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John Harbaugh wants to help NFL officials by possibly adding more or expanding replay

John Harbaugh, Ravens

NFL referees came under intense nationwide scrutiny last month, with an especially vocal subset of league followers even insisting that the officiating crew in the NFC Championship had a rooting interest in the game’s outcome.

One might assume the league’s coaches would agree with the masses given the obvious justification behind that uproar, but that’s yet to prove the case – and one of them has gone so far as to give an ardent speech defending referees.

At the pre-draft scouting combine on Wednesday in Indianapolis, Baltimore Ravens could John Harbaugh explained just how difficult it is to officiate football at its highest level and threw his support behind the NFL referees, also using the opportunity to appeal for adding judgement calls to instant replay.

“Look how tough it is for these officials,” he said, per Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune. “Really, I know as a coach, what’s the worst spot to watch the game from? The sideline. You see the least amount from the sideline. That’s why we put coaches in the box. So, we’ve got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.

“So, these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it’s not just one play in a championship game; it happens every single week, OK, because the job is so tough, it moves so fast and the angles aren’t great. If we can put somebody up there in the box that’s got a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, let’s do that. If we can add more plays into replay, let’s do that because at the end of the game, it’s about the credibility of the sport, and we can’t have the other leagues out-pacing us in terms of the use of technology to make sure the games are fair and well-officiated.

“We have great officials. These guys are incredible with what they do. We’ve also put a lot of rules in place that have made it really tough of them. They’ve got a lot on their plate, so let’s add an official, let’s add two officials, let’s put one up in the box, let’s expand replay if we want and let’s make sure that, at the end of the day, the fans walk out of the stadium and walk away from their TV sets knowing that was a good, hard-fought, well-played, fairly-officiated game and the outcome is as it should be. It was correct that the right team won the game.”

Reports surfaced last month that the NFL will consider a plan this offseason that allows coaches to challenge judgement calls by officials with video review, under penalty of a flag or time run off the clock if the call on the field is upheld.

Commissioner Roger Goodell is apparently in favor of implementing such a rule even if the one in question isn’t added before next season.

The hysteria regarding officials stems from the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship, when the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman wasn’t called for an obvious pass interference penalty on New Orleans Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.

The Saints were forced to settle for a field goal as a result, ultimately losing the game in overtime.