Officiating in the NFL is a problem. That's been the case for some time and, if anything, it seems like it's getting worse. The latest low point came on Monday, in the Bills-Seahawks game, when an obvious missed call was made worse by an inexplicable lack of awareness by the folks in charge of enforcing the rules.
Even before the Monday-night debacle, Saints coach Sean Payton said it was "madness" that NFL officials weren't full-time employees. But on Thursday, commissioner Roger Goodell sounded like a man perfectly content with the state of things, both in terms of how the officials were doing their jobs, and that they are part-time employees.
"As you see there are officiating mistakes in other leagues and they're full time officials," Goodell said at a New York Times conference. "I don't think that's going to eliminate the human element. What we want to do is get the best people on the field to officiate the game to the highest levels. Our officials work incredibly hard and the reality is they do a great job.
"But they're going to miss calls. So what we try to do is have replay available to try to address those issues. But then you have an issue that you have to balance, and we call it the unintended consequences. How much replay do you want to have? Because it can slow the game down to a halt. So it goes back to the pace of game. If you can challenge every play, we're going to spend more of our time watching video. We replay all scoring plays and I get this reaction from fans quite a bit, and partners. A touchdown play, everybody's focused on it, it's a great play, it's a great time to celebrate, but we're not sure if it's really a touchdown yet so it takes the celebration out of it. So you have to find that balance in there where you use technology to improve officiating."
While it's tough to reconcile Goodell's glass-half-full take on the officials with what we see on a weekly basis, the notion that hiring these officials full time will fix everything is an oversimplification. The issue isn't that they don't understand the rules, it's that they don't enforce them consistently.
"The more time you put into anything the better you're going to get at it," Carey said at the time. "But if you're going to define full-time as 40 hours a week, [NFL officials are] there already. If you're defining it as having an exclusive job, then if they're paid to do that I'm sure they'd like to do that. It all depends on how the league and the union will work together.
"But once you make them full time, you have to have a very detailed training program about how you're going to get that consistency all the way around. And it will get incrementally better. ...
"I'm for more opportunity for more collective training," he continued. "But you have to bear in mind -- there's a double edge to that sword; there are some that aren't going to be able to give up their job because they've got good jobs. It's going to have to be something that comes in steps, incrementally. You just can't automatically bring everybody in -- you'd lose some of your top officials. ...
"You can't get into the league unless you're really good at your own job outside of the league. It's just one of those things they make sure that they have ... they try to get spotless people. If you're successful outside of the NFL they think you'll be successful inside the NFL, and they've been proven right. So to try to pry some of those [people] away from, you know, seven-figure jobs, that might be pretty tough."