Report: NFL Competition Committee Supports 'Sky Judge' to Fix Mistakes

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorApril 2, 2020

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) listens in as the referees discuss a call during their game against the Los Angeles Chargers in first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

The NFL has been reticent to adopt the now-defunct AAF and XFL's reliance on sky judges to help correct (or affirm) referees' decisions.

That may no longer be the case, however, as John Kryk of the Toronto Sun reported news from a source that the NFL Competition Committee "endorses the sky-judge concept, after opposing it for years."

XFL head of officiating (and former NFL head of officiating) Dean Blandino also spoke with Kryk and said the following:

"The competition committee had an abbreviated conference call—obviously, with what's going on they can't meet in person as they normally would—but they had a call last week some time, and they went through all the rules proposals. And there is support for this."

The NFL would typically vote on such rule changes at the annual owners' meetings, but this year's version has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rescheduled meetings are tentatively set for May 19 and 20 in Marina Del Ray, California.

Per Kryk, the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers are jointly proposing two sky-judge possibilities.

The first, per Kryk, entails an "officiating advisor who is positioned somewhere other than the playing field, with full communication to on-field officials and access to a television monitor that displays all broadcast angles provided through the NFL’s network independence system."

The second system would involve seven officials in supervising roles and a STAR (senior technology adviser to the referee).

The STAR would be "an officiating expert who has on-field experience as a game official" and have a direct line of communication to game officials.

Regardless of what the NFL Competition Committee decides, the sky-judge concept largely worked well in the XFL, with review times slashed and conversations between judge and official aired live for full transparency for fans watching at home.

Another set of eyes for accuracy can't hurt as recent games have been marred by erroneous officiating decisions that could have been rectified.

As Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk noted, the XFL allowed sky judges to assist officials in the final five minutes of each half. That would help referees avoid any game- (or season-changing) errors.

For now, all eyes are on the upcoming owners' meeting, although the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would appear to put that in jeopardy.

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