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NFL needs to evolve more when it comes to instant replay

Updated January 30, 2019 - 10:55 pm

ATLANTA

Full disclosure: I’m a nutjob when it comes to instant replay in sports. I don’t believe technology is used near enough.

I would replay the amount of chalk being used on a field if it was thought excessive.

I would replay the kid in the stands to ensure he was closing his fists and swinging his arms in proper sequence during the floss dance.

If umpires reportedly miss one of every eight ball-strike calls, determine them electronically and get all eight correct. If you can review a restricted area block/charge in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and overtime, do it for an entire basketball game. The same for goaltending/basket interference.

The same for everything.

The same, absolutely, in football.

Roger Goodell held his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday in advance of the Patriots and Rams meeting Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and while there were the usual predetermined questions from reporters who knew the previous day their exact place in line to speak — yeah, the gathering still has a serious level of farce to it — the NFL commissioner did expand on those inquires about the league’s officiating.

It has been endlessly written about and talked to death over, the atrocious no-call in the NFC championship game, one New Orleans is convinced kept the Saints from advancing here instead of the Rams.

Maybe. Possibly. Probably.

Definitely?

But even more important than a flag not being thrown against Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman — and other missed calls on both sides during that game and all others — is what the NFL intends to do in the wake of such a dark stain being attached to one of the season’s biggest moments.

I’m thinking not enough.

“We will look again at instant replay,” said Goodell. “There have been a variety of proposals over the last, frankly, 15, 20 years on whether replay should be expanded. It does not cover judgment calls; this was a judgment call. The other complication is that it was a no-call.

“And our coaches and clubs have been very resistant, and there has not been support to date, about having a replay official or somebody in New York throw a flag when there is no flag. They have not voted for that in the past.”

Well, they should.

We look at sports in a bubble when it comes to change. Give us the newest edition of a smart phone and expand those brain-computer interfaces, but heaven forbid someone suggest replay is used to get a pass interference call correct.

I get it. One of the most endearing things about sport is its history. They didn’t have instant replay for those human chariot races back in 776 B.C., and all the deaths by dragging would have made for some pretty vile footage, anyway.

But centuries change. Athletes evolve. Human eyes and instincts officiating them struggle to keep up.

Too much is at stake now, too many billions of dollars wagered annually, to be worried about things like lengthening games or altering tradition. I don’t care how long it takes. Just do everything possible to get it right.

In what other entity do we possess the technology for progress and refuse to use it? What, we were supposed to pass on the whole GPS idea because folks were used to spreading out maps across a dashboard?

Change might come

It was reported Wednesday that the NFL’s competition committee might consider allowing for limited challenges for incorrect judgment calls, and that the coach would risk a penalty or time being run off if proven wrong. Good. Do it. Hold them accountable, but at least offer the opportunity to have judgment calls or even no-calls reviewed.

Who cares where the flag comes from — an official on the field or one watching from a monitor — as long as it’s the proper and justified outcome of a given play?

“We know our officials are human, and that they’re officiating a game that moves very quickly and that they have to make snap decisions under difficult circumstances and they’re not going to get it right every time,” said Goodell. “We have worked very hard to bring technology in to try to make sure we can do whatever’s possible to address those issues. But technology’s not going to solve all those issues. The game is not officiated by robots. It’s not going to be. But we have to continue to go down that path.”

I vote for robots.

Or whatever it takes for something like the no-call in New Orleans not to happen again.

Too much at stake. Too much money on the line, both for those in the league and those who follow and wager on it.

Leather helmets used to be a thing, too.

At some point, football figured it could do better.

Shouldn’t it now?

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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