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Fix inequities built into replay system



The replay system as we know it needs further review. We are going to be highlighting these in an on-going series.

While we have said that having instant replay is not a backstop for overturning every missed call, its application in limited circumstances is very useful. However, the system is beginning to show some competitive inequities that must be resolved.

Part 1. Equal access to game footage

In 2007, the NFL upgraded its replay equipment to the same standard as the critics sitting in their Barcaloungers. However, each team must have the ability to make a fast decision on a replay that is not determined by a television director or Jumbotron operator.

replaygfxIn a Week 12 game, the Packers had a potential situation to review a catch by Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez. The coaches in the booth, however, were unable to make a decision in time, because the Georgia Dome’s video feed was lagging behind by a play. In a universe where hordes of people were able to verify within seconds that they saw Janet Jackson’s nipple in the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show, a team’s coaching staff should be able to render a decision on a replay within 10 seconds.

Also, it is known that stadium personnel do not show a replay of a questionable call on the stadium’s screens that might be an advantage to the opponents. Conversely, they will replay a close call that would advantage the home team.

The technology exists for each team plus the replay booth to be able to rewind the previous play and be able to change the camera angle while replaying. This should include the closed-circuit cameras for the in-stadium displays as well. This removes the burden off of a network television partner to deliver the proper replay at the proper time for there to be a challenge, either from the sideline or from the replay assistant.

It is also strange that, in 2010, there is a video delay of over 30 seconds. The league should be monitoring these feeds (if, in fact, the video feeds are the responsibility of the facility), and if the video lags behind, there must be some way to allow the system to dump its memory and reset itself quickly. When video trails so long when one team has the ball, then that is a competitive disadvantage. If something simple like a coach’s headset malfunctions on one sideline, the other team’s bench must forgo their working ones until the problem is corrected. (Technological improvements have made that measure a relic of the past.)

And, while we are on the subject, can the replay booth get one or two tape decks as a backup? We noted last year that the Dolphins were unable to execute a challenge because the replay system needed to be rebooted. Even though the replay was available on the scoreboard and in the press box, those replays could not be fed through the replay equipment. After waiting the requisite two minutes (seriously, have you ever recovered from a system crash in two minutes?) the Dolphins were returned their challenge unused.

A trip to Radio Shack with less than $500 in your pocket can fix that.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)