Questionable USFL First Down Sparks Larger Conversation Surrounding Microchip Technology In NFL

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Believe it or not, the second season of the USFL is already underway! As the XFL season winds down and NFL training camp slowly creeps closer, there will be no void of football. Thank goodness.

Things got underway over the weekend as the Memphis Showboats, Philadelphia Stars, New Jersey Generals, Birmingham Stallions, Michigan Panthers, Houston Gamblers, Pittsburgh Maulers and New Orleans Breakers played their first games of the new year in Memphis and Birmingham. The crowds and television viewership weren’t great, but football is being played in April — so take your complaints elsewhere!

Although the quality of play is up for interpretation, it serves the important purpose of experimentation. USFL rules are different than those of the NFL, and the league is open to innovation and adaptation in terms of potential opportunities to improve the quality of the sport as a whole.

Of the many unique differences to the USFL, one in particular is the most notable. No more chains.

Earlier this year, during Super Wild Card weekend, the NFL casually revealed that it does have a microchip inside of its footballs. It became a very important distinction and point of conversation during a 99-yard fumble return touchdown by the Bengals.

Sean Payton later spoke about how the league plans to use technology moving forward.

The general understanding regarding microchip technology is that it is not quite ready. Although it could be used to mark a punt out of bounds, or something of a more broad nature, its ability to mark the ball within inches (or even feet) lacks.

That makes things difficult when it comes to first downs. Or so the NFL says, at least.

Is the USFL’s microchip technology ready for the NFL?

Even though there is a contingency of football fans who would prefer for the NFL to move to a microchip like the USFL, it looks like that may not be coming soon. Saturday’s game between the Stars and Showboats may be the perfect example as to why not.

Vinny Papale, son of Vince (yes, the ‘Invincible’ Vince), caught a pass at midfield on 3rd-and-6. Whether the ball went beyond the first down line or not is up for debate.

The USFL went to review and the microchip determined that it was a first down. But was it?

Here is where Papale caught the ball:

Here is where his forward progress was stopped:

Here is where the play finished:

Only the forward progress matters, but from that angle, it did not look like Papale was particularly close. The microchip said otherwise. It gave Memphis the first down.

Was it a first down? Ehhhhhhh……

Do we trust the chip? Ehhhhhhh……

In theory, the microchip technology is awesome, but perhaps the NFL is right. Maybe the technology isn’t ready just yet.

But is a slightly inaccurate microchip worse than officials using eyeballs? That’s the question left to be answered.

Written by Grayson Weir

Grayson doesn't drink coffee. He wakes up Jacked.


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