I really don’t like what I’m going to propose because it pretty much flies in the face of everything I currently despise about professional sports and especially the National Football League. Why such a radical change is needed is not a secret. Officiating in the NFL has gradually gotten worse and worse over the last few years.
I’ve heard some suggest it might be due to complacency. After replacement refs botched things that a Pee Wee official would get right in 2012, the league caved and brought back the ‘regular’ officials quite hastily. Perhaps with a new contract the officials have lost their edge. The calls officials are missing of late are not your garden-variety holding call here and there.
They are missing glaring and obvious calls (see Kansas City field goal attempt) that even average fans are picking up on as they are happening. The very thing that was supposed to support and/or correct their calls, instant replay, has proven to be as up and down as they are and that’s where my solution has to begin.
First, you must know that I hate instant replay. I hate that a game that is played by human beings and officiated by human beings can be decided by technology especially when that technology doesn’t always work. Another reason I dislike replay is that it often isn’t allowed to be used when it needs to be the most. In week 16, the Steelers blocked a Packers’ field goal attempt. A Steeler clearly picked up the ball and possessed it before lateraling it to a teammate who dropped it. The ball was eventually illegally batted by a Pittsburgh player.
Officials ruled the team never possessed the ball although ‘replay’ clearly showed they did. When Mike Tomlin challenged the call, he was told he couldn’t because this particular play wasn’t reviewable. The obvious question is “Why not?”
What I suggest is to actually use instant replay on every play. That hurts for me to even suggest it but it has to happen. The League is already discussing the possibility of having a ‘central office’ that would oversee all replay challenges so why not take it a step further?
If each network can have a former official on hand for every single questionable call then why can’t the NFL? What the NFL needs is an operations center with a specific number of retired officials who must monitor games that are being played. If they see officiating errors being made then the on-field official is immediately notified.
Obviously this would not apply to most ‘missed calls’ like holding or pass interference because this would slow an already slowing game. These officials in the control center would be able to spot things like what was missed in San Diego or what was ‘unreviewable’ in Green Bay.
Frankly, I don’t really like my idea because of my hatred of the whole replay system period, but if something has to be done to save these inept officials from themselves then let’s do it.
In some ways, I really don’t know that Roger Goodell wants to do much about the officiating because he knows it creates talking points and makes his league even more relevant than it already is. The problem though is still credibility and the NFL is lacking in it more and more with each passing week. If Goodell would attack this problem with the same gusto he has with ‘player safety’ then maybe something positive would get done.
I’d be OK if they just dumped replay altogether but I’m not a complete idiot. If I were, that would make me an NFL official right?