INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL will consider adding a “sky judge” to each officiating crew, next season, tasked with using instant replay to correct any egregious errors made by on-field officials, a top league official said Friday.
Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, said at the NFL Scouting Combine that the idea of a video official being added to each officiating crew emerged as a top consideration this week by the competition committee in deliberations with coaches, general managers, officials and players.
“We just want to get it right,” Vincent said. “We’re debating what that change is, if any. As we always say, the [owners] will tell us what they want to do. The league doesn’t get a vote.”
Any such change to expand the use of instant replay would have to be ratified by 24 of the 32 teams. The change, if approved, would take effect next season. The owners are scheduled to meet in late March in Phoenix at the annual league meeting.
“That’s the feel I get: Some kind of adjustment is there,” Vincent said. “What it is, I’m not certain.”
The deliberations about officiating and replay come in the aftermath of the missed pass interference call late in regulation during the NFC championship game that helped the Los Angeles Rams defeat the New Orleans Saints and advance to the Super Bowl.
Vincent said Friday there have been seven proposed rule changes submitted by NFL teams related to the use of replay. Some of those, he said, would expand the scope of plays reviewable to include illegal hits and perhaps other personal fouls. One proposal, according to Vincent, would make all penalties, including those called and those not called, subject to replay review under the coaches’ challenge system. That proposal has been made in the past by New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick.
According to Vincent, the league and competition committee will continue to work on the particulars of the video official idea and decide what to present to the owners at the Phoenix meeting.
Among the issues up for consideration are which plays and which penalties could be addressed by the video official; when the video official could overturn mistakes; and from what pool of candidates the league would hire the sky judges.
The competition committee previously has been opposed to allowing judgment calls by the on-field officials, such as pass interference, to be subject to replay review. Vincent said there remains little support for permitting members of the NFL’s officiating department, based in New York in front of replay monitors, to call a penalty in a game in which the on-field officials did not throw a flag. But that view could be different, he said, if such a missed non-call could be corrected by an on-site video official who is a member of that particular officiating crew.
“They want the game to be played in the stadium,” Vincent said.
The video official might be given a limited scope of calls, perhaps including pass interference and personal fouls, to review. Such reviews could take place over an entire game or, alternatively, possibly only at certain points in a game, such as the final two minutes of each half of maybe the last five minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I think based off where we are, if you minimize the categories [of penalties subject to review by the video official], it absolutely can be done,” Vincent said.
Only mistakes deemed clear and obvious would be corrected. Vincent acknowledged that the officiating gaffe in the NFC title game dampened some fans’ enthusiasm about a mostly positive 2018 season, and he said those within the league are keeping an open mind to such changes.
“There wasn’t dissension,” Vincent said. “It was, ‘It may have some merit.’ ”
The mechanism with the video official presumably would come in addition to the current instant replay system, in which coaches can challenge certain plays but not judgment calls.
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