While the league’s power structure gathers together for the annual Owners’ Meetings, we brace ourselves to adjust our understanding about not only how the game is played, but also how it is officiated as a result of new rules being passed.
This year will be no different in a theme of change, as the owners voted in favor of passing two new rules yesterday. One pertains to making blocks on defensive players at the knees coming from the side illegal—the same block coming from behind already is illegal.
The other rule passed pertains to how plays are reviewed, and I think it is a prudent rule that frankly should have already been in place.
With the passage of Rule Proposal 9, officials under the review booth will now be able to consult with the league’s Officiating Command Center at league headquarters in New York when analyzing the review of the play and determining whether or not the ruling on the field should stand.
This should not only lead to a more consistent and, ideally, accurate review process, but also a more expedited one, which should be of great interest.
One of the main arguments against the usage of reviews has long been its impact on the flow of the game. Some sports, such as tennis and hockey, mitigate this issue far better than others—such as football, or baseball.
This new rule, then, should appeal to those who worry about the amount of time the review process takes, because the league can begin reviewing a play the moment it’s actually challenged on the field.
By the time the head official actually gets to the booth to review the play, those in charge of the review process at league headquarters can already have a good feel for the play and can then advise the official of what to look for in his own review.
It’s kind of amazing to think that this is not already taking place.
The objective of the ability to review a play is simply to assure that the right decision is made—doing so in a timely fashion is only a bonus—and assuming that one set of eyes with a select body of angles to review a play is always sufficient would probably be somewhat naïve and short-sighted.
After all, there have been instances during which an official was not aware of some obscure aspect of some rule or misapplied a rule. Having the front office overseeing the process should reduce such instances.
While the ultimate call remains with the official on the field, having others advising and assisting him in making that call is a significant improvement to the review process and should help make the game better.