It’s in a fan’s nature to feel screwed by the refs at some point in time. This season it seems to be more of a common occurrence as NFL officials are blowing calls left and right while the NFL stage gets bigger and bigger. As the NFL gets bigger and technology advances, why is the officiating getting worse?
The biggest problem with NFL officiating is the fact that the NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry that puts its integrity and quality of their product in the hands of part-time employees. They add more rules each spring and summer and still don’t find the need to institute full-time officials who can be trained and counseled on what can and cannot be called on the field. What company do you know that makes the kind of money the NFL makes and puts their quality control in the hands of part-timers?
Calls like the erroneous first down given to the Redskins last Sunday night, the pass interference penalty flag in the end-zone during the Panthers and Patriots game that was picked up with no explanation, and Steelers coach Mike Tomlin not being flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct during a kickoff in the Thanksgiving game where two officials in the vicinity kept their flags in their pockets while Tomlin stepped onto the field are all examples of the missteps by the officials so far this season.
There are plenty more. Each week, NFL coaches send the league office video tapes of what they consider to be errors made by the officiating crew in their previous game. Last week Arizona’s head coach, Bruce Arians, sent the league a video of 15 officiating mistakes. What’s done about these mistakes? NFL Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, releases a statement either admitting to error or not and the officials themselves are subjected to their internal grading system.
The grading system the officials are on determines if they are eligible to work in playoff games and the Super Bowl. Obviously, working in those games means more money for the officials, plus the opportunity to officiate a Super Bowl is clearly the highpoint of a ref’s career. I’m not saying that the NFL needs to fine officials that only get paid part-time in the first place but this is the only accountability they have? Seriously? So there’s clearly a pattern the refs want to set for themselves. If they get graded too harshly one week, they might feel the need to make up for it the next by calling more penalties than usual. They’re not about to miss out on a trip to the Super Bowl, right?
The NFL officials’ lockout last season ended with the officials folding kind of like the players did and forgoing their main objective, which was to be upgraded to full-time employees with training programs and benefits as such. With the NFL as high grossing as it is, with technology advancing with every minute it’s damned near inexcusable that the league is using this antiquated system to officiate their games. You’re telling me that with all of the camera angles and slow motion capabilities that the best plan for determining first downs is still to sticks connected by 10 yards of chain?
The last thing the NFL or the fans want is for refs to become part of the game. They’re supposed to be nameless and faceless and not in it for any kind of recognition. But why is the league so completely transparent with their discipline of players and coaches but barely anyone knows what happens to a ref that blows a call like the one in the Redskins game?
NFL officiating is getting worse, there’s no denying that but the league doesn’t have to go very far to find the cause. They only have themselves to blame for why they’re jeopardizing the quality of their billion-dollar product. By settling their lawsuit with the former players over the concussions and focusing their “efforts” towards player safety it’s almost a joke that they can’t be bothered to improve the safety by improving the officiating. Who knows exactly what constitutes roughing the passer? Anyone? How about defensive pass interference? What about holding? You can basically call holding on every play of the game so at this point it’s just random as far as when it’s actually getting flagged. The NFL can and needs to do better when it comes to the officiating of the game.