Fixing the State of NFL Officiating



By Peter Christian 

Here is where we get to the bottom of the situation

At the end of the day, when the NFL Officials leave the locker room, they retreat back into the real world. They aren’t recognized faces or superstars like the players and coaches. They hear and see about all of their mistakes without filter. On TV, on the radio, on the street or at work because people don’t know they are criticizing these guys to their face. Add to the fact that with High Definitition, slow-motion, instant replay, Tivo/DVR, and sites like YouTube the fans can see those questionable calls in extreme detail, from multiple angles with much more control and can then amp up the criticism as necessary. In an effort to battle the detractors with all of their technology they make a timid call on the field in the hope that they can simply use instant replay to get it right. Even at face value, an officiating crew that relies on instant replay is scary because for the majority of the game (93.33% to be exact) instant replay can only be used if one of the coaches ask for it, which means that at most 6 plays can be looked at during the course of the game.

However, that doesn’t even take into consideration that the majority of the play cannot be reviewed under current NFL policy. Which means that if even one member of an officiating crew plans to rely on instant replay to bail him out, the chances are that his call or non-call probably will not even be reviewable and therefore will end up hurting one team and benefiting another, which completely negates the purpose of having an objective third party preside over the rules of the game. The other problem with the officiating is what seems to be the unwillingness of the referee to admit he or a member of his crew even made a mistake and not overturn calls made on the field. As I mentioned in my detailed descriptions of a referee blatantly ignoring the facts of the video and hiding behind the “indisputable visual evidence” to uphold bad calls made on the field.

How can it be fixed?

 First, take the challenges away. The current system of a coach watching the replay on the jumbotron or his assistants radioing down to the field to challenge the play is ridiculous. It isn’t their job to watch over the performance of the officials, it is their job to win football games. All challenges should be initiated from the replay official watching in the booth. If there is a circumstance where the replay official is deciding on whether to initiate the instant replay or not, the replay official will stop the play clock and signal the referee.

Second, hold the officials responsible for their calls. The NFL currently reviews all game plays and calls but does not make public any derogatory marks or fines against NFL officials. Player and coach fines are public, even the ones they get for criticizing the officials, the same should apply to the zebras.

Third, much like players get suspensions for dirty hits and breaking policy, NFL officials should be subject to suspensions for blatant wrong calls and non-calls.

Fourth, do away with set officiating crews and make the NFL Officials ratings public. If we all know that Joe Schmo is the worst rated back judge in the league, you had better believe his focus is going to increase.

Fifth, encourage discussion and collaboration on calls or non-calls. Fans, players and coaches would be happy to sit and wait while the officials discuss what they saw to make sure the call is right. It is completely within one official’s right to step in to tell another official what he saw from a better angle, whether it be about an alleged penalty, non-call, fumble, etc.

Lastly, stop the protection of certain players on the field. I understand that the quarterbacks get a lot of money and are the faces of the franchises/league, but when the league begins to place the safety of certain position players over the sanctity of the game, something is broken. The lack of consistency in calling roughing the passer or contact with the head or whatever is ridiculous. They can still keep the game safe without ranking one player over another; just use stiff fines and suspensions to deter dirty play on the field.


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  1. paulmbanks says

    I think being a ref would be one of the worst job possible

  2. Peter Christian says

    I would relish it.

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