As done in previous weeks, there is a two-part “Official Review,” one for NFL Network and one for NFL.com. The topics were not nearly controversial this week for the league’s vice president of officiating, Mike Pereira:
- 49ers defensive back Shawntae Spencer signaled incomplete on a pass that he broke up in the game against the Vikings. However, since he was over the prone receiver, it was deemed a 15-yard taunting foul.
- Texans receiver Kevin Walter, running a tight end-zone route, collided with a Jaguars defender. It appeared inadvertent, but it drew an offensive-pass-interference call. Pereira gave his wavering support for the call on the field, but in the subtext, it is probably going to be scored against the covering official’s grade. In this case, the covering official was field judge Jim Howey.
- Other noncontroversial offensive-pass-interference calls from the Falcons—Patriots (which nullified a Falcons touchdown) and Steelers—Bengals.
The bulk of the conversation between Pereira and NFL Net talking head Rich Eisen focused on a call for plane-of-goal cameras in every stadium to supplement the broadcast cameras. This started when a Texans go-ahead-touchdown attempt was thwarted by a goal-line fumble. Replay was inconclusive as to when the player was down, so the field call stood. (Bonus: Pereira showed the videotape of the replay assistant’s efforts from the referee’s field monitor perspective.)
When we watched Super Bowl XLIII, there were fixed camera positions on the goal line, as was evident from the coast-to-coast interception return by James Harrison (video). Primetime games and playoff games (and, to a lesser extent, the key afternoon matchups) have more camera angles than other standard regular season games. It’s just a built-in flaw in the system, just as much as a network television director making a choice of replay angles is. Replay is not supposed to be the fix-all. (Eisen went on to suggest a camera mounted on the pylon.)
Technology is always explored for improving the mechanics, such as using laser-sighting or GPS technology for measuring first downs. The gain, though, must be a part of the equation. Do you place a camera on the pylon for a goal-line play that happens once in a few weeks? There are eight pylons on the field and do you add cameras to similarly patrol the sideline and end line? And it would not have solved this situation, because the play was not the breaking of the plane of the goal, but the knee that is a yard or so back.
Inconclusive video is a perfectly acceptable call, especially since the coach had the discretion to throw the challenge flag in this instance.