We need to have a little chat. Year after year it feels like the quality of officiating is only getting worse and worse. Whether it comes to the consistency of enforcing certain “judgment calls” such as pass interference and holding, or just enforcing concrete rules like offsides, too many times the wrong call is made. These mistakes have put the sport’s integrity in jeopardy. My goal throughout this letter is to outline certain changes to officiating procedure that I feel would not only make it easier for refs to make the right call, but also preserve the competitive spirit of the sport.
Before I share my ideas I just want to make one thing abundantly clear, my goal is not to make referees look foolish or discredit their judgment abilities. However, even the best of the best make mistakes. In a game of inches, even just one bad call can change the tides of the match. While the NFL has a process where coaches can challenge the ruling on the field, only allowed to specific plays are allowed to be challenged. This needs to be changed. I understand that the rationale behind only allowing certain plays to be challenged is to keep the game moving, but at the same time, even if every play was reviewable, that wouldn’t give coaches more attempts to hold up the game. Allowing every play to be reviewable would still only allows coaches to disrupt the flow of the game two times (three if their challenges are successful). Mistakes are bound to happen in such a fast paced game, so why would we only give teams the opportunity to correct certain mistakes instead of all mistakes?
As a fan of the NFL, another complaint I have is that under the current system, referees are not held accountable for their actions. If a player of coach does something wrong, once the game ends they have to answer to the media. There they must explain why they did what they did, or apologize for their actions. If a ref makes a bad and game altering call, they can just go home and act like nothing happened. However, due to the complexity of the rules for NFL football, sometimes even seasoned fans can get confused by a referee’s decision.
What may be commonly believed to be an incorrect call could in reality be the right one. Both of these scenarios can be solved by giving the media the opportunity to question referees after the just like players and coaches. This would help create transparency between referees and the rest of the world. At these post game meetings refs, would have to explain why they made certain decisions. This would help clear up confusion about certain rules, or give refs the opportunity to explain why bad or missed calls occurred.
Being a referee in the NFL is a very difficult and stressful job. These refs have to memorize a rule book with more pages in it than “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, then apply that information for every single play of a football game, which is usually around 140 plays. And if a ref fails to recognize or enforce even one of these rules, they become trending on twitter and are harassed by an army of enraged fans utilizing every insult in their vocabulary.
Yet somehow, the NFL, one of the most profitable organizations on the planet, is giving one of the most challenging positions on the field, referees, a part time salary. If we want the quality of officiating to improve, there need to be more resources put into improving referees. Giving refs a full time salary and year round training would allow refs spend more time improving at their craft and would lead to a better overall on field product. That being said, refs shouldn’t be payed more solely to improve officiating quality. Refs deserve to be paid more.
For the amount of difficulty and stress refs in the NFL have to endure, combined with how more extra money the NFL has to go around, paying refs anything less than full time is unacceptable. The quality of officiating in the NFL currently has a lot of room to improve. While officiating will never be perfect, these changes I’ve listed above will help make NFL football a more fair and fun game to watch and play.