There will never be a time where everyone is happy with the officiating. There are good and bad calls in every sports game ever, football especially. That’s just how it is, and it adds to the excitement in my opinion. Human error is an inherent part of the game, the imperfections are what creates controversy and builds to the tension of sports. And as a fan, what more can you ask for? But when a referee crew has a direct impact on the outcome of a game, people have every right to be up in arms with protest. When one call changes a game, we’ve gone from questionable refereeing to a legitimate problem.
This season in particular has been worse than ever for the NFL all around in my opinion. Nobody knows what a catch is, refs are blowing inadvertent whistles, the game flow is interrupted every 2 minutes for a replay reviews, games last 4 hours, defenders can’t touch receivers without getting flagged, players are dropping like flies, the bad teams are really bad, Goodell wants to put a team in London, games are being aired on YAHOO, and the league is seemingly going to shit. The biggest problem is that many of these complaints are avoidable. The attention turns to the NFL. How can we fix the poor officiating, and what needs to be done to ensure a better future for the NFL?
Does it make sense for the NFL to hire full-time referees? I think it does. Many people don’t know that the refs have other day jobs. It’s not outlandish to believe that the refereers now aren’t 100% committed to emercing themselves in the rulebooks and get the calls right consistently; how could they with other full-time jobs occupying most of their time? The NFL is one of the most powerful organizations in the entire world. They’re sitting on tons of cash, so money is not the issue. It’s more than doable to hire the necessary number of full-time crews. Games run from August to February, and the offseason should consist of taking the proper steps to develop a better understanding of the rules. Without physically reffing a real game in real time, there won’t be any tangible, hands-on experience to apply their knowledge, skills, and technique. But if that “time off” is spent on polishing each and every single referee’s knowledge of the game and situational competence, then we will see a change for the better. That is a fact.
If that means sitting in a classroom, watching film, and studying the game repeatedly, then so be it. Every job has an element of repetition and consistency to it, and officiating football games should be no exception. Watching film over and over again until the correct information is ingrained into their brains is the only option as far as I can see. More executives and former refs should be brought in to assess individual referees, full crew performances, and football games in general. Rules need to be more precisely defined to leave no debate to anybody ESPECIALLY the zebras calling the games. The referees don’t seem to know the rules, and that’s on them for the most part. But they need to be prepared and set up to succeed, and the NFL has dealt them a shitty hand.
Ultimately the correct calls need to be made. The correct calls need to be made today, tomorrow, and the day after that. There are going to be tough scenarios that require an instantaneous reaction, and not every infraction is clear cut. But change needs to occur. The NFL must take the proper precautions to limit the damage and number of incorrect calls. Many factors go into decided the outcome of a game, but the officiating should not be one of them. A referee’s job is to ensure player safety and taking the appropriate actions to maintain that safety as well as a consistent game flow. Players and coaches must adhere to the rules, but the referees need to know and understand them like second nature. Clean it up, NFL.