NFL Referees: What has to change?


The Referee system in the NFL has been a carefully crafted plan since day one.  They are NOT employees of the league, but independent contractors.  They are chosen from the college ranks usually and investigated as if they were running for President or working at the Pentagon.  Keeping the game clean and free of gambling influences was always the main goal. Now, with the game changing the way it has, and the advancement in television, that goal must switch somehow.

I am always the one that defends officials, having actually been on the field, that they don’t actually see what we see on t.v.  If we want to switch to a game that is officiated by replay, after the fact, then so be it. But this is not the answer.  Using the college system of officiating, where every play is reviewed by a replay official. has made the college game a little better, but has taken the control of the game out of the officials hands.  This would never work in the NFL unless Fox Sports. CBS, NBC, and ESPN want to relinquish advertising time for the myriad of replays we would have during what would become a 4 hour game.

The only answer seems to be a combination of the NHL system (who thought anyone would ever say that), and the college system.  basically an expansion of the scoring play review they have now.  Just as I think the answer to baseballs umpiring problem is this, we need an official in the stadium, that works with the officiating crew.  Hire 16 more officials to be replay officials.  Teach them all the technical necessities of television, have each stadium build them a room, and make the Networks fill it with their best monitors and replay equipment.  This replay official, who will be part of the crew working the game, will make the determination on all replays.  No more replay booths. Just the buzzer system, and all plays can be reviewed.

The importance of the official being part of the crew is that he can then explain to his colleagues after the game what he saw, and why he changed or stayed with a call.  The learning experience is important, and the conversation that follows will allow all officials to get better.  The NFL can then monitor the 16 replay officials and make sure they are making calls the way the league is interpreting the rules.  Crew members respect each other, they have many meetings a week, they would welcome the replay official as a fellow official, and the entire system would be better.

Having just one person, like a Mike Peirera, be in a “war room” alone and making all the calls wouldn’t allow for the education, and would probably breed some contempt.  The official on the field can’t simply be told he was wrong by some guy he may or may not have any interaction.  You can hear the conversation now….”Coach….that’s not what I saw….but that’s what he told me to tell you”

That simply would not work.