If I Were Commissioner: Instant Replay

This segment we assume that I am the commissioner of the entire NFL, and I have autonomous authority to make any changes to the game I see fit without any repercussions. In this first segment I am going to take on the current instant replay system in the NFL.

Let me begin by saying that I like the idea of instant replay in sports. I believe that the main idea of instant replay is to use our current technology to get the calls correct. Although human error has been part of every game for years and years, we don't have to put up with it any more, thanks to TV cameras with slow-motion and great angles for viewing.

The first issue I have with the current instant replay rules in the NFL are who reviews the calls. I feel that it is likely that an official that is in charge of looking at a play where he may have made an incorrect judgement is less likely to overturn his own call. I'm not saying that all NFL officials are ego-driven and won't admit to a mistake of their own, but to believe that none of them are is a little naive. If I'm going to complain about something, I need to have a solution. My solution to this issue is that I would have a special instant replay official up in the box. This official would be separate from the officials on the field, and he would be the final judgement on all review-able matters. I believe this would take some of the ego's out of the decision and give a correct interpretation on the calls.

The next issue I have with instant replay is what is review-able. If we have the technology to get the calls right, why don't we review as much as possible? I believe that all penalties with the exception of offensive holding ought to be review-able. If an official can potentially make a mistake on the ruling of if a receiver had two feet in bounds while catching a pass for example, why can't that same official make a mistake on what is or isn't pass interference? Pass interference, play clocks expiring, offsides, false starts, face-masks, and other personal fouls can all be huge, game-changing plays. Why not use our technology to get these calls right?

My next change with instant replay would be the interpretation of the calls. I would make my new instant replay official look at each play with disregard for what the call on the field was. For example, on a close play where a ball-carrier's knee may have been down when the football was fumbled, it wouldn't matter if the official on the field will have ruled the runner down by contact, or a fumble. I would like the instant replay official to rule on the play whatever he thinks the right call would be.

My final changes to instant replay would be the length of time it would take to make a ruling, and the amount of challenges each coach would have. Since there would already be a replay official in the booth and there would be no long walk to the sideline by the head referee, I would limit the review time to 60 seconds. By limiting the review time, the game would move a little quicker, and there would be time for a few more challenges. Since more plays would be review-able, each team would be allowed four challenges per game.

In my NFL, instant replay would have a separate official, we would be able to review nearly all penalties, the instant replay official would have final interpretation of the play on the field regardless of the ruling on the field, reviews would be limited to 60 seconds or less, and each team would have up to four challenges. I believe this would make for a game with less human error by the officials, and the outcome would be decided on the field in more instances.

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