The USFL Will Use First Down Tracking Technology That Needs to Be in College Football and the NFL Yesterday
This is infuriating. The USFL will have first downs digitally measured down to the millionth of an inch in the debut season of a fake league while college football and the NFL, multi-billion-dollar enterprises, still have guys just eyeballing it. If things get really dicey, don't worry, though, they've got 65-year-olds on the sideline with a chain that ought to do the trick.
If the USFL can do this, there is absolutely zero excuse for real football leagues playing games that actually count for something to not be doing it. I will be pissed about the spot in the 4th quarter of the Tennessee-Pittsburgh game last season for the rest of my life, but you're telling me the Michigan Panthers can rest assured knowing every spot in the one season they'll exist will be accurate? Someone make it make sense.
Supposedly, however, the tracking technology won't necessarily be more accurate than what we already see the old-fashioned way.
Pro Football Focus — Although it undeniably looks cool on TV to see an image of the football and an image of the line to gain — reminiscent of the way replay is used in tennis — the reality is that this kind of ball tracking technology isn’t precise enough to guarantee that first down calls will be correct.
The NFL already has a chip in every football, but it uses those chips only for its Next Gen Stats tracking data, and not for officiating. That’s because the chips in the middle of every ball just aren’t accurate enough to locate where a football is to the inch. The data works fine as a good approximation of where the ball is, give or take the length of one football. But it doesn’t tell you whether a third down play just barely picked up the first down, or whether the offense should be facing fourth-and-inches.
All that could have ended after, "Although it undeniably looks cool on TV …" That's all we care about. I severely doubt this could be any less accurate than the officials we already see screw up these calls with regularity, so why not try it? The worst-case scenario is we get the same percentage of calls correct but make it way more entertaining.
Figure out the chips in the footballs.