Chiefs' Patrick Mahomes Calls for Microchips in Balls to Help Improve Officiating

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 21, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the NFL Super Bowl 55 football game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Jason Behnken)
AP Photo/Jason Behnken

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said he's an advocate for a microchip or other technology to help officials make calls around the goal line.

Mahomes explained during an appearance on this week's WHOOP Podcast (via Pete Grathoff of the Kansas City Star) the number of players in a goal-line pile often makes it too difficult to make an accurate call from the sideline:

"I've always thought the chip in the ball has to happen sometime, where if you cross the line, it just tells you a touchdown. But it's also the human error thing. It's kind of like baseball, balls and strikes. It's just part of the game. The biggest thing to me is when they get in the pile by the end zone, there is literally no way to tell if he's in the end zone or not. It's like you said, it's just whatever they call. ... I'm sure it'll happen soon enough."

The idea of automated technology that alerts on-field officials when the ball has crossed the goal line has existed for decades, but figuring out a way to implement it is difficult.

Since the ball can reach the line in virtually an infinite number of ways based on how the ball-carrier is holding it and there are other factors in play, such as whether a knee or elbow touches the ground before the ball crosses the line, it'll be difficult to create a fully automated system.

That holds true in Mahomes' example because even if the technology can tell whether the ball itself reached the goal line, video review would still be needed to determine whether it happened before a body part touched the ground.

In April, NFL owners approved the expansion of power for video replay officials, who can now contact the in-game officials to discuss "specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present," even if a challenge flag hasn't been thrown.

Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said a more aggressive plan that would have included a sky judge with full authority to overrule calls was tabled in favor of the more open-discussion approach.

"I think we should try this," McKay said. "We have the technology. We have really good technology. It sits in the booth with the replay official, and it sits in New York. I think what we thought, and what the coaches' subcommittee thought, was let's use that technology and let's try to improve the crew. I do get nervous when it goes beyond that."

Ideally, the touchdown calls would all be clear cut since a single score could be the determining factor between whether a team wins or loses, but there are simply too many nuances for an easy solution.

The NFL may get more aggressive in its efforts to find an answer if this year's rule change of getting the video replay officials more involved doesn't help, though.