You See What They See

You See What They See

Jay Adams

Published May 30, 2012 at 11:51 AM

For as long as instant replay has been in effect in the NFL, once a challenge has been issued by a coach, the head official saunters to a private booth and no one in the stadium really knows what he’s looking at before making a ruling on a play.

No longer.

One of the biggest rule changes fans will notice beginning during the 2012 season is the under-the-hood replay system that will be seen in stadiums across the league. Very literally, as a fan in the Georgia Dome, you will see what the head official is seeing underneath the hood of the replay booth.

“In year’s past, instant replay has always been a sensitive place for us, as a league, as far as what we were going to show in the stadium for purposes of criticism of the officials and how it might be viewed by those who sit in the stadium,” Falcons president and CEO, and Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said Wednesday. “The change is, you are going to see exactly what the official sees, and you’ll see it in the same time and speed he sees it.”

If the head official toggles a replay forward or backward, you’ll see it at the exact same time he does inside the stadium. If he goes in between different camera angles, you’ll see that, too.

The changes come directly as a result of listening to what fans want more of during the in-stadium experience, and across the board, McKay said, fan have been loud and clear about wanting to see more replays.

McKay said the changes will help bring more transparency and, he hopes, excitement to the fans and give them a better perspective of what the officials are looking at during challenges in real time.

The number of angles and cameras the officials will have available to them depends on the game. Primetime games could feature replays from as many as 20 cameras. A 1 p.m. regional game, for example could have as many as 10.

“(We want to) constantly make sure that the in-stadium fan is in no way disadvantaged to the fan at home,” McKay said. “He or she is certainly at the advantage of the emotion, the camaraderie, the connection to the team in the live experience, and that — we all know — is a great experience. We also want to make sure that, from a technological aspect, he or she is not disadvantaged because of a replay board. This is just one way to try to do that.”

The change to the under-the-hood feature, however, doesn’t affect the home-field advantage for teams. During a questionable play, visiting teams will still have to rely on what the coaching staff in the booth sees on TV to determine whether or not to challenge a play since home teams likely won’t replay a questionable play on their in-stadium screens before the play is challenged.

McKay said that the Competition Committee feels like it has neutralized that advantage, however, by last year calling for all scoring plays to be replayed and this year — another new change — having all turnovers replayed.

“We feel like the two biggest areas there are in replay, the two biggest plays in games are scoring plays and turnovers,” McKay said, “and we’ve now taken those out of the coaches hands. Those are no longer in the coaches’ challenge system and we think that deals with the issue of home-field advantage.”

Click here to see video of McKay discussing the rule changes in March

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