The NFL traditionally has resisted calls to make officials full-time, year-round employees. As the NFL continues to grow in audience and interest and significance, the league seems to be warming to the importance of creating the impression that all reasonable steps are being taken to ensure that the officials get it right.
In a question-and-answer session with fans before Sunday’s game between the Texans and Ravens, Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league will consider hiring full-time officials.
“Consistency is exactly what every club wants, and I think every fan wants,” Goodell said, via the Associated Press. “You want consistency in the way rules are applied. We are contemplating this offseason taking some of those officials from the field who are now part time — they have other jobs — and making a certain number of them, let’s say 10, full time.”
Goodell also suggested that the full-time officials would be spread out on game day. (If that’s the case, there should be at least 16 full-time officials, which would ensure the presence of one at every game.)
We’ve argued from time to time over the years that all officials should be full-time employees. Even if the move reduces errors only slightly, the net effect will be a reduction of mistakes.
The problem is that making officials full-time employees will require giving all of them a significant pay increase, since they would be giving up their day jobs. But it would be a fair trade; instead of having their minds cluttered with their normal responsibilities and the nuances of NFL rules, the officials could ensconce themselves exclusively in the articles, sections, examples, and points of emphasis.
During the offseason, the officials could focus on tactics for staying in shape, both physically and mentally. They could officiate simulated games — even if it’s only a Madden-style computer simulation.
It’s a concept that is long overdue. Even if mistakes will continue to happen, no one will be able to attribute the mistakes to the fact that officiating football games is a second job.