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NFL plans to test eight-official crews in the preseason

Titans Dolphins Football AP

After a rash of high-profile bad calls in the 2013 preseason, the NFL plans to test something different in 2014: Adding an eighth official to the crew.

As reported on NFL Network today, in the 2014 preseason the NFL wants to try eight-official crews, instead of the standard seven-official crews that have been used in the NFL since 1978. The eighth official would be positioned in the backfield.

The NFL is also concerned that as football becomes a more passing-oriented game, the 22 players on the field are more spread out than they used to be, and it’s harder for seven officials to see everything on the field at once.

The league still appears to be a long way off, however, from instituting an eight-official crew for the regular season. The NFL would want to study how well the eight-person crews work in the preseason before using those crews in the regular season, and there may be additional testing with lining the officials up in different positions on the field. There’s also the matter of hiring more officials: There are 17 officiating crews, so adding an eighth official to each crew would require hiring and training 17 more officials.

Ultimately, the question is whether the problem in the NFL is too few officials, or whether the problem is that some of the officials aren’t good enough, that some of the NFL’s rules are too complex, and that the NFL’s replay system can’t correct some of the most glaring errors. The preseason test may show that eight-official crews don’t enforce the rules any better than seven-official crews. But there’s no harm in trying.

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38 Responses to “NFL plans to test eight-official crews in the preseason”
  1. anonymous135 says: Feb 28, 2014 9:35 AM

    I was hoping centralized replay would offset a lot of this… but having another set of eyes on the field can’t hurt either.

    I think it’s more policy tweaking of the rules, making them more straight forward, making ref’s full time employees and increasing their training would also go a long way.

  2. rcampore says: Feb 28, 2014 9:36 AM

    So let’s just add one more person to make a bad call….great idea!

  3. officialgame says: Feb 28, 2014 9:36 AM

    So they are going to bring in an extra clown to improve the officiating. Great. Why not try full time officials and pay them a descent wage like every other major sport does? It beats the 59 year old, out of shape insurance salesman from Wala Wala Washington flying in on a red eye to the Giants game.

  4. folkcrusader says: Feb 28, 2014 9:37 AM

    My recommendation for improvement;

    1. Reduce calls on the field as much as possible. Certain calls have little real effect to on field play. These can still be penalties but deal with them by fines after the game. Especially true for judgement calls such as taunting.

    2. Replay should be looking at “every” play. The tools and staff should be sufficient to be studying each play immediately after it is completed with out any delay to the next play. Additional referee staff should be provided in the booth. The booth should be able to throw a flag just like an on field official. College football handles this way better than the NFL.

    3. Each broadcaster should have to provide a minimum number of cameras in each game and all camera views should be provided to replay booth.

    4. Start to introduce technology such as lasers to assist officials in football placement etc.

  5. corky2141 says: Feb 28, 2014 9:38 AM

    They need to put him in the umpires old position around the linebackers not a third in the backfield

  6. 23rdusernameused says: Feb 28, 2014 9:41 AM

    they’ll still get it wrong, somehow someway!!
    NEED FULLTIME REFS!

  7. billsfan says: Feb 28, 2014 9:42 AM

    uh oh…8 is an even number. When the refs go into a huddle to decide a call, like the above picture, the “vote” could be deadlocked at 4-4, delaying the game. They should also add another commercial to pass the extra time.

  8. artvan15 says: Feb 28, 2014 9:46 AM

    They will need them all to police the N-word.

  9. crindal3000 says: Feb 28, 2014 9:47 AM

    we need cyborg refs that never make any mistakes and in the rare case they do we get to blow them up on national TV.

  10. username5891 says: Feb 28, 2014 9:48 AM

    Reduce the rule book. If u have to add another ref than u have too many rules

  11. jeffesky says: Feb 28, 2014 9:53 AM

    Oh boy more flags , us fans don’t thank you! This A11FL just may take off and in 10 years when NFL games are 5hrs plus , players can’t celebrate, ticket prices become to expensive for the av person and the game is flag football, the A11FL may be on a path to take over. I love the 11 man eligible idea, that’s going to be fun to watch. Smart of ESPN to pick up the TV deal. Cmon Roger lets keep the fun in the game dude.

