The Ravens have tried and tried again to get the NFL to add an eighth member of the officiating crew — a sky judge — who would assist on-field officials based on available camera angles. The proposal has not gotten to a vote the past two offseasons.
The Steelers are one of the teams opposed to active officiating via TV angles — the eye-in-the-sky concept — because the replay process would remain as is as an added level of protection against egregious mistakes.
“Some of the comments we had were along the lines of ‘just too much replay,’ and I personally think we should do one or the other,” Steelers president Art Rooney II said Wednesday, via Bob Labriola of the team website. “If we’re going to bring the extra official in and make him [or her] the replay official in the stadium, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but then let’s eliminate the replay in New York. I don’t think we need both. It’s really more of an administration question, in terms of where you’re going to do the replays. Before we moved replay to Central Command [in the league office], it was done in stadiums and the replay official was part of the officiating crew. I at least think there’s some merit to that. With technology and all the camera angles available to us, it’s really a question of what’s the best way to do it, what’s the best location for people to do the replays from. I don’t think we need to have that many sets of eyes and that many decision-makers in the mix.”
NFL owners did pass expanded duties for the in-stadium replay official, who is not part of the officiating crew.
According to the new rule: “The replay official and designated members of the officiating department may consult with on-field officials, or conduct a replay review, or advise the game officials on specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present, and/or to address game administration issues, including, but not limited to: penalty enforcement; the proper down; spot of a foul; the game clock; possession; completed or intercepted pass; touching of a loose ball, boundary line, goal line, or end line; location of the football or a player in relation to the boundary line, the line of scrimmage, the line to gain, or the goal line; or down by contact (when a player is not ruled down by contact on the field).”
Current replay rules remain in place.
“I’m not going to tell you I didn’t have some concerns about it,” Rooney said. “It’s really a question of: Where do you do the replays from? And who really has the ability to overturn a call? This rule is designed to provide more information to the on-field referee who still has the final authority to make a call unless it goes to an official replay. These things are happening without it going to an official challenge. It can get a little confusing, and we’ll see how it works. I think we need to look harder at the whole replay situation and make sure we don’t have too many voices in the referee’s ear.”
The NFL still is reacting to the 2018 NFC Championship Game when the Rams beat the Saints after officials missed a blatant pass interference penalty. In 2019, it expanded replay to include pass interference in a failed one-year experiment.
Now, the league is going another route in an attempt to prevent game-altering or game-deciding mistakes. The Competition Committee will return to the drawing board a year from now if expanding the duties of the replay official doesn’t work as hoped.
“No. 1, I think our officials do a great job considering the speed of the game,” Rooney said. “We’ve made this a much harder game to officiate than ever before, with all of the different rules changes and the safety rules we have now, so they don’t have an easy job, and we all recognize that. If we can provide help through replay or through technology, I think we need to be open to look at how best we do that. With the number of cameras and the high-definition cameras nowadays, the clarity is much better than it used to be. Making sure we’re getting calls right is the No. 1 consideration. Every year there are proposals designed to make sure we’re getting the calls right, but at the end of the day, I do think there is such a thing as too many replays and too many people in the referee’s ear. There is a balance there we’re trying to get to.”