Two NFL teams propose adding 'sky judge' to officiating crews

Two NFL teams have proposed the addition of a booth umpire to each officiating crew for the 2020 season, one of seven team-based rule changes that league owners will consider this offseason.

None of the proposals have been vetted or endorsed yet by the competition committee, which will meet later this month to discuss them and develop its own list of potential new rules. But the idea of a booth umpire, sometimes referred to as a "sky judge," has circulated in the NFL for years.

Discussion intensified in 2019, when all 32 head coaches asked owners to consider adding it as a backstop to inaccurate calls on the fields. League leaders, however, did not think they could identify and hire 17 qualified sky judges in short notice last year. Instead, owners voted to add pass interference calls and non-calls to their list of reviewable plays.

At the NFL scouting combine last month, competition committee member Mark Murphy acknowledged that the results of pass interference review were "not great." It's unclear whether the rule will be renewed for 2020.

The Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers formally submitted proposals for a booth umpire as well a senior technology adviser to assist the referee.

Owners are scheduled to gather in Palm Beach, Florida, starting March 29 for their annual meeting. Other notable team-based rule change proposals, all from the Philadelphia Eagles, include:



  • Establishing an alternative to the onside kick. After a score, the trailing team would have one play to gain 15 yards from its own 25-yard line. If it succeeds, the trailing team would maintain possession. Owners voted down a similar proposal last year, and Murphy said last month that he thought it was "gimmicky," but the league did test it in the 2019 Pro Bowl.

  • Restore overtime to 15 minutes. The NFL moved it back to 10 minutes in 2017.

  • Make changes to the new blindside block rule that would prevent unnecessary fouls.

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