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NFL brass getting behind push to add sky judge

The NFL may consider adding an eighth official, but that official would not don the striped shirt.



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Expect talks to get serious later this month about the NFL adding an eighth official to the crew…but this official will be in a suit and tie instead of a striped shirt.

The Alliance of American Football employs a sky judge. This official steps in to correct obvious officiating mistakes in judgement or administration.

In other words, the sky judge can correct a timing error, a mis-application of the rules, a mis-enforced penalty, or an obvious judgement call. On a judgement call, the AAF sky judge can step in to tell the on-field crew to call a penalty or pick up the flag.

The sky judge is not a replay official, and they cannot initiate a replay challenge.

Devil in the details

While we’ve speculated in the past that NFL replay officials and supervisors have stepped in to help officials, the sky judge will take away all speculation.

There isn’t a concrete proposal on the table yet, and any sky judge proposal would probably be an experiment the first year.

The big question is: How far-reaching is would the sky judge’s power be? What calls can they participate in? Rule and penalty enforcement mistakes are a no-brainer. The Big Call in this year’s NFC Conference Championship game would be a good time for a sky judge to intervene. Can the sky judge intervene all game or just in the last two minutes of a half?

It seems like the sky judge and the replay official have similar duties. Would a NFL sky judge and replay official be one in the same? While many fans think differently, most games don’t need a sky judge, but every game needs a replay official. Will hiring 17 new sky judges make economic sense for the NFL?

Where would the NFL get sky judges? Would a sky judge be a soft landing spot for on-field officials who the NFL wants to move? Or, would the NFL hire older, veteran college officials who are ready for a new challenge? Would a sky judge be a full time official? Would sky judges be members of the officials’ union?

Solution in search of a problem?

The sky judge idea gained traction after the missed pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game. While many support any tool to help call a more perfect game, the NFL must be careful. Hiring a sky judge to solve one problem could create many other layers of complication and controversy.

Troy Vincent, Al Riveron, and the NFL Competition Committee must move slowly, and get it right. Even if getting it right means no sky judge.

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?"