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All quiet on the replay front



Replay reversals — and controversies — are down in 2014

Before the 2014 season, the NFL announced that vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, and senior officiating director Al Riveron would consult with the referee on each replay review from the Art McNally GameDay Central at NFL headquarters in New York.  This change was instituted after several head scratching replay decisions in 2013 (one example, a Jeff Triplette review that did not factor defensive contact in a downed runner reversal).

An NFL source says the revised rule has been followed as written. Its referees insist that the final replay decision rests with the game referee; Blandino and Riveron don’t make the ruling, despite firsthand accounts that say that they are “the two ruling officials” in replay.  No matter the mechanics and machinations, this year’s instant replay rules and decisions have been handled quickly, efficiently and mostly without controversy.  Of course, fans will always view replays that show “clearly” that their team is in the right, but so far, we have not seen those universally controversial replay decisions or mistakes of years past.

No matter who makes the final replay decision, replay reversals are down this year.  This is in line with Blandino’s philosophy, stated in his Week 12 officiating video.  Blandino says the goal of instant replay is to find indisputable video evidence to overturn a call. “We are not going to try to re-officiate the play in the booth,” he said.

Instant replay has become an interesting aspect of the game; so interesting that the networks have hired former NFL officials as a rules and officiating consultants: Mike Pereira for Fox, Mike Carey for CBS, and Gerry Austin for ESPN (although Austin has missed time in the booth this year due to illness).  When a referee goes under the hood to check a play, the networks bring in their officiating consultant and he gives his opinion whether the play will stand or be reversed.  When Fox hired  Pereira in 2010, he ran off a long string of correctly analyzing instant replay results, and still ends up agreeing with the officials’ ruling most of the time.  This year, Carey’s opinion in his rookie television season has not agreed with the referee’s final decision on many high profile occasions.  Is it because Carey is over-officiating the play?  Is he simply contrarian?  Is he applying his old standard to replay reviews when he was an official instead of staying up to date on the current philosophy?  No matter the reason, it has been a rough year for Carey, although he has shown improvement each week.

As we celebrate the invention of instant replay technology 51 years ago this week, we recognize that it is not the silver-bullet solution, but it has certainly been a net positive for officiating.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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