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John DeShazier: Sky judge would be the progress NFL fans are looking for 

Hard to call last year's challenge system for OPI, DPI successful

It's premature to be over the moon on the prospect of a "sky judge" in the NFL, given the application – or, seemingly, the lack there of – last season of challenges for offensive and defensive pass interference in the league.

"Cautiously optimistic" would be more realistic because while it sounds like the proposal could work, it absolutely isn't a given that the measure will be implemented. But on the surface, it absolutely sounds like it could do for teams what last year's challenge system for OPI and DPI was supposed to do and, by almost any measure, failed to accomplish.

And if that's the case, then that's the progress we're looking for.

Right now, it's in consideration stage for the NFL. On Friday the proposal was made by the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers and it will be voted on at the next owners' meeting. All proposals need to be approved by 75 percent of the owners to be adopted.

And after the lack of progress made last year during the first (and possibly last) NFL season in which coaches could challenge offensive and pass interference calls, it's easy to understand why NFL owners might be willing to look upward to a sky judge.

To refresh, last year's rule addition allowed that in the first 28 minutes of each half, coaches could use a challenge for pass interference. Inside the last two minutes, only the replay official in New York had the power to review such plays.

The results? Of 101 interference-related reviews during the regular season, 24 calls were reversed.

Overwhelmingly, the call on the field stood.

With clear and obvious being the standard by which calls were overturned or implemented, the general consensus – not just from the New Orleans Saints and their fans, but from teams and fans across the nation – was that clear and obvious must rise to the level of egregious and felonious before a call would be reversed or enforced from New York.

So, understandably, it wasn't clear what, if any, tweaks to that system would be enough to garner sufficient support to bring that facet of the review system into another season.

The sky judge, though, can work.

There are two current possibilities for a sky judge. First, an officiating advisor who would be positioned somewhere other than the playing field, with full communication to on-field officials and access to a television monitor that displays all broadcast angles provided through the NFL's network independence system.

Second, a system that would involve seven officials in supervising roles and a STAR (senior technology adviser to the referee). The STAR would be "an officiating expert who has on-field experience as a game official" and have a direct line of communication to game officials.

Here's why it might be more preferable: It's an added set of eyes on location, working as part of the crew. Oversight possibly would be more palatable and acceptable under those circumstances.

Now, that's not implying oversight was contentious last season. There are no reports of dissension between the replay official in New York and the on-site crew. But it strains credulity to believe officials didn't feel, to some degree, that OPI and DPI reviews were forced down their throat only after one of the most egregious missed calls in league history cost the Saints a victory in the 2018 NFC Championship Game.

And the perception last season was that replay went out of its way to uphold the call on the field. It doesn't matter whether that was actual reality; perception is reality in such matters, and it serves to erode credibility.

The perception here, now, is that the sky judge can work. It'll take the challenge out of coaches' hands (they get to keep the timeout they'd lose in the event of an unsuccessful challenge, and there were lots of lost timeouts in 2019), and it'll remove the "big brother is watching" feel of having New York determine the outcome of the challenge.

No backflips over the possible addition. Not yet.

But cautious optimism that this good idea can become more than a good idea.

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