Parry: I think the 'Sky Judge' can be implemented

October 30, 2019

One of the biggest story lines surrounding the 2019 NFL season involves the new pass interference challenge rule. As a result of a huge missed call in last season's NFC Championship game, the league created a rule that allows coaches to challenge what they felt were incorrect pass interference calls or non-calls.  

Much to the dismay of coaches, overturns upon review have been a rare occurrence through the first half of the season.

Former NFL referee and current ESPN NFL officiating analyst John Parry joined the Howard and Jeremy Show on Wednesday morning. Parry spent 20 years in the NFL as an on-field official, as well as some time in the booth as a replay official. He touched on a number of topics with Howard Simon and Sal Capaccio, including the pass interference challenge, the possible addition of a "Sky Judge," the NFL's shortage of officials, and more. 

Here is some of what he had to say:


Parry on the pass interference challenge rule:

"Everything that we had anticipated has happened. Subjective rule added to replay, everybody was concerned. Tried to go in with the glass being half full, but it's a concern at this point. 'It was a moving target,' as [Steelers head coach] Mike Tomlin talked about it Week 3. Weeks 4, 5, and 6, there was no target, no reversal. How high is the bar? Coaches using timeouts. We finally got one last week, late in the fourth quarter in Indianapolis, so we breathed a little bit of breathe into this rule."


Parry on possibility that officials don't want to overturn anything because they don't like the rule change:

"I would hate to think that that's the case, and I don't think so. I think that the officiating department, coaches, players, everybody involved, recognizes that if we open Pandora's box to so many things regarding what is subjective on the football field and take more and more away from on-field officials, it's going to continue to be way too much front page conversation. We see it with one rule. With just adding one subjective rule, look where we're at. It's just not a good situation. 


Parry on technology affecting how officials call games:

"I think it's paralyzed officials as it pertains to pass interference. Eight weeks, I've seen every football game, know almost the entire [officiating staff]. There are some great officials on that staff. There are some new people cutting their teeth in this league, which should not be the case. But, take Monday night [Steelers vs. Dolphins] for example, there's an offensive pass interference, and I get that there was a little bit of push on the arm, but that's not the level that we [officials] call. Mechanically, from where the flag came from, shouldn't come from that official. And of course they're going to look up at the Jumbotron, they're human. And so they're looking there, and I can tell you, that official with 20-plus years of experience is thinking 'you know what? It [the play] should've had a little bit more [contact], it's not enough. But, then we come out of it and replay, New York, [call] stands. So there are mixed messages there, and week after week, after week, after week, when mixed messages are given, and you're not sure of where the line is on what should be called, what shouldn't be called, we're seeing the end result." 


Parry on clarification of the 'lowering the helmet' rule:

"It applies to all 22 players on the football field. It's based on concussion data. When we get the spine in an in-line position and lower that head, and initiate contact with the head to any part of the body, it doesn't matter where that helmet is, it's the posture that we're concerned with, that is a foul by rule. [It applies to] All 22 players, including the quarterback, if he does it with a scramble. It is extremely difficult to call. Because you get a little bit of a shoulder turn, which is what coaches are teaching the players to do to avoid the foul, to avoid the injury, to avoid the concussion. So when you see those [player's] shoulders turn at all, that is what we call 'bracing.' If we see any form of bracing, you won't see the flag. If there's no brace and it's a direct blow with the lowered head leading and initiating [contact], it should be a foul."


Parry on the idea of using a 'Sky Judge':

"My thought is based on where we're at, and where we potentially may be in five-to-10 years from now. There are less people getting involved with officiating, period. I do it here locally, trying to recruit kids out of high school, out of college, for any and all sports, you can't find them. Nobody wants to do it. So if nobody wants to do it at that level, where are we going to find people in 10-to-15 years to do what we do? On the field, we have 20-to-30 things we have to get so much better at, and it's basic stuff. But, at this speed, at this level, with so much on the line, jobs, there has to be a safety net. There has to be a backstop to say 'listen, in the fourth quarter with the game on the line, an egregious error should be fixed. You can create parameters and get really good at that before you expand it to the rest of the game. There are so many great minds that are retired or in between jobs. They can help. They can be coaches, players, officials; if we all get on the same page, I think it [the Sky Judge] can be implemented." 


You can listen to the entire interview below: