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Solving the NFL's Instant Replay Problem
2006-01-19 10:15
by Scott Long

So do you think Doug Eddings was sleeping a little more soundly last weekend, after watching the NFL Playoffs? Even if you were in the large camp that thought Eddings blew the Josh Paul catch/trap, one could see how he might have missed it. This is unlike NFL official Pete Morelli who actually had made the right call on the field and then reversed it. After that call, I was half expecting Peyton Manning to take off his helmet only for it to be revealed that A.J. Pierzynksi was wearing his uniform.

Morelli's crew were the same ones who earlier missed an obvious pass interference call that would have most likely sewn up the game for the Steelers. Oh and if you think all the calls went the Colts way, guess again. On one play a Steeler lineman flinched, which every official missed, but half of Indy's defense who came across the line of scrimmage pointing, did not. The decision on this issue by the crew was "la la la, that whole play didn't happen, la la la, time for a do-over.

Morelli, unlike Eddings, never had to face the media glare after the game. What could his response been? I'm afraid no matter what he said it would have come out like one big "the dog ate my homework" excuse. Considering Morelli is a principal in his other job wouldn't that have been fitting? As John Canzano writes in the Oregonian, "until the NFL begins using full-time officials in what amounts to a billion-dollar enterprise, the job of regulating the league's high-stakes games falls to the regular guy who has stumbled into a nice weekend hobby."

Considering the NFL is all about TV ratings, here's my suggestion on solving the official's dilemma. Whenever a coach asks for a review, instead of having a referee look it over, have a panel of 3 judges just like American Idol. One judge would be a former referee, the second judge would be a foxy babe, and the final judge would be a sassy former player like Kordell Stewart. (Yeah, I know he's still in the league, but he hasn't thrown a pass in 2 years.)

Can you imagine the excitement this would bring? The NFL has been trying to get more women to watch and I think this would do the trick. Sample of how Sunday's controversial play would have been called if the review panel of 3 had been involved.

First Judge is former NFL referee Red Cashion: "The Steeler defender had possession before he fumbled and recovered it. Pittsburgh's ball. (Heavy southern accent) FIRST DOWN!"

Second Judge is Pamela Anderson: "Did you know I was discovered by Playboy at a Canadian football game? Oh, the play. The odds seemed stacked against the Colts. Oh and since I mentioned "Stacked", my sitcom on Fox will be moving to Thursdays in March. Oh yeah, my final decision. Now I like Troy Polamalu's hair, as its very rock and roll, just like Tommy Lee's. And I relate to many of the players, since a number of them are physically violent to their wives, just like Tommy Lee again. But I have to go with the Colts retaining possession, because I like their uniforms better. .

Third Judge is Kordell Stewart: "Pam, all I can say is you go girl. Now I used to be a Steeler, but don't think I'm biased towards them, as they dropped me. I mean I was Slash. When things were good, Coach Cowher used to kiss me on the cheek, but when I started throwing interceptions, he'd just yell at me. It was so bad I had a clear plastic shield attached to my face mask, not because I was afraid of being poked in the eye, but because I was tired of being spit on. It ain't right when your helmet has an accessory on it that is generally only used at a salad bar. You know its true Coach. So I go with Pam on this decision. Take that Steeler fans!

Ok, maybe my suggestion needs some work, but is it any worse than what happened this past weekend. I'm a big proponent of instant replay in the NFL, but it must be stated that overturning a call on the field can only happen if there is clear-cut evidence that it was wrong in the first place. If something isn't done to create more uniformity in the replay system, it will lose favor with the league and fans. Just like a bad call without replay hurts the game, a bad call with replay does the same. Considering that the NFL tries to keep all gambling references away from its beloved game, they need to do something to solve the inconsistency in the replay booth. Feel free to use my suggestion if you like.

2006-01-19 10:42:31
1.   Smed
NFL Officials are already 'full time'. What are they going to do the other games when they don't work? It's not the NHL / MLB / NBA where there are games constantly. They go in to the city on Friday and leave after the game. Columnists and others who suggest different are guilty of knee-jerk thinking and not actual problem solving.

The do-over was ludicrous though.

2006-01-19 11:26:08
2.   nickb
The officials need to be held accountable, one way or the other. Jason Whitlock had a good point in his article: If the players, coaches, and front office have to speak to the media after a game, why not the refs? At this point, you see the league "reprimand" an official maybe twice per season with little or no apparent consequences. If refs had own up to their decisions like everyone else, they might be less likely to make such egregious errors. Then again, that doesn't really stop Isaiah Thomas, Matt Millen, Terrell Owens or Bud Selig...
2006-01-19 12:32:18
3.   Scott Long
My suggestion would be to increase the pay some (60,000 to 150,000 depending on position) and truly make the officials full-time. With modern day video equipment they should have to go over game tapes to get better during the week. They should have to meet up for training classes a couple of times a year. Finally, they should be held accoutable more, by having to meet with the press if questions are asked.

I don't know about most of you, but to make this kind of money and get to travel with a lot of perks, I think this is fair. Smed, the players and coaches have become for the most part, 12 month slaves to the NFL grind. It's time for the league to have the officials join in the fun.

2006-01-19 12:44:06
4.   Smed
You know what, they do that already. They go over game tapes. They do training in the offseason, plus preseason. Read Dr. Z's thoughts on this on

They should be held accountable, true, but to say they're not full-time is disingenuous.

2006-01-19 16:45:57
5.   Scott Long

I disagree with Dr. Z about the refs, though he I don't dispute that he has more info on the subject than I do. Yes, they go over tapes on Saturday, but I do think they need more supervision than that. Since I don't know what the league supervisor of officials communicates with them, maybe it's already happening, but the same problems that happen on a regular basis continue. The training needs to be more structured, as the integrity of the game is starting to slip. The game has become so fast and physical that the refs need to keep up.

As Dr. Z mentioned, they don't have as many games to work as MLB or the NBA, so why not give them more time during training camp? The league needs to rethink their pass interference rules, especially on passes longer than 25 yards, as miscalls which happened in both AFC playoff games mean too much.

Another thing which needs to be addressed is why so many referees (head of crews) are not more articulate in explaining themselves. Where was Ed Hochuli (sp.?) or Mike Carey during this round? For the money the average referee is making, they should be more adept at the job.

2006-01-19 18:36:02
6.   fuzzycopper
I'm all for having a panel of refs in a replay booth upstairs make the call similar how college football or the NHL does it. Multiple monitors, less noise/intimidation from drunken fans screaming at you from ten feet away, easier communication with the TV crew about which angles to look at... Let the refs in the booth make the call.
2006-01-20 13:44:56
7.   Blah Blah Blah
Or, here's something, just find guys like Mike Carey that don't screw up so much. And make sure that Mike Carey is working at least one game every game day of the postseason.

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