Idiot’s Guide To Fixing The NFL’s Brutal Officiating Problem
The NFL has an officiating problem. Or a rules problem. Or both. We know that. We've been harping on it for years. And while issues with the rule book - and the subsequent enforcement of said rules - are not new, things have gotten to the point where fans are turning off games; and that is new.
So here's a quick little tip for you, NFL: if you can't stop these game-changing fuck ups from continuing to happen (and it's clear that you can't) then at least get rid of the stupid penalties that absolutely nobody cares about and speed the goddamn game back up.
Just about every football fan's Week 6 Sunday revelry was marred by the frustration incurred by two of the more egregious officiating mistakes involving pass interference that we've seen in a hot minute. The first inconceivable call by the officials was on this play, in which Giants cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was called for defensive pass interference:
Didn't see anything? Well if you look closely, you...still won't see anything BECAUSE THERE WAS NOTHING TO SEE. If there were an award handed out after every game to the defender that interfered the least with a pass, I'm positive that DRC would've won it for that play.
So we'll circle back to the absurdity of that call in a bit, but before we do you should familiarize yourself with this even more controversial no-call in the final two minutes of a very close game between the Seahawks and the Falcons:
If the DRC play lacked any type of interference whatsoever, this play was the exact opposite. Julio Jones had 50-75% of his extremities tied up by Seahawks defensive backs by the time the ball arrived. He had nothing to offer that ball but an outstretched left arm and some well wishes. The position of his body in the air in relation to the ball and the placement of the two defenders should've been enough evidence of defensive pass interference to any referee worth his salt, but alas; the penalty went uncalled and the Seahawks won.
NFL fans and media have been fed the same rhetoric over and over again when it comes to the nature of these kind of calls, and that is that referees and officials are human and it is therefore within their nature to make these kind of mistakes occasionally. And the NFL has gotten away with this explanation because, of course, you can't argue with that logic. Officials are human and mistakes are bound to happen. But what these two situations from this past Sunday highlight is a disturbing lack of consistency in the interpretation and enforcement of a basic and incredibly important rule.
So perhaps it's time we all accept one basic fact: the NFL rule book and American football will - by nature - always be a little a lot more subjective than we'd like. The way the game is played, the size and speed of the athletes and the high viewership of every game all contribute to an unacceptable number of post-game reviews by the NFL; many of which result in meaningless confirmation that the wrong decision was made by the officiating crew.
That doesn't mean that we should accept things as they currently are, though.
Every game this season has been slowed down by boring and unnecessary penalties for things like unsportsmanlike conduct, choreographed dances and excessive celebration. The pace of an average NFL game these days registers just one notch above a high school volleyball match. So watching two close games be irrevocably impacted by horrendous interpretation of the pass interference rules is the absolute worst case scenario for a fan and viewer whose investment in the NFL's multi-billion dollar product should be repaid with an enjoyable experience.
Taking all of that into consideration, speeding up the game is really the only solution. These brutal mistakes by referees have always existed and will continue to do so. And as TVs get bigger and high-definition displays eventually become somehow even more defined, we will continue scrutinize those calls even more. It is what it is on that front.
Having said that, the league can't ask fans to sit through 23 borderline holding calls per game and automatic reviews of every single scoring play only to completely screw them on the really important, potentially game-changing calls. And the idea of slowing the game down even more by reviewing every tricky pass interference call (which is generally all of them) is enough to make me quit watching the NFL altogether.
The focus on the conduct of players before the snap and after the whistle has to be toned down. Not only will it help speed up the game and create a pace that is far harder to nitpick, but it would free up the officials to pay more attention to the plays and the penalties that really matter and that could drastically affect the outcome of the game. It's a win for the refs, a win for the fans, a win for the players and a win for the league.
Plus when everything is said and done, I don't want to live in a world where Richard Sherman gets rewarded for being completely incapable of legally covering Julio Jones. I just don't.
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