Sports | January 18, 2022 10:59 am

Despite Officiating Issues, NFL Wary of Making a “Sky Judge” Part of the Game

The NFL's Super Wild Card Weekend was highlighted by a number of officiating lowlights

The San Francisco 49ers talk with referee Alex Kemp during the fourth quarter. Despite controversial officiating during the wild card weekend, the NFL says it will not be expanding to include an additional "sky judge" referee.
The San Francisco 49ers talk with referee Alex Kemp during the fourth quarter.
Tom Pennington/Getty

Despite a Super Wild Card Weekend that was filled with officiating issues that were highlighted by an inadvertent whistle during a touchdown play on Saturday and fans in Dallas throwing trash at officials as they skittered off the field on Sunday, the NFL “remains wary” of turning to a full-fledged “sky judge” arrangement, according to The Washington Post.

In theory, a sky judge would have the ability to overturn any obvious mistakes by the on-field officials. In a league where there are many obvious mistakes made by on-field officials, that system would seem to make a lot of sense. Apparently, that’s not a system the league has any interest in implementing.

“The league and the rulemaking competition committee always have opposed giving too much authority to the replay official, preferring to have games mostly officiated on the field,” according to The Post. “They also want to avoid overreacting to an isolated incident, as perhaps occurred with the NFL’s failed one-year experiment in 2019 to make pass interference reviewable by replay following a missed call in the previous season’s NFC championship game in New Orleans.”

(During that one-year experiment, just 24 of 101 pass-interference reviews get reversed, leading to a majority of NFL teams voting against keeping the call reviewable again in 2020.)

In lieu of turning to a sky judge, the NFL is going to consider expanding its instant replay system to possibly include making roughing-the-passer calls reviewable or giving a team the ability to question nearly any on-field ruling with a coach’s challenge. “I do believe there could be some appetite for it, if you limit it,” an NFL source told The Post.

For now at least, it sounds as if a potential sky judge will remain on the sidelines. But if the remaining three weeks of the NFL playoffs, including the Super Bowl, are marred by poor officiating, the league may change its tune.