PHOENIX – One of Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy’s most prominent roles at this week’s NFL meetings was a successful one: proposing a rule change to centralize officiating.
The NFL passed Tuesday a change that makes all replay rulings determined at vice president of officiating Dean Blandino’s office. It removes the power of final decision from referees on the field, moving it to one room in New York.
Referees will no longer go under the hood to view replays. Now, they will be given tablets with a headset, allowing them to communicate with Blandino’s office.
The league hopes the change will streamline the replay process, speeding up the game’s pace. Game presentation and pace of play have been major emphasis this spring. So it’s not surprising Murphy said the rule passed easily.
“There really wasn’t a lot of debate,” Murphy said.
Murphy said the top concern was ensuring enough people would be available in the New York office during noon Sunday games. That’s the highest rate of replay traffic in the league because there are more games played early Sunday afternoon.
With multiple teams playing at the same time, the chance of “two or three replays” simultaneously hitting Blandino’s office exists. Ultimately, the league felt there will be enough staffing to avert any back-loaded delays.
“They feel pretty confident that there are the numbers there that they need,” Murphy said.
Coach Mike McCarthy said he isn’t concerned with the change because in-game communication between on-field referees and Blandino’s office has occurred since 2014. Previously, the final decision rested with the referee on the field, who could consult with New York.
But McCarthy doesn’t view the change as that significant.
“There’s a process,” McCarthy said. “There’s history. These are things that there’s so much invested into, and if you look at the way the playoffs have been run, you have the extra officials on the sideline. The communication increases greatly, and you feel very comfortable as head coach about the information you’re given, how it’s communicated not only to the sideline, but more important to the players on the field.
“I think all these things, particularly the replay, is going to help us.”
Another potential benefit, Murphy said, with having Blandino’s office determine all replays is the consistency of one perspective. The NFL hopes this helps with subjective calls, including the catch rule.
“I think coaches have confidence in Dean Blandino,” Murphy said. “His office is doing a good job. It’s a hard job, but doing a good job. And I think with the improvements, you should have more consistency. The other thing I would say, reality is it’s not that much different. Although the referee had the final say in the past, Dean Blandino is kind of his boss. If Dean says, ‘Well, I looked at it, and this is what I saw.’
“But I think usually they see things the same way. So it’s not going to be a lot of situations where they’re in conflict. And then having the tablets, rather than having to see the referee running all the way over to the monitor and having to go under the hood, should speed the process up quite a bit.”
Among other rules changes, NFL owners voted to outlaw players from leaping over offensive linemen on field goal or extra point attempts. A proposal to shorten overtime from 15 minutes to 10 was not adopted.