NFL Announces Changes to Officiating Procedures for Playoffs

Alec Nathan@@AlecBNathanFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2015

Referee Ed Hochuli announces a penalty on the field during the first half of an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Atlanta Falcons in Tampa, Fla., Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

The NFL formally approved changes to its postseason officiating procedures to allow referees the opportunity to consult Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino during games.

In a statement released Wednesday, the league announced teams were notified of the shift after the NFL Competition Committee unanimously recommended the changes before Commissioner Roger Goodell approved them.

The league's official memo reads as follows:

For the 2015 postseason, consultation may occur between the referee and the VP of Officiating or his designee located in the league's officiating headquarters in New York regarding the correct application of playing rules. In addition to the VP of Officiating's current role in Instant Replay, this consultation will only include the appropriate assessment of penalty yardage, the proper administration of the game clock, the correct down, or any other administrative matter not currently reviewable. 

This will not include the ability to call or change a foul, or otherwise become involved in on-field judgment calls that are not subject to the current Instant Replay system. 

In other words, the NFL has implemented the changes as a safeguard in the event officiating crews make a procedural error. 

For instance, if the new rules had been in place during the regular season, Blandino would have had the chance to consult with referees and put time back on the clock during the Buffalo Bills' controversial 20-13 Monday Night Football loss to the New England Patriots. 

After officials incorrectly let time on the game clock expire when wide receiver Sammy Watkins gave himself up out of bounds, Blandino admitted the league's mistake on NFL Network (h/t Pro Football Talk's Michael David Smith) and said a couple of seconds should have remained in regulation. 

Bleacher Report's Jason Cole offered his take on the postseason tweaks: 

"The committee feels strongly that giving the referee and Dean the ability to consult with each other in certain situations beyond instant replay will further support officiating in the playoffs," NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said, per the league's statement. "The officials do a very difficult job exceedingly well, and we think this adjustment in the playoffs will make them even better."

Since stakes will rise in the postseason, the committee's decision to take swift action and implement new procedures should put teams and fans at ease. And with the playoffs on the horizon, it will be fascinating to see the new rules play out in real time should officiating controversy envelop games at key moments. 

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