Walcoff: NFL could benefit from an extra set of eyes

Twenty-first century technology may be a sports fan’s best friend, but high-definition, super slow-mo replays using 360-degree cameras are an NFL referee’s worst nightmare. Throw in those massive video screens at new stadiums around the league playing back all the key plays and you can see why the men in stripes feel like they are under siege.

So what can be done to quiet the critics of the whistle blowers? Send in reinforcements. A generation ago, when pro football was a slower, tamer game, the seven person officiating crew worked just fine. Today’s players are much faster, offenses are more sophisticated and defenses more unpredictable. With players flying around the field more wildly than ever, officials are overwhelmed. And when you can’t see all the holding, chop blocks and pick plays going on, it only encourages more of the same because players are getting away with it so often.

The solution? Add a second line judge to keep better track of all the nefarious activities in the trenches and bring in a second back judge to help monitor all those notoriously controversial calls on long pass plays. Increasing the number of officials has worked in other sports: The NHL now has a second referee and goal judge, the NBA recently added a third referee and MLB umpiring crews expand to six during the postseason. If the NFL goes to a nine-official crew, we’d see a cleaner, better game and less of that ugly “flag” football most fans despise.

Winter Woes

As the baseball winter meetings wrapup today in Indianapolis, the Giants look worse-off than they did at the end of the season. Right-hander Brad Penny, who pitched so well in the September stretch drive, rejected the Giants’ one-year offer to sign a reportedly comparable deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. Great.

General manager Brian Sabean gives huge multi-year contracts to past-their-prime veterans Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria, but doesn’t think the 31-year-old pitcher is worthy of at least a two-year offer?

Free-agent Juan Uribe, who did such a solid job filling in all around the infield last season, is also likely to be moving on after rejecting the Giants’ one-year offer. Maybe Sabean is planning to make a big offer to first baseman Nick Johnson or third baseman Adrian Beltre, or both, but right now there are more questions than optimism about the 2010 Giants.

Heisman worthy

Colt McCoy is a fine quarterback. Mark Ingram is an impressive runner. But nobody had a better season and is more deserving of the

Heisman Trophy than Toby Gerhart. The Stanford senior not only led the country with 26 rushing touchdowns and 1,736 yards rushing, he did it with defenses keying on him virtually every play of every game. Gerhart also got better as the season wore on, accounting for eight touchdowns in the final two games against Cal and Notre
Dame.

Unfortunately, the Cardinal don’t have the national cache, so look for McCoy or Ingram to strike the Heisman pose Saturday night in New York.

KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news and is also the co-host of “Raiders Gameday” and “Recap” talk shows on KSFO (560 AM). He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.

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