NFL should embrace UFL's officiating innovations and transparency

The UFL has plenty of work to do, especially when it comes to strategic decisions like which weekend in March to debut, and more importantly which weekend in March not to debut.

But the UFL has some things that the NFL should be monitoring and exploring. The first-down system, which ditches 10 yards and a cloud of chain for modern technology, is something the NFL continues to resist, either because the NFL is too cheap to do it or too smitten with the moment when the stick moves and reveals that the line to gain was or wasn't reached.

The UFL also has incorporated full and complete officiating transparency, along with the ability of coaches to challenge anything and everything. This has resulted in the UFL peeling the curtain back completely, allowing the viewer to understand what is happening as it happens. And so, when (as happened on Sunday) a referee wants to eject a player for spitting on an opponent and then the defense also challenges that the right tackle (the same person as the spitter) moved early and the decision is made that the blocker/spitter did move early, wiping a touchdown off the board, we were there to hear and see every step of it.

How many times have we watched an NFL game and wondered what in the hell the officials were doing? The UFL lets us know what they're doing, how they're doing it, and why they're doing it.

This is EXACTLY the kind of approach the NFL needs. It will help quiet the tinfoil-hat crowd, which presumes secrecy is cover for chicanery. If we can see and hear what's going on, public confidence in the integrity of the game remains high. If we can't, some will plausibly wonder whether the fix is in.

Of course, there must be competence before transparency. Former NFL employees Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, who are working with the UFL, know how to make extemporaneous, real-time decisions — and how to explain them to a live audience. Doe the NFL have that capacity?

The NFL previously did, when Pereira and Blandino worked there. Both left for Fox, and Blandino later explained that the NFL does not properly value the position he held. (That's a tactful way of saying the NFL is too cheap.)

So maybe the NFL hasn't embraced transparency because it would expose an effort to influence outcomes (I do NOT believe the NFL influences outcomes) but because it would expose the fact that the league does not have the level of competence needed in order to do it properly, because the league isn't willing to pay for that level of competence.

But here's the thing. If an upstart start-up league with revenues astronomically lower than the NFL's cash flow can do it, can't the NFL do it, too? It's all about the amount of money the NFL is willing to invest. The league's apparent inclination to pinch pennies is hurting public perception as to how the league works.

Last week, the NFL borrowed the XFL's kickoff (even though the UFL has ditched the formation). The sooner the NFL mimics the UFL's embrace of technology and transparency in officiating, the better off the NFL will be.