NFL decides to hold off on adding booth referee this season

Heading into today’s meeting, they’ll have one less item on the list, as the NFL has scrapped plans to add a booth referee to the games.

As the NFL continues to work toward a launch of the regular season this September, there are still a lot of issues to be worked out. One major issue has to deal with different rules and how they’re implemented, and team owners are expected to virtually get together today to go over the changes. With the revelation that the league already screwed up in trying to manage the pass interference challenge rule, which has now been scrapped, perhaps the owners can come up with a better solution that can easily be put into play. Heading into today’s call, they’ll have one less item on the list, as the NFL has scrapped plans to add a booth referee to the games. 

The pass interference challenge was designed, in part, to make up for the egregious error performed on the part of the officiating crew during the playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the LA Rams in the 2018-19 season. The NFL has already admitted to being a major failure with regards to that rule, and will try to work out an alternative. The booth referee, or sky judge, was initially created to be that replacement; however, it won’t be added to the rulebook for the upcoming season.

According to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network, “Both ‘sky judge’ proposals are being withdrawn prior to tomorrow’s virtual meeting on rule changes, sources say. Expect the NFL to still test some expanded booth-to-official communication system in the preseason. But no officiating personnel added for 2020.” He adds, “Adding a booth umpire/senior technology advisor could’ve supplanted last season’s controversial pass interference replay rule, which wasn’t renewed. But questions persist about how far that person’s power should extend. Competition committee supports further analysis.”

Peter King of NBC Sports chalks up the rule’s demise to lack of preparation on the part of the league. The eye in the sky was first discussed several years ago, and then revived after the Saints playoff debacle. Early last month, talk of the additional referee became more serious, but the league hasn’t been able to figure out how to come up with a plan of attack. Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive VP, told King, “The concept of the eighth man in the booth has some merit. But we just don’t have the pipeline [of officials] today. Can we get there? Yes. But today, it could be a challenge.”

NFL refs are always going to have to take heat for their actions – it goes with the territory. Even when they make the right call there will be those who argue against them. However, when a wrong call costs a team a chance at a run on the Lombardi Trophy, there is something seriously wrong. The league has already started to make changes to how referees are trained, but more stringent measures should be implemented when they make life-altering bad calls. 

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