by an older person to watch some of the screens? Older persons’ eyes (anyone over 34 or 35 probably needs eyes checked for reading glasses) are not necessarily as quick as younger peoples’ eyes when switching between distant and near vision.
    Are computer/keyboard/mouse skills required? Gnarled or arthritic fingers might be OK to ref on the field, but might slow down switching views for a booth umpire.
    Does this job require mostly standing, mostly sitting, frequently changing between sitting and standing, or is there something else? Older age or an infirmity might impair one while performing as a booth umpire.
    Without knowing more information, it might be that an older ref might not be such a good fit as a booth umpire, and younger folks might be required.

  27. Yeah giving the NFL headquarters direct overlord powers over every game sounds real great and foolproof. There will never be a blown call again!

    For real, just properly train full time refs, whose career is officiating football, let them make the call, and play the sport. It’s really not that hard. Slow motion replays with a dozen angles, counting frames, and deciphering pixels, is not football. Everything below college level somehow manages to compete fairly without all of this pampering. Crazy, right?

  28. The Skyjudge is not just a quick fix, but a true officiating solution to missed or incorrect calls. Make it happen. INTEGRITY in getting calls right HAS TO BE THE PRIORITY.

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