Patrick Mahomes: microchip in footballs could be used to track ball location, improve officiating

By , Audacy Sports

I've always wondered what the accuracy rate is on calls in the NFL when there's a huge pileup. Like, is there any real way to know which team was actually first to recover a fumble when 20 gigantic human beings leap on top of each other in a matter of seconds and do some highly unenjoyable things to each other in an attempt to get their hands on the football? How are we ever going to get a surefire answer to that question?

Perhaps we never will. But at the same time, perhaps there's something we can do to solve one problem that comes as a result of those huge pileups: where the heck did the ball actually end up? In a goal line plunge, where millimeters factor into determining the correct outcome of the play, shouldn't there be a better way to officiate whether or not the football crossed the required plane than an eye test that is completely obstructed by the collision that inevitably takes place?

Patrick Mahomes has an idea. He joined the WHOOP podcast, as reported by the Kansas City Star, and sought out a technological solution that wouldn't seem to be too hard to implement (h/t Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk).

"I've always thought the chip in the ball has to happen sometime, where if you cross the line, it just tells you a touchdown," Mahomes said. "The biggest thing to me is when they get in the pile by the end zone, there is literally no way to tell if he’s in the end zone or not. It’s like you said, it’s just whatever they call. … I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough."

And though it seems like a great idea in theory and would probably prove useful in determining the correct call for a handful of plays, Smith makes a good point in mentioning that it still wouldn't tell you when the carrier's knee touched the ground. However, if you can track the exact time when the ball broke the plane according to the chip, it might be easier to sync up that time with the video and focus on whether or not the ball carrier is down.

Still, that's the issue that Mike Pereira used as an example of why chips are not the answer for more accurate officiating.

“You can put a chip in the ball, but then you better put a chip in the guy’s knee, too,” Pereira told Peter King back in 2017 (h/t Smith). “The ball is one thing, but it’s not over until the knee hits the ball or the shoulder hits the ground. So how accurate is that going to be?”

However, considering the fact that there are already chips in the ball that are used to track several other metrics, what's the harm in adding a GPS-type location tracker in the off chance that it actually does help? After all, there's nothing more frustrating than a referee controversy, which only seems to happen every single game.

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