Replay changes seem inevitable, specifics remain murky
After referee Jeff Triplette inexplicably bungled a replay review in the Colts-Bengals game, giving Cincinnati a touchdown even though replay showed that running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was down by contact before reaching the end zone, momentum emerged for moving the replay function out of the stadiums and to a centralized location.
That momentum continued to build, fueled by news that the NFL subsequently visited the NHL’s command center in Toronto.
But then came the pre-Combine meeting of the Competition Committee, which resulted in sound bites suggesting that support doesn’t currently exist for centralized replay.
That wasn’t the sense we obtained during various on-the-record and off-the-record discussions with coaches and General Managers at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. While sufficient support (i.e., 24 of 32 teams) may not exist to take the replay function completely out of the hands of the referees and push the full process to a place like NFL headquarters in New York, support for some sort of change seems to be strong.
The eventual adjustment could be, we’re told, to have NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino talk directly to the replay official and/or the referee to ensure consistency and accuracy in the various rulings. And it sounds as if efforts already have been made to have Blandino intervene, even though the rules as currently written contemplate that the referee will make the decision on his own.
Regardless of how it happens, the referees need help, and Blandino’s involvement helps promote the implementation of the right standard in every replay review. One mistake in the process is too many, and plenty of mistakes happened in 2013. If procedure exists for augmenting the current process with the benefit of centralized and coordinated analysis of the calls in real time, it will only make the process better, not worse.
In four weeks, the owners will gather in Orlando to address this and other issues. Few issues will be as important as finding ways to get the calls right, as often as possible.