Modernize/Replace the Chains 2 of 7
The NFL consists of 2,000 athletes who look like they were created in a lab, training facilities fit for a king and stadiums that cost well over a billion dollars. Yet first downs are still measured by a length of chain that would run less than $15 at any hardware store in America.
Probably the most outdated part of the game is the chain gang. It's one of the only things that has been virtually untouched over the years. Even the down markers are still mechanical instead of digital.
Countless first downs and games have likely been lost over the years due to the imprecise nature of this method. The individuals working the chains are probably very good at their jobs, but moving chains is just not a good way to measure first downs in the fast-paced, high-stakes game of football.
Laser technology has existed for years to more accurately and quickly measure first downs, but the NFL has been reluctant to embrace it. According to the Associated Press, Alan Amron developed the laser technology with the financial backing of the late Pat Summerall and met with the NFL in 2003 and 2009.
“The NFL right now has made it very clear to us that they didn't want to eliminate the chains, but augmenting them wouldn't be a bad idea,” said Amron to the AP.
Goodell should push forward with the plan to augment the chains, with the ultimate goal of totally replacing them in the future. Laser lines on the field would not only assist the players, but also enhance the fan experience in stadium and at home.
Ultimately, sensors could instantaneously determine if a team got a first down after a spot, avoiding delays and losses of momentum on late-game drives. These systems could also be automated, thus eliminating any errors getting chains set as teams run down the field.