Replay system evolving nicely

At NFL stadiums this fall, fans will get a look under the hood.

Consider that the latest step in the evolution of the league’s replay review system, which upon further review, has worked out a lot better than the NFL’s first attempt at merging technology and officiating.

The current system was implemented in 1999 and it has gone through tweaks. A couple more will be revealed this season. One change will be that all turnovers will be subject to review by the replay booth. The second will be much more obvious -- and probably enjoyable -- to fans in stadiums. All NFL stadium video boards now will show the exact same replay the lead official is viewing under the hood on the sideline video monitor.

“They’ll see the exact same angles at the exact same time as he does,’’ Atlanta Falcons president and NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said.

That’s a positive for fans because they didn’t always have that vantage point. Prior to this year, it was up to individual home teams to show as much or as little replay as they wanted. I’ve been in some stadiums where it seemed like replays weren’t shown if a first glance suggested further review could work against the home team. I’ve been in other stadiums where a favorable angle has been shown repeatedly, perhaps in an effort to influence the on-field official’s ultimate call.

“I think this is another example of the league listening to its fans about what they want from the in-game experience,’’ McKay said. “I think throughout this edition of replay, the league, the teams and our broadcast partners have done a nice job of using the available technology to make the game better and make the experience better for the fans.’’

It wasn’t that way the first time around. The league first instituted a replay system in 1986 and pulled it out in 1992.

“It just didn’t work,’’ McKay said. “It was slowing the game down way too much and we couldn’t get the calls right. The right calls were being made only about 80 percent of the time.’’

But the league brought back another replay system in 1999 with an emphasis on getting calls right and keeping replays from dragging out games much longer than three hours. That’s worked well and McKay is confident the system only will continue to get better.

Last year, the rule was changed to make every scoring play reviewable by the replay booth. McKay said last year’s games averaged only about one second longer than in 2010. The average time of a game last season was about 2 hours, 5 minutes.

“We were fearful going in about how we could pull it off,’’ McKay said. “I give the league a lot of credit for pulling it off the right way.’’

McKay also said a review of all of last year’s replays showed that there percentage showed that the right call was made close to 99 percent of the time.

That’s great, but McKay said the competition committee and the league will continue to seek ways to fine-tune the replay process. That will be done with accuracy and what fans want in mind.

“The biggest question over time is, are we ever going to move all decisions upstairs?’’ McKay said. “College football feels very comfortable with their decision upstairs. But I don’t see that in our near future.’’

That’s the best approach. The NFL has a replay system that’s working quite nicely. Enhance it here and there, but keep the games short, get the calls right and you’ll keep the fans happy.