The NFL continues to explore the idea of centralizing instant replay in an effort to bring more consistency to rulings on the field, Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters in New York on Friday.
“We think there is plenty of room for us to improve the game of football, and officiating in particular,” Goodell said in his annual pre-Super Bowl state of the league news conference. “What we all want is consistency [and] fairness in our officiating. And we believe that we might be able to achieve more consistency when we bring instant replay where there is more of a centralized version and decision-making process.”
Under the current rules, referees watch replays on a hooded monitor along the sidelines before deciding whether to overrule a call on the field. If instant replay is centralized, a group of officials would watch each game at NFL headquarters. Those officials would then either make decisions on disputed calls or provide the on-field officials with additional information and guidance, Goodell said.
“That’s something the competition committee is going to consider over the next two months and come back [with] a recommendation for the membership,” he said. “I do believe there’s a possibility that some version of that will occur, where our office can at least be involved with the [on-field call]. May not make the decision, but at least can provide some input that would be helpful to the officials on the field, to make sure they are seeing every angle, to make sure they have the proper opportunity to make the best decision.”
The NHL has been doing this for years. At the league’s Toronto headquarters, a half dozen employees watch each game every night—complete with all camera angles available—and make rulings on disputed goals. They also track possible score sheet changes and grade each referee’s performance.
In late November, the NFL sent an officiating representative to Toronto to study the NHL’s technology and methods.
“We created the replay system back in the early ‘90’s for all of professional sports,” Goodell said. “We always make changes to our replay system and we’re not afraid to try to learn from others who may be doing it differently. Our system is unique. It will be different from the NHL’s system in any case. We have replay that probably deals with a lot more plays than the NHL does. So we have to modify this for the NFL. It has to work for us. Again, we’re going to go out and learn from anybody, and try to understand the technology better. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be a system that’s unique to the NFL.”
Fans will still probably complain about the officiating because, well, that’s what fans do. But with the same group of officials making the calls from a centralized location each Sunday, there are going to be fewer blown calls to complain about. At least, that's the NFL's hope.