Former NFL ref for instant replay

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

ST. THOMAS, Ont. — After 31 years of refereeing in the National Football, League Jim Tunney is adamant about one thing — it doesn’t matter how a call gets made, as long as it’s the right call.

It’s the main reason, unlike many officials, Tunney has never objected to instant replay.

“When it was first being discussed, I got a call from (a referee supervisor) who said the competition committee was thinking of bringin in replay and what did I think,” Tunney said. “I asked him if we got to vote? He laughed and said ‘No, it was the owners.’ I said then just do it.

“Some guys object to being reviewed instantly like that. But if it gets the play right, that’s our job. If the replay gets the call right, that’s the way it should be. You don’t ever want to go home knowing a call or a play you got wrong cost the team a game. I’m all for it.”

Tunney was in town as a head- table guest for the 33rd annual St. Thomas Sports Spectacular.

He retired from officiating in 1991. having officiated in three Super Bowls and dealing with some of the most famous football coaches in history. A former high- school principal, Tunney is now a motivational speaker, author and newspaper contributor.

He said there’s nothing particularly new about referees being judged by film

“We’ve been looking at film since 1967,” he said. “Of course, all the films were in cans, but every game was reviewed and you would be graded on it.

“I’ve looked at more film than Siskel and Ebert.”

If there is one thing Tunney would like to change. it’s how the replay is done.

“It came in in 1986 and it was all done in the booth upstairs,” Tunney said. “IRO (instant-replay official) reviewed everything they thought was a close call. They would make the decisions, not the referee. Now you have the coaches’ challenge, where the referee goes into the booth on the field.”

While the referee still is in contact with the IRO and the IRO gives him advice, the official still has to make the call.

“I don’t like the guy looking under the booth,” Tunney said. “I think the IRO sees the replay over and over again. He’s the better judge knowing the technology than a referee who is in the heat in the battle and he has to go over off the field. I don’t like him leaving the field. I like the game kept on the field.”

Tunney says there is one thing that has developed because of replay and the challenge flag.

“I worked with (George) Halas, (Vince) Lombardi, (Don) Shula, (Tom) Landry. They’d yell at you and call you every name in the book and you’d go over and explain a call to them,” he said. “Now you throw a flag, you go over and the coach says, have a look at the play, and if the call goes against that coach, he says ‘Well I guess that’s it.’ There’s no confrontation. It’s a simple deal, almost friendliness.”

When Tunney started, he got paid $100 for exhibition game and $250 a game and teaching school. By the end of his career he was making $2,000 game.

“I did an interview with ESPN’s Chris Berman about officials making mistakes and should they be full time,” Tunney said. “And I said I saw a game when John Elway threw an interception and the announcer turned to (analyst) Joe Theismann and said ‘Why did he throw the interception?” (Theismann) said because he misread the coverage. I thought ‘John Elway, misread the coverage, Hall of Fame quarterback?’ It’s going to happen. Everyone is going to make mistakes.

“Officials hate to get something wrong.”


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