While money seems to be, as it always is, the most important factor in the ongoing dispute between the NFL and the NFL Referees Association, the league has an important point that it’s pushing unrelated to dollars and cents.
The NFL wants to establish a bench of officials, who would be available to replace officials who are struggling during the season.
During a Tuesday meeting with various NBC producers and broadcasters, NFL V.P. of officiating Ray Anderson explained passionately — and persuasively — the importance of being able to pull an underperforming official off the field during a season, not after it. Anderson said that the league intends via the lockout to change from an system of “entitlement” to “accountability.”
While officials currently are held accountable via week-to-week grading that, depending on overall performance, could get an official fired or demoted, Anderson explained that some officials become complacent once they know they won’t be getting a postseason assignment. He also said that some officials are in shape at the outset of the season, but that they are 20 or more pounds heavier later in the year, and in turn unable to keep up with the play on the field.
Though it’s hard to discern who’s right and who’s wrong when it comes to issues of money, it’s even harder to find legitimate fault with the league’s position on this issue. It’s easy to understand why the officials don’t want to have to worry about getting benched for a backup. Still, the officiating will never be as good as it can be without the threat of real accountability — and without the ability to swap out a poor-performing official for someone who may be in better position to excel.