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NFL studying NHL's centralized replay system

By Will Brinson | NFL Writer

The NFL could consider taking replay out of the hands of officials.
The NFL could consider taking replay out of the hands of officials. (USATSI)

The NFL is constantly working to improve the replay system, even though it clearly hates your favorite team. (And Calvin Johnson.) And one possible improvement for the league might be the advent of a "situation room" in the form of global replay monitoring from the league office, much in the way the NHL handles its replay.

At the very least, the league is reportedly looking into the methodology of hockey's replay system, according to a report from John Kryk of the Toronto Sun, who reports that "an NFL officiating representative has been in communication with the NHL for about a month" and spent a Saturday evening (Nov. 30 to be precise) in the NHL's replay room in Toronto.

The goal of the NFL officiating rep was to gather information on the way the NHL reviews scores of goals and games all at the same time. The NFL's goal, as Roger Goodell said this week at the owners' meetings, is "consistency."

"Consistency is important, and by bringing it into the league office on Sundays and actually having one person making that decision, you can make an argument for consistency," Goodell said. "It is something we discussed with ownership [Wednesday] and the committee will come back with a report and we will possibly make an adjustment from there."

Goodell was asked if the NFL was basing its potential replay setup on what the NHL does and pointed out that the NFL has "studied this and thought about this for a long time."

NHL senior VP of hockey operations Mike Murphy confirmed to Kryk that Jay Reid, a member of the NFL's officiating department, stopped by hockey's main replay center to see how things worked.

"He came in and watched us -- and we've been communicating back and forth via email probably for about a month, about different things we do," Murphy said. "Jay came in and actually sat with us for probably three hours and watched the whole room function -- how we operated at individual stations, how we operated in real time. And he saw how we do it. He asked people questions."

Murphy also said that the NHL has achieved exactly what the NFL is looking for as a result of monitoring replay from one central spot: consistency.

"Oh, there's no question. It has brought consistency," Murphy said. "We do 1,230 games. The same group of people work here every night. They make the same decisions night in and night out. We like to think we've brought more accuracy to it, which I think we have, because our technology has improved so much."

The other argument against expanded replay is the additional time it takes to process the reviews. Murphy said that two results of the NHL's replay system is "speeding up our game and having fewer reviews."

"On a given night, we'll see six, seven, eight, nine reviews. We'll have four or five formal reviews -- and we've actually been able to reduce our reviews because our real-time feeds tell us things immediately," Murphy said. "Where in the past we relied on satellites, we had to wait for the stoppage of play, stop the play, wait for the TV people and production people to come up with the replays to make the decision. So our new real-time technology has been outstanding in speeding up our game and having fewer reviews."

From the NFL's standpoint, the biggest issue is probably one of implementation. Not that it's hard to actually do the replay, but it's fairly difficult to dive into a new system and just assume it's going to work.

However it wouldn't seem that hard to have a crew of people working in the replay hub of the NFL's main office (for whatever it's worth, I've been on a tour through there and it's quite impressive; like the world's greatest sports bar ... minus the beer, which doesn't really make it a great sports bar) watching games and making rulings on various on-field issues.

Typically speaking those of us at home have a better idea -- sometimes -- of what is and what isn't a score or what is and what isn't a fumble. The issues of knowing for sure what's happening arises because different officiating crews are calling different things game-to-game and there's no way of telling what ruling you might get.

Putting all reviews in front of a single, consistent group would go a long way towards removing the questions that folks have about the consistency in officiating.

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