Bills owner once suggested the NFL fire referees on-site for bad calls

Terry Pegula thinks job security is somewhat of an antiquated concept.

Tennessee Titans v Buffalo Bills
Tennessee Titans v Buffalo Bills / Joshua Bessex/GettyImages

Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula wanted to take meritocracy to the absolute maximum degree when it came to NFL referees once upon a time. And you know what, maybe it's not such a bad idea...

A deep dive into Sean Payton's character, temperament, and drive (subscription required) ahead of his return to coaching the NFL looked into the circumstances of his departure from the career in the first place. His hiatus wasn't long, with Payton taking just a year to work as a TV analyst before jumping back in to coach the Denver Broncos after over a decade with the New Orleans Saints.

Those circumstances, of course, hit on the excruciatingly bad calls that resulted in the Saints getting eliminated from postseason contention more than once. The article reported on a conversation on officiating at a league owners meeting in 2019 prompted Pegula to share his drastic thoughts on a system overhaul himself.

Terry Pegula thought NFL referees should be fired for one bad call

At a league owners meeting, officiating came up. Pegula suggested that officials needed to be fired, "on the spot," for bad calls.

While on its face, it sounds reasonable to expect officials to do their job well and be punished when they don't, it's a suggestion that likely wouldn't work practically. Firstly, officials are humans. Firing every referee for every mistake would result in a massive referee shortage.

Even if you only fired referees for only the most egregiously bad calls -- of which there are plenty -- it would likely do more harm than good. Officials would fear making the right call and perhaps not make any calls at all, which is often worse than making a wrong one.

Furthermore, the shortage would be a real problem. Remember the replacement ref season? Yeah, that didn't bowl over well.

That lockout itself brings up another issue: The NFL Referees Association. Replacement refs in 2012 were in place because of a lockout between the NFLRA and the NFL. Good luck getting a "fire on spot" policy past the union's collective bargaining.

Likely, this was an impassioned discussion, and Pegula's quote lacks context.

Someday, we'll live in harmony in a world of a 100 percent correctly officiated game. Until then, we have to deal with the imperfections.

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