It took a little while to get used to, but this year’s “replay assistance rule” has improved the game.
In 2020 the replay official at the stadium could step in and make clock adjustments. This season, the replay official’s ability to fix plays was greatly expanded.
In short, the NFL is allowing the replay official to take a quick look at a play, and if it can be quickly corrected, the official can radio the field officials to fix the call. The onus is not immediately on the head coach to determine if the play is worth a challenge.
Instead of taking 90 or more seconds, the replay official can fix a play in 30 seconds. If a team still doesn’t like the ruling, they can challenge the call and have the footage reviewed via centralized replay.
A few weeks ago, the NFL announced that this new procedure is helping streamline the game.
It took a little getting used to at the start of the season, as there was a call, followed by 20 seconds of standing around, then the referee announces that “after discussion” the call was changed. It gave off the impression that the field officials were unsure about the call or, worse yet, the officials didn’t make any call and waited for the replay official to step in and make the call.
But, after nearly a full season of getting used to it, this expedited replay procedure is good. You can actually see it in action in the following clip. The Packers were originally awarded a first down, but the replay official clearly saw the player a half yard short of the line to gain. While the focus is on Matt Nagy teetering on getting ejected (he already had one unsportsmanlike conduct foul), you can see down judge Derick Bowers ordering the chains reset for second down. Nagy didn’t need to challenge (and he wasn’t charged a time out), and the replay official fixed it.
There has been a call for a “sky judge” (don’t tell Ben I called it that, he hates the term!), for the last few years. Without adding an eighth official, it appears that we basically have such a position this season as the replay official is given permission to fix obvious calls without a big stoppage.
As long as the official makes an original call and doesn’t wait for the replay official to make the call for them, I say this is a good improvement to the game flow.