NFL Referees – A Simple Solution To A Complex Issue

This season, the officiating in the NFL has been, to say the least, horrendous.  It hasn’t been this bad since referees went on strike in 2012 and we had to put up with replacement officials.

NFL officials, on average, earn a $205,000 salary.  Not bad for a part-time gig.  In July of 2019, the NFL shelved full-time officiating in ongoing labor discussions.  NBC Sports – July 11, 2019

This most likely a bargaining tactic by the NFL.  As we saw in 2012, the NFL is more than willing to sacrifice the integrity of the game as well as the quality of the officiating.

The NFL has also lost quality officials to retirement.  Four in 2018 and three this year.  In 2018, the NFL had only 17 lead referees during the 2018 season.  CBS Sports – April 1st, 2019.

So it really isn’t a huge surprise that the quality of officiating has suffered as well as the integrity of the game.

Mike Florio wrote on NBC Sports that the NFL needs to hire someone to explain, defend and apologize for questionable calls.

I disagree.  Doing something like this only adds another layer of frustration.  It’s like hiring a press secretary to be the sacrificial lamb for bad political or corporate decisions.

The actual solution is pretty simple.  All NFL officials need to be held accountable for their job performance.  That means constant training before, during and after seasons.  And their needs to be repercussions if the same mistake keeps occurring.

Repercussions would have to be pretty harsh.  One bad call can happen, we cannot expect perfection.  However, if several bad calls of the same type occur from the same official, he gets pulled from the crew and must go through a refresher course based on the calls he missed.  First time, he will still get paid.  If it occurs again, he goes through the same refresher course but with an unpaid four game suspension.  Third time, he’s no longer an NFL official.

I would also move fast on making these guys full-time officials.  Paying a part-time employee $205,000 per year is ridiculous.   Making them full time employees will draw better quality officials.

Another improvement is to train and certify NFL officials at every position.   Back judges get trained with the main focus on running backs, tight ends and nearby defenders and the penalties most specific to those areas.  Similar training for the rest of the officials.

Promotions would depend highly on how an official is graded out over a period of four years.  And any official that is required to be re-trained under suspension, the clock starts over.  I think that alone would force the quality to improve rather quickly.

I also think that a sky box official is warranted.  He would review all called & non-called  passing penalties only since these have a tendency to be most costly to either side of the ball.  It may slow down the game a bit but I think in the fans would be OK with that if the right call is made.  If a flag is not thrown by the official, the sky box judge can “throw” one from above by contacting the lead official.  And the right for a head coach to challenge any pass interference calls goes away.

This is nothing new in the real world of working.  Consider if any of us made these kinds of mistakes in our jobs.  Many of us would be on the unemployment line if our performance didn’t improve.

I suppose we could use Florio’s suggestion in addition.  It would be useful to the fans to hear what officials are being reviewed and re-trained to maintain (or start) transparency.

But as with all procedures, not everyone is going to be happy.  An overturned call correctly made by the sky box judge can determine the outcome of the game.  And fans of the team affected will continue to scream bloody murder and continue to scream conspiracy theories despite any improvement.

But if data is continually gathered by an outside, independent source showing all the calls made, which ones were overturned and what percentages were overturned correctly, there can be little argument that there is a fix in the game.

The NFL has to do something or it will start losing fans.

 

 

 

 

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