Better officiating and more efficient use of time are the goals of a proposal on the agenda for the competition committee when it meets this week at the NFL's annualmeeting in Phoenix.
That’s good, because if it works as described, fans will have more time aftergames to curse out the league and the perpetualmess it makes of officiating.
The replay hood is on the way out, replaced by a tablet viewed by the referee on the field. More important, though:The final say on the replay will come from a group at the centralized replay headquarters in New York, most often senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.
According to the proposal itself, provided by the NFL, “During the review, the designee shall consult with the Referee, who will have access to a hand-held, field-level monitor … Prior to consulting with the Officiating department designee, the Referee will discuss the play with the covering official(s) to gather any information that may be pertinent to the review."
"I think that's important to remember — we’re not taking the referee out of the equation,"Blandino said on a conference call. "The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say."
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This accomplishes two things.
One, said Falcons president and competition committee chair Rich McKay, is more consistency, so that how those calls and reviews are made won’t vary from official to official.
"We think this system furthers that,"he said, "with the idea that you always want the referee involved because the referee is on the field, is a rules expert, and should have some discussion in the procedure."
The other is to speed up the pace of the game, a clear emphasis of these meetings — not to reduce actual game time, Blandino said, but "to really reduce downtime."
That's all part of a network of proposals to that end, including reducing overtime to 10 minutes, standardizing halftime lengths, speeding up putting the ball in play after it goes out of boundsand, most significantly, getting rid of the commercial break between an extra point and a kickoff. Those would now be subject to a 40-second play clock.
Also in order to speed up replay: Challenge results can be announced when a decision has been made, without waiting for television to return from a commercial.
There’s little objection to anything aimed at cutting out the dead portions of a game, for fans at home and on site. Expect lots of pushback, though, on the central office having the final word on replay.
Eventually, it’s likely, less attention will be paid to how long it takes to get a replay decision, and more to whether this system gets more calls right — and if it doesn’t, who will catch the blame.
Blandino is already a routine target of such criticism, for explanations immediately after controversial calls as well as a day or two afterward, if his explanation doesn’t satisfy the complaining parties. If this rule passes, though, the blame that lands on the game officials possibly will either land partially or fully on Blandino.
Originally, eight proposals from the committee and sevenfrom the teams will be debated during theweek. Also on the table weresix bylaws and three resolutions, again proposed both by the teams and by the committee. Five of the most intriguing ones were highlighted here, including two that are strictly about alternate uniforms. (The Eagles reportedly withdrew three of their four rule-change proposals and their resolution about the helmets for alternate uniforms; their most intriguing rule-change suggestion, outlawing leaping over the line to block kicks, is expected to still be discussed.)
Playing rules changes proposed include outlawing more kinds of crackback blocksand adding receivers running pass routes to the list of "defenseless players"protected from blows to the head and neck.
The Bills and Seahawks jointly proposed making all officials’ decisions challengeable — bringing in plays that currently are not reviewable, such as pass interference and holding.
"That is a significant change in our current replay rule,"Blandino said.
It also is one that's proposed by one or more teams practically every year, without success.
Along those lines, Washington proposed giving teams as many coaches’ challenges as they like for as long as they win their challenges. Currently, teams only get one additional challenge, and only if they win both of their challenges.
Also on the table will be to make the ejection for two unsportsmanlike conduct flags in one game permanent; extending the spot at the 25-yard-line after a touchback on kickoffs for another season, and spotting the ball at the 20 on a kickoff that goes through the uprights.