During the Colts and Bengals game last Sunday, NFL fans around the country simultaneously groaned in exasperation when referee Jeff Triplette inexplicably overturned a scoring play following video review. Despite what appeared to be clear evidence that Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis had been contacted by a Colts defender, Triplette ruled the runner had not been downed by contact and awarded Cincinnati a critical touchdown.
The NFL replay system has long been maligned for its inconsistency, but the league may have found a solution from another sport. As reported by John Kryk of Canoe.ca, the league has been studying the NHL's centralized video replay system in the hopes of bringing a greater uniformity to its own system.
According to Kryk, an NFL official visited the NHL's "Situation Room" in Toronto -- which oversees all of the league's replays on a given night using an array of groundbreaking, real-time technologies -- back in November and has been "been in contact with the NHL for about a month."
In the NFL's current system, a replay official in the press box at every game assists an on-field referee, who makes the final determination on whether a call is overturned or upheld. The obvious downside to this is that you have a large number of people interpreting replays in various and inconsistent ways.
By having one centralized group oversee reviews, the NHL has eliminated that problem.
"It has brought consistency," praised NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy, who said the Situation Room usually has between six and nine reviews a night. "We do 1,230 games. The same group of people work here every night. They make the same decisions night in and night out."
Consistency is exactly what the NFL is looking for, and commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged Wednesday that the league's competition committee is considering fundamental changes to the way the league reviews calls, according to NFL.com.
"Consistency is important," Goodell said. "By bringing it into the league office on Sundays and having one person actually making that decision, you can make an argument there's consistency."
Jay Reid, a member of the NFL's officiating department, visited the NHL's replay center on the night of Saturday, Nov. 30 to get an inside look at how the system operates.
"Jay came in and actually sat with us for probably three hours and watched how the whole room functions," Murphy said. "How we operated at individual stations, how we operated in real time. And he saw how we do it. He asked people questions."
One of the biggest drawbacks of any replay system is the time it takes away from game action -- NFL fans routinely have to sit through lengthy delays as officials parse through a stream of television replays. Murphy said state-of-the-art technology has cut down on delays and actually lessened the number of reviews.
"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," he explained. "So our new real-time technology has been outstanding in speeding up our game and having fewer reviews."
There's been no word on how soon a new replay system could be implemented in the NFL or how exactly it would function, but Goodell stated the league is continuing to look into possibilities.
"This is something the competition committee will be studying," he said. "It's something we discussed with the membership [on Wednesday]. They'll come back with a report, and we'll make an adjustment from there."