Efficient Officiating: A Need in the NFL
For many years, the referees of the NFL have miscalled plays that ultimately changed the outcome of a game. The need for accurate decision making has been on the wish list of many NFL players for a very long time. Some of the most well-known mistakes made by referees were years ago and have yet to be forgotten. For example, in 1972, the “immaculate reception” by Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers should’ve actually been an “immaculate deception,” as seen by the Oakland Raiders and many. In 1998, the start of overtime between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions began with the usual coin toss; running back of the Steelers’ Jerome Bettis claimed it to have said tails while the official, Phil Luckett heard heads and gave the decision to the Lions, which led them to score the winning field goal.
Over the last couple of weeks in the NFL, there have been three instances where the officiating has been questionable. In week nine, the Seattle Seahawks won 31-25 over the Buffalo Bills, but the officiating of that game had many people talking. The Bills went to kick a field goal in the last two minutes of the first half; after making a 48-yard field goal, the Bills were penalized for delay of game. The referee was standing over the ball until five seconds were left on the play clock, causing Dan Carpenter, kicker for the Buffalo Bills, to have to kick another field goal at the 53-yard line. Then an unnecessary roughness penalty was not called after Richard Sherman hit Carpenter. Although that call would have been controversial and could certainly be seen both ways, it nonetheless affected the Bills.
The next controversy was in week eleven, between the Houston Texans and Oakland Raiders; the Texans trailed the Raiders 20-27. First, DeAndre Hopkins, star wide receiver for the Houston Texans, was robbed of a 60-yard touchdown. Hopkins had a beautiful catch and clearly ran inbounds for a touchdown, but the play was called out of bounds at Oakland’s 36-yard line. The play was called dead by the officials, meaning the Texans head coach Bill O’Brien could not challenge it.
In the second half, Akeem Hunt leaped over the line of scrimmage in hopes of achieving a crucial first down. Although it looked pretty clear that Hunt got a first down on the replay, the officials did not agree. After this game, both Hopkins and O’Brien said something about these calls made by the referees. O’Brien said “…we got all of these cameras, and we can’t get that right. And I don’t think Hopkins was out of bounds.” Hopkins shared a photo on Instagram from bleacher report showing all angles of where he supposedly stepped out with O’Brien’s quote and captioned it emojis of a frog and a cup of tea.
Perhaps the oddest instance is the penalty on Rashard Robinson of the San Francisco 49ers, but not on any other players. In week thirteen, snowfall was concurrent with many teams, but the penalty on the snow angel celebrations wasn’t. It all started when Dontae Johnson of the 49ers thought he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown; he got down and made a snow angel as his celebration. Then when his teammate Rashard Robinson, who was celebrating with him, made a snow angel too, the penalty was only called on Robinson. In Green Bay, Randall Cobb celebrated by making a snow angel but also wasn’t penalized, showing an inconsistency in flags thrown.
Finally there is a solution being presented, but it would be fairly difficult to make: 17 full-time officials. By having full-time officials many people believe less mistakes would be made. The benefit of having full time officials would be committed referees with no distractions, where lack of rule studying would not be an issue and more efficient play callings would be the result. The reality is almost all referees have another job, and only officiate part time. If they were to officiate full time the NFL would have to pay them more money, and the NFL Referee Association denies anything that has to do with hiring full time officials. The easiest solution for the part time referees is to find time to study the rules and to continue to study.