John Steigerwald: Review system needs Guy in the Sky |
John Steigerwald, Columnist

John Steigerwald: Review system needs Guy in the Sky

In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints’ Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFC championship game in New Orleans. Officials chose not to penalize Robey-Coleman for flattening Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived.

Get it right.

That’s what we’ve been told is the reason for reviewing plays on video by the NFL and every other sports enterprise, but it’s never really been about getting it right all the time.

When the NFL first went to replay it was only about getting it right if a coach got it right on his two challenges per game or if the play happened in the last two minutes of either half.

Then the league decided to get it right by reviewing every scoring play and every change of possession.

The NHL tried for years to get it right when determining if a puck had crossed the red line for a goal and, for a while, it did a good job of making a joke of the game by looking at replays for several minutes to see if someone’s skate was one-sixteenth of an inch in the goalie’s crease when a goal was scored.

Ask Brett Hull and the Buffalo Sabres about that one.

Now the NHL is more than happy to disallow a goal if a coach challenges and finds a player was offside by one-sixteenth of an inch, 45 seconds before it was scored. But no replay is used to penalize a player who elbows an opponent’s teeth out of his mouth without either referee seeing it live. The NFL’s eight-man competition committee had a chance to really get it right last week in Phoenix but, after further review, Mike Tomlin and the other seven blew it.

They voted unanimously against a proposal to put an eye in the sky who would have the ability to reverse a call based on his view from the press box and/or a replay.

Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh would have voted for it. “I know as a coach, what’s the worst spot to watch a game from? Sideline. You see the least amount from the sideline. That’s why you put coaches in the box.”

That’s the solution for all sports.

No more challenges. No more painfully long reviews. No more on-field or on-ice monitors for officials. Give the sky guy a buzzer to alert the official that he has seen something that he needs to review. Give him one minute — 90 seconds tops — to look at it and move on.

Sometimes he wouldn’t even need to waste time with a replay. He could have buzzed the referee in this year’s NFC game and said, “Hold it. First down, Saints. That was blatant interference.”

He could have done the same on the ridiculous non-false start call on the Chargers against the Steelers.

And there would be no four-minute delays for him to see if a wrinkle on a ball carrier’s knee pad might have brushed a blade of grass before he fumbled and his team lost possession.

No challenge. Fumble. He looks at the replay and if he doesn’t see it within 60-90 seconds, it didn’t happen.

No more challenges by an NHL coach trying to determine if one-sixteenth of an inch of a skate crossed the blue line before the puck. If it wasn’t obvious enough to make him suspicious, no review, the goal counts, drop the puck. Remember the playoffs in 2012 when Daniel Briere was 10 feet offside before scoring a goal to cut the Penguins lead to 3-1 in Game 1? The Flyers went on to win the game and the series. It was a huge goal.

Replay would catch it now but, with a guy in the sky there would be no need for a replay. No delay. Just a faceoff.

As long as humans are involved, there will never be enough technology to always get it right. But an eye in the sky — who only corrects calls or non-calls that he either sees live or within 90 seconds on a monitor — would get it right more often without the long and buzz-killing delays. Of course, the Guy in the Sky might have to leave the building under armed guard or in disguise every now and then, but that could be worked out.

John Steigerwald is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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