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USFL Playoff Game Demonstrates the Value of the Sky Judge Approach

USFL Playoff Game Demonstrates the Value of the Sky Judge Approach

The recent USFL playoff game between the Pittsburgh Maulers and the Michigan Panthers showcased the effectiveness of the sky judge approach in officiating. The game highlighted the shortcomings of the NFL’s reluctance to adopt similar measures, shedding light on the need for prompt and efficient error correction in football officiating.

The Sky Judge Intervention

During the crucial moments of the game, Michigan scored a 55-yard touchdown to take the lead late in the fourth quarter. However, the touchdown was nullified due to a face mask penalty called against Michigan’s right tackle, Josh Dunlap. This is where the sky judge came into play. Mike Pereira, serving as the sky judge, reviewed the play and determined that there was no face mask foul. It was clear that the penalty was incorrect, and the touchdown was reinstated.

Contrasting NFL’s Approach

The significance of this incident lies in the fact that the NFL does not offer a similar mechanism for rectifying officiating errors. Face mask calls and non-calls are not subject to review in the NFL, meaning that in a postseason game, a late touchdown that resulted in a lead change would have been invalidated without any recourse to address the clear mistake.

NBC analyst Jason Garrett, recognizing the impact of the sky judge intervention, expressed his hope that NFL decision-makers were observing the game. He emphasized the role of the sky judge in ensuring the accuracy of critical calls during divisional games and advocated for the NFL to consider implementing this approach.

Importance of Justice in Officiating

The concept of justice extends beyond the game’s outcome and holds relevance in the era of legalized sports betting. Officiating decisions directly influence both the game’s result and the wagers placed on it. With so much at stake, the NFL must prioritize the impact of officiating on the integrity of the sport and the financial interests of bettors.

A Proactive Approach

The NFL has a history of reactive responses rather than proactive measures when addressing officiating issues. Given the increased involvement of gambling in the league and the potential consequences it carries, the NFL should invest in readily available tools to promptly and effectively rectify mistakes. Merely attributing errors to chance is insufficient when significant amounts of money rely on the assumption that officials will make correct calls, with a contingency plan for when they do not.

The Need for Serious Consideration

The NFL’s tendency to overlook rule changes or necessary approaches until they produce unjust outcomes is a reckless and foolish approach. The league must take these matters seriously and allocate the resources required to identify and remedy potential problems before they arise. Operating in fear of unintended consequences or general incompetence is not an acceptable excuse, especially when the league’s reputation and the trust of fans and bettors are at stake.


The USFL playoff game served as a powerful example of the value of the sky judge approach in officiating. It underscored the NFL’s shortcomings in addressing officiating errors and emphasized the need for the league to proactively embrace available solutions. By implementing efficient error correction mechanisms, the NFL can ensure fairness, maintain the integrity of the game, and protect the interests of fans and bettors alike. It is time for the NFL to step up and prioritize the improvement of its officiating function.

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