Robinson: NFL considers replay changes
By Alan Robinson
Published: Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, 10:50 p.m.
To NHL fans, it's a familiar — and sometimes feared — sound.
“There's a question about this goal — did the puck actually cross the line? — so they're going to take a look at it in Toronto.”
Video replay has been a part of the NHL since 1991, and the much-praised, centralized system has operated for more than a decade. All calls are made every night in the Situation Room in Toronto by the same small group of league employees, headed by vice president Mike Murphy.
As much as fans dislike seeing their team or favorite player denied a goal by replay, the NHL almost always gets its calls right.
The NFL, now in the playoffs stage of a season fraught with officiating inconsistencies, blown calls and curious decisions, is paying attention.
Two months ago, Jay Reid of the NFL officiating department sat in with the Situation Room crew during a busy, 10-game night, evaluating how hockey's replay system works.
The NHL system utilizes league-installed HD cameras positioned above and inside each net. The video is transmitted almost instantaneously to Toronto via a cyber-optic network installed two years ago to replace the former satellite delivery system.
As a result, decisions come faster because the Situation Room no longer waits for play to stop so on-site TV production trucks can feed them video.
In the NFL, all the replay decisions are made on-site. The referee, watching a hood-covered monitor just off the playing field while consulting with a video replay official in the press box, cues up video supplied by the TV network airing the game.
During quarterly owners meetings last month, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said a centralized replay system is being considered. NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino, who goes on NFL Network each week to explain controversial or incorrect calls, likely would be involved in most or all reviews.
To Goodell, the chief argument for such a system is there would be more consistency with the same people making each call each week. What would differ from the NHL is the sheer number of plays that can be reviewed. The NHL reviews only whether a goal should count or time-clock issues.
Steelers president Art Rooney II likely would favor such a system if he is convinced it would speed up the replay process.
“The consistency is something, I think, we need to do better,” he said. “The area I think we need some discussion about is how we use replay. I'm not necessarily looking for more plays to be reviewed, but I do think we need to look at whether the way we're doing it now is the most effective way and who's actually reviewing the play, whether it should go to a centralized sort of command post. It takes too long as far as I'm concerned, and I think there are things we need to look at to improve the situation.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick wants the system to be overhauled so any call, not just specific plays that involve a score, a player going out of bounds or a change of possession, can be reviewed.
“While we might need to open up more of the kinds of plays that are eligible t be replayed, I don't necessarily want to see more replays per game, that's for sure,” Rooney said.
The earliest the league can start weighing a possible changeover to centralized replay would be during the March owners meetings in Orlando.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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