NFL Approves Expanded Authority for Replay Officials Ahead of 2021 Season

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistApril 21, 2021

Referee Jerome Boger (23) reviews a play during an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Jennifer Stewart)
Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press

NFL owners approved several new rule changes Wednesday, including an expanded role of replay officials on game days, according to Kevin Seifert of ESPN.

One new rule allows the official who sits in a press box the opportunity to consult with referees on "specific, objective aspects of a play when clear and obvious video evidence is present."

While the officials have informally provided advice in past years, per Seifert, they were not told to guide on-field refs on their decisions.

The changes still fall short of giving the replay official the authority to change calls on their own or throw flags. The Baltimore Ravens proposed a full-time booth umpire similar to the "sky judge" seen in the limited run of the XFL, but the plan was rejected by owners.

Some were fearful of the extra official overstepping the role.

"If you get to subjective things in that booth, what is the standard? Do we re-officiate the play?" competition committee chairman Rich McKay said, per Barry Wilner of the Associated Press. "In this case, it's objective (information), there is a way they could assist. We have the technology, really good technology now. Let's use that technology and try to improve. I do get nervous when it goes beyond that."

Even with the benefit of replay, NFL games are still often filled with questionable calls, with most penalties being unable to be reviewed at all. Expanded authority for replay officials could at least help guide referees to see what fans see.