The NFL is considering the addition of a ‘sky judge’ to each officiating crew for the 2020 season. These booth judges will serve as a backstop to on-field officials and correct any wrong calls.
Talks about adding a skybox official has been an idea circling the NFL for years.
Deliberations about officiating and replay became a more hot-button issue after the missed pass interference call late in regulation during the NFC championship game. The wrong call helped the Rams defeat the Saints and advance to the Super Bowl.
Furthermore, this discussion intensified when all 32 head coaches asked owners to consider adding a sky judge to decrease inaccurate calls. League leaders, however, did not think they could identify and hire 17 qualified sky judges in short notice last year. Instead, owners voted to add pass interference calls and non-calls to their list of reviewable plays.
Other changes for the future
The league and the competition committee met at the annual Phoenix meeting on March 29 in Palm Beach, Florida. There, they discussed the particulars of the video official idea.
Some of the main issues planned to address were which plays and which penalties could be addressed by the video official; at which time of the game the video official could overturn on-field mistakes; and from what pool of candidates the league would hire the sky judges.
There have been seven different rule-change proposals submitted by individual NFL teams related to the use of replay in officiating.
Some of these proposals would expand the scope of plays reviewable by replay to include illegal hits and perhaps other personal fouls. One proposal would make all penalties, including those called and those not called, subject to replay review under the coaches’ challenge system. New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick proposed this specific rule-change in the past.
Other team-based rule change proposals from the Philadelphia Eagles include:
- Establishing an alternative to the onside kick. After a score, the trailing team would have one play to gain 15 yards from its own 25-yard line. If it succeeds, the trailing team would maintain possession. Owners voted down a similar proposal last year, and Murphy said last month that he thought it was “gimmicky,” but the league did test it in the 2019 Pro Bowl.
- Restore overtime to 15 minutes. The NFL moved it back to 10 minutes in 2017.
- Make changes to the new blindside block rule that would prevent unnecessary fouls.
Ryan Clark shares opinion
ESPN’s Ryan Clark believes adding a sky judge would be smart and beneficial for the league and its players and coaches.
The Baltimore Ravens and the Los Angeles Rams formally submitted their proposals for booth umpires for the upcoming season. Moreover, these teams requested adding a senior technology adviser to assist the referee.