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League needs to take replay review out of referee’s hands

Patriots Steelers Football

An official watches a replay of a Pittsburgh Steelers safety in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Pittsburgh, Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011. The Steelers appealed the call on the field believing the safety was a touchdown. After review, the ruling on the field stood. The Steelers won 25-17. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


I’ve complained in the past about the current procedure for conducting replay reviews. The time-consuming (but necessary) process becomes only more cumbersome when it’s done on the field, with the referee walking to the sidelines, donning the Dukakis headset, talking to the replay assistant, eventually getting under the hood of the on-field replay machine, watching the replay from various angles, emerging from under the hood, wasting more time talking to the replay assistant or other officials or one of the coaches, and then finally announcing the outcome and getting on with the game.

For that reason alone, the NFL should move the replay system upstairs, like it used to be when replay review first was used by pro football in the 1980s.

After Sunday’s division-round playoff between the Giants and the Packers, there’s another reason to take the decision upstairs. Referee Bill Leavy made an obvious mistake when failing to conclude that Packers receiver Greg Jennings had lost possession of the ball before his knee or shin hit the ground. Regardless of the reason for the wrong ruling, the on-field officials already have enough to deal with. It’s better to staff the replay booth with the resources to make the decisions quickly and efficiently, without the goofy dog-and-pony show and in the kind of environment in which clear errors can’t be made.

Why not take it a step farther and find a way to involve the league office in each decision, like the NHL apparently does?

Regardless, the current system wastes too much time and, based on today’s example, isn’t working. For a league that constantly strives to find ways to do things better, this would be a great place to make some improvements.