The NFL owners meetings concluded with some rule changes in order to improve officiating in the league. Last season there were some egregious calls missed and made by the NFL officials and in an effort to improve the system, the league voted to change some systems. Some rules were tabled for future votes that will take place in the next few weeks. With these changes is the NFL doing enough to improve the officiating?
The new rules regarding officiating that were passed during the NFL owners meetings were:
- Extending the goal posts five feet higher. This was proposed to eliminate controversial field goals to make them easier to judge.
- Recovery of a loose ball in the field of play is now a reviewable play. This will be known as the “NaVorro Bowman Rule” because of his recovery in the NFC Championship game which wasn’t reviewable and allowed Seattle to keep the ball.
- During the replay review, the referee will now consult with the NFL’s Officiating Department in New York; however the referees on the field will have the “final call”.
The rule changes that were tabled for a future vote for this spring included:
- Cameras on goal lines, sidelines and end lines. The league tabled this to discuss with their broadcast partners issues about the cameras, their placement, installation and who pays the tab for them.
When it comes down to it, the NFL had already passed their biggest change that will directly impact the officiating earlier this year when they announced their partnership with CBS for the broadcasting of Thursday Night Football games. CBS will air eight Thursday night games that will also be simulcast on the NFL Network, with the NFL Network televising the remaining Thursday Night Football until the playoffs. This will put more NFL games front and center with more viewers who previously didn’t get the Thursday Night games if they didn’t have the NFL Network.
With the NFL putting more games on a national audience, their officiating is going to have to survive more scrutiny than before. In response to the NaVorro Bowman fumble recovery that was blown by the officials in the NFC Championship Game the NFL responded by allowing that play to now be reviewable, hoping it will be caught the next time by refs on the replay and if they don’t catch it, hopefully the New York office will.
Ideally, the refs having to consult with the league office during replays will improve their accuracy without adding additional time spent under the hood. The owners voted down a proposal that would have expanded what plays can be reviewed to just about everything including personal fouls. I think for the NFL to improve their officiating to ensure more accurate calls are being made on the field, they have to improve the process by which those officials make those calls and it’s not always smart to just ensure bad calls can be corrected by making them challengeable or reviewable.
The NFL has a great test starting this season to see if their officiating program needs to be improved from the inside out. More national coverage of games means that if mistakes are made on the field they’re going to get more national attention. The league didn’t partner with CBS to expand their national broadcast of Thursday Night Games just so more people can see their refs screw up their product so they had better hope that the changes they’ve voted on will have an impact on the game.
Is it enough to improve the officiating in the NFL going forward? We’ll sure soon find out.