How Would Centralized Replay System Affect NFL Games?

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IDecember 10, 2013

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 06:  The officiating crew, including line judge Jeff Bergman #32, referee Jeff Triplette #42, back judge Steve Freeman, and umpire Butch Hannah #40 discuss a play between the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders in the third quarter on October 06, 2013 at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Raiders won 27-17.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
Brian Bahr/Getty Images

The NFL desperately needs to revamp its reviewing process. 

I know it, you know it, your grandma, who you can't believe still watches football and loves the Manning brothers, knows it. 

The problem with the current replay reviewing system is twofold.

First and foremost, the officials must get the calls right. And they aren't.

When the review system was introduced it was seen as, essentially, a foolproof way to use technology to eliminate the possibility of a blown call if a head coach threw that little red flag or if the play in question happened with under two minutes to go in either half. 

While many incorrect calls have been made following booth reviews in the past, Week 14 provided another glaring example. 

In the Cincinnati Bengals game against the Indianapolis Colts, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis was tripped up short of the end zone by nose tackle Josh Chapman on a 4th and goal carry in the second quarter. 

Head official Jeff Triplette ruled Green-Ellis down before he crossed the goal line, but because the play happened with under two minutes remaining in the half, it was reviewed.

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 6:  Head Coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys discusses a call with the Referee during a game against the Denver Broncos at AT&T Stadium on October 6, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  The Broncos defeated the Cowboys 51-48.  (Photo
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Although an assortment of replays shown on the CBS broadcast clearly displayed Chapman clipping Green-Ellis' ankle which made the running back fall to the ground, the ruling was reversed, and the Bengals were awarded a touchdown. 

Even if Triplette didn't see what appeared to be extremely noticeable to TV viewers, he certainly didn't have indisputable evidence to overturn his initial call. But he reversed the ruling and the Bengals were awarded a score they didn't deserve. 

Some prominent NFL writers weren't too fond of Triplette's gaffe:

The overturn by Triplette in Cincinnati: disgraceful. Indefensible.

— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) December 8, 2013

The NFL has to fire Jeff Triplette. He's consistently the worst ref in the NFL.

— Michael David Smith (@MichaelDavSmith) December 8, 2013

ICYMI: My annual "Why the hell does Jeff Triplette have a job in the NFL?" post. http://t.co/AYiugqo4mA

— SI_DougFarrar (@SI_DougFarrar) December 9, 2013

The prevailing gripe on this matter is simple and reasonable—if hundreds of thousands of fans and a large collection of media members watching from home can see how a reviewed play should be ultimately ruled, why are on-field, under-the-hood officials getting it wrong? 

MMQB editor-in-chief Peter King touched on the foundational issue with the review system in place today in his Week 14 column:

I’d prefer to have the same people looking at all replays. It lessens—though doesn’t eliminate—the chances of a mistake because the foremost authorities on the calls, led by VP of Officiating Dean Blandino, would be overseeing the process from the NFL command center. 

Sounds like the public wants to take replay—and probably a lot more—out of the hands of referees at game sites.

Florio asked on Pro Football Talk: “Should the NFL move the instant-replay function out of the stadium?” By early this morning, 83.7 percent of those responding (5,591 of 6,681) said yes. I asked my Twitter followers last night: “Should the NFL centralize replay in one place?” It was 149-9, yes (94.3 percent).

King later discussed the other order of business in regard to overhauling the way controversial plays are reviewed in the NFL.  

The league would consider this not only because a uniformity of eyes looking at the calls could lead to more consistency, but also because it would likely shorten games. The time of games (3 hours, 11 minutes, 20 seconds, on average, this weekend) has slowly crept up in the last few years, and the league wants to bring it back down. The time it takes for replay is getting onerous. 

For the record, times of games in the last six seasons, including this one through Sunday night’s Saints-Panthers game:

2013: 3:08:30
2012: 3:06:32
2011: 3:05:48
2010: 3:04:12
2009: 3:03:42
2008: 3:02:12

The change can't happen overnight, but it's not overly complex, necessarily more expensive or burdensome.

All scoring plays and turnovers are automatically reviewed.

Therefore, the referees shouldn't need to huddle then announce the impending review to the home crowd before jogging over the sideline to put on a headset and stand inside the replay booth. 

Immediately following a fumble, interception or touchdown, when the TV broadcast begins showing what basically seems to be a loop of replays, a centralized NFL review center should be watching the same replays to come to a definitive conclusion as soon as possible. 

When that determination is made, it should be relayed to the on-field officials who'd then act as nothing more than messengers notifying the crowd and TV audience of how the NFL replay command center ruled. 

The same expedited process should also occur when a head coach decides to challenge an initial ruling.

Utilizing a centralized replay center to instantaneously review turnovers, scoring plays and challenged calls would, as King mentioned, lead to widespread consistency that's urgently needed and would make what seems to be a purposely drawn-out, antiquated system as fast as it could possibly be. 

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - SEPTEMBER 16:  NFL replacement referees discuss a play during a game between the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders at Sun Life Stadium on September 16, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

It wouldn't sap the power from the referees, either. 

They'd be asked to officiate in the same manner. 

In fact, the centralized replay center would serve as optimal insurance for on-field referees. While they likely enjoying having the final say on all rulings, in the end, they want to get calls right, and the outside replay system would be the ideal safeguard.  

The NFL's a $9 billion-per-year industry—it absolutely must use cutting edge technology to ensure its product isn't significantly hampered by human error and slowed by an unnecessarily lengthy review process. 

Using a replay command center would be a relatively uncomplicated way for the NFL to make correct, uniform rulings that are nearly impossible to catch live by the naked eye while positively impacting its fans' viewing experience.