New NFL technology being tested could have saved Browns from 2018 disaster

Had this technology been implemented sooner, would it have made a difference in a famous Browns 2018 game with a controversial spot issue?
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The NFL is finally embracing a technological approach to measuring yardage gains and first downs — although a few years too late if you ask some Cleveland Browns fans. For over 100 years, the chain gang, comprised of three people and a clunky orange chain, have been the standard bearers and measurers of first downs.

The new method is an optical tracking system tested at Hard Rock Stadium and MetLife Stadium last season. The microchipped balls will be connected to the system which pinpoints the placement of the balls.

The NFL is testing the system during all preseason games this year so that all NFL stadiums can test the technology. If successful, it will be implemented as early as Week 1 of the 2024 season.

Chain gang and challenges on ball placement could be in the past

Potentially, this technology could speed up the game as it eliminates the need for the chain gang to come on the field, stretch the chains, and measure based on where the ball is placed. However, the NFL is not ready to get rid of the chain gang just yet. Even if the system is implemented this season, the chain gang will be on the sidelines as a backup plan.

The NFL has plenty of money devoted to other technological enhancements associated with the game including player equipment, etc. What took so long for this to be introduced? Some believe the NFL likes the chain gang. Their presence in the game comes at critical times and adds drama for the viewers.

Others believe that the chain gang's measurements are not the issue. The most significant issue is determining the exact spot where the player's knee/body went down for the ball to be accurately placed. A microchipped ball might not be the answer in these situations that require human judgment.

While it will not solve every problem, it's a positive step forward. Even tennis, which is slower to react to technological advances, has gone to the Hawk-Eye technology which uses electronic line calling for serves and other shots that are called out. Hawk Eye has been largely successful, but there have been cases where the tournament experienced a power outage that postponed the tennis match because there was no backup plan. Perhaps that is another reason for the NFL to hold on to its iconic chain gang if this system is implemented.

Would this new system have prevented the disaster that happened to the Browns in 2018 against the Oakland Raiders?

It may have been nearly six years ago, but most Browns fans who read this procedure change wonder if it would have made a difference in the Browns' 45-42 loss to the Oakland Raiders on September 30, 2018.

The Browns had a 42-34 lead with 1:32 left in the game. Their efforts to get a first down and effectively end the game because the Raiders only had one timeout left were interfered with by the officiating crew. The spot was changed twice, both were considered incorrect. The first bad spot would have yielded a first down, and the second spot made it fourth down.

There's only so much technology can do if human error occurs. This means that issues with physical first-down measurements should be fewer, but questions about ball placement when the play ends will remain.

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