NFL looks at 'sky judge' to avoid Saints blunder repeat

AFP
Referees such as the one who signals only an incomplete pass on this controversial play involving the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams would have backup help from a "sky judge" under a proposal being considered by the NFL Competition Committee (AFP Photo/Chris Graythen)

Referees such as the one who signals only an incomplete pass on this controversial play involving the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams would have backup help from a "sky judge" under a proposal being considered by the NFL Competition Committee

Referees such as the one who signals only an incomplete pass on this controversial play involving the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams would have backup help from a "sky judge" under a proposal being considered by the NFL Competition Committee (AFP Photo/Chris Graythen)

New York (AFP) - NFL executives are studying the possibility of adding a "sky judge" to help protect officials from botched calls such as the one that denied the New Orleans Saints a berth in last month's Super Bowl.

Troy Vincent, the NFL executive vice president of football operations, said Friday at the NFL Combine for new talent in Indianapolis that there is a mandate to explore adding an eighth official to every referee crew.

"When we walked out of the room, there wasn't dissension," Vincent said. "It was, 'This may have some merit.' It had the most interest."

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While final details are being examined by the NFL Competition Committee, the idea proposed by the coaches committee would add an in-stadium official checking video reviews for obvious blunders.

The expanded replay review would hopefully prevent an embarassing mistake such as the one at the end of the Los Angeles Rams NFC championship game victory at New Orleans.

Rams defender Nickell Robey-Coleman committed an obvious interference foul upon Saints receiver TommyLee Lewis, but the violation went uncalled. Instead of New Orleans gaining a first down and being able to run the clock down to the last second and have a short field goal kick to win, enough time remained after a Saints field goal to allow the Rams to equalize and then win the game and a Super Bowl berth in overtime.

The venue "sky judge" rather than a video reviewer from the league office would be used to oversee video review and correct "clear and obvious" calls.

Vincent stressed the NFL wants games officiated in the stadium not from a remote site.

But several questions remain, including where to obtain the new officials, what types of fouls could they be involved with and would their role be limited to only certain pats of games.

The NFL Competition Committee will reconvene at the NFL Annual League Meeting on March 24-27 and present its findings to the full ownership.

Any measure must be backed by 24 of 32 club owners to be adopted.

"We just want to get it right," Vincent said. "It is debating what that change is, if any. As we always say, the membership will tell us what they want to do, not the league.

"The feel I get is some kind of adjustment is there. What it is, I'm not certain. But there was enough here to say there's some kind of adjustment that we need."

New York Giants owner John Mara said earlier this week he was skeptical any video replay change would come before next season.

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