Zebras in the Mist: NFL Officiating and What Needs to be Done

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Published on : November 9, 2015


What’s the deal?

NFL officiating has been really bad this season, and sadly, that’s nothing new. It seem like it’s always been this way. From the ‘replacement refs’ to the Calvin Johnson rule, to the tuck rule, to the Fail Mary, it just never ends. Perhaps, it’s because my beloved Lions have been victimized by inept officiating so often, that I feel so strongly on this matter. I mean, in the span of 4 games stretching back to last season, the Lions had the insane sequence where the refs picked up a pass interference flag during a playoff game and the blatant illegal batting that was missed on Monday Night Football in Seattle.


I still don’t understand how this was a touchdown.


I’m probably overly sensitive to the issue but I think everyone can agree that too many games have been adversely affected, or even decided, by the blind bums wearing stripes in recent years. Something has to be done. There was a time when it could be understood due to lack of technology or lack of knowing better, but that time has passed. Fans need to stand up and demand changes, and here are a few things that I think could help improve the situation.



What can be done about it?

Most people say that the NFL should make its game officials full time employees. That’s right, the officials for the multi-billion dollar media giant that is the NFL, are in fact, part time employees. It seems ludicrous that a business that generates so much money for so many people would put the fate of the game and the integrity of the product in the hands of people that they don’t employ full time. They should be utilizing the offseason to give them ongoing training so that they know the rules and how to apply them, like it’s second nature. But what do I know? I’m just the guy whose team keeps getting fucked over.


Second, I think it’s high time that an organization that has pushed the envelope in developing technology to view the game started using the full range of technology available in order to officiate the game properly. Camera’s everywhere… And lasers. There’s got to be someway that lasers can help. Maybe it’s to ensure pinpoint location accuracy for the ball and players on the goal line or to give a quick and corrective shock to officials who make mistakes on the field. Lasers, cameras, and maybe even RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technology, should be implemented in every possible situation that could help NFL officials pinpoint the location of both the ball and players.


Teams and fans shouldn’t have to bend over and take it when refs drop the ball.


The third thing that can be done is something that the NFL already did once this season. In a somewhat unprecedented move, the league has begun penalizing referees that make egregious and game-altering mistakes on the field. Following a game-clock error by side judge Rob Vernatchi in the Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Chargers that robbed the Steelers of 18 seconds of time at the end of the game, he was suspended for a week with pay. It may not seem like much since he still got paid, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. The league should continue this trend and hold officials accountable for the mistakes they make.


Finally, the league should expand the review of plays on the field. No more of this “we don’t want to review judgement calls” bullshit. You have the capabilities and it won’t slow the game down that much. Penalties, possession, field position. Review it all! The fans and players deserve to see the right calls made on the field and if that means going under the hood, or making the league office in New York review the play, then that’s what should be done.


I’m sure that there’s more than what I mentioned that can be done to make sure that it’s the players and coaches alone who decide the outcome of games. NFL Officiating is far from perfect and the fact that the league doesn’t use all of the tools available to improve it is disconcerting. Typical of giant corporations, the league has been content to let change come slowly and the only ones who can change that are the fans. Public sentiment is the ultimate driver of change, and if fans voice their displeasure and ‘vote with their dollars’ then maybe NFL Officiating can become as good as the actual games themselves.



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