  12. restorativejusticeprogram says: Feb 28, 2014 9:54 AM

    Test their bank accounts too because with so much money involved in betting on the NFL around the world it is a virtual certainty that many are on the take.

  13. coltsravensfan says: Feb 28, 2014 9:56 AM

    Although adding an official might help, I advocate simplifying & reducing the number of rules. It doesn’t surprise me that many calls are blown; I’m not sure how the refs keep all the rules straight in their heads. Cheers.

  14. russellwilsonismymvp says: Feb 28, 2014 10:09 AM

    Another guy on the field to get calls wrong or slow the game down with an extra flag to be thrown on every play. Just moving deck chairs on the Titanic until they condense the rule book.

  15. norseyapper says: Feb 28, 2014 10:13 AM

    There is a problem with NFL officiating and this proves the NFL leadership agrees with that assessment.
    The answer is not another set of eyes on the field. The answer is to hire the present officials full time, hold them to a functional standard of physical fitness and ability, train them throughout the year so that they are as expert as possible, and hold them accountable for their performance.

    There are plenty of younger officials out there who would jump at this opportunity and provide the deserving NFL fan base with a quality of officiating we have never seen.

  16. steelnucs says: Feb 28, 2014 10:14 AM

    “whether the problem is that some of the officials aren’t good enough, that some of the NFL’s rules are too complex, and that the NFL’s replay system can’t correct some of the most glaring errors.”

    Yes. This.

    Not sure how an extra official in the backfield will help with any of these problems except to have more flags thrown for BS roughing the passer calls.

  17. athwartships says: Feb 28, 2014 10:14 AM

    The problem is not the number of officials. The problem is the size and complexity of the rule book.

    Throwing more officials on the field is a lazy and ineffective bandaide to put on a much larger issue.

  18. pftstory says: Feb 28, 2014 10:20 AM

    They need to work to reduce judgment calls.
    Like when the ball leaves a QB’s possession while attempting to pass. If it goes forward its a pass, if it goes backwards its a live ball. None of this when did his arm start moving forward crap.

    This did something like this with receivers being forced out of bounds. We used to have to debate would his feet have been inbounds if the defender didn’t hit him. Now it doesn’t matter.

    Otherwise, the chance to fix the ref problem was lost when we fans wimped out on the replacement refs. That was the chance for the NFL to hold these guys more accountable. We could have started the next season with new crews willing to be held accountable for bad calls.

  19. perryw9202 says: Feb 28, 2014 10:23 AM

    Boy did I mis-read that headline..

    “NFL plans to test eight-official crews in the preseason”

    I thought there were going to drug test 8 official crews during the preseason.

  20. marima07 says: Feb 28, 2014 10:26 AM

    Moving the umpire in 2010 has resulted in rampant defensive holding that goes unseen by the official but is obvious to every fan watching the game.

    The defenders know how to take advantage of the positioning, and they do. Putting a set of eyes back where they were will force the defenders to return to having to keep their hands where they belong.

  21. bert1913 says: Feb 28, 2014 10:29 AM

    the nfl could get away with using 6 refs per game. all they have to do is give the refs a mandatory eye exam

  22. mightyminer says: Feb 28, 2014 10:30 AM

    Eight blind mice… Eight blind mice…

  23. godblessfootball says: Feb 28, 2014 10:33 AM

    May as well use an 11 person crew and assign one to each position.

  24. thestrategyexpert says: Feb 28, 2014 10:43 AM

    It doesn’t matter how many people you employ if the system is tainted. That just makes the problems worse and more embarrassing and more expensive.

  25. fballguy says: Feb 28, 2014 10:43 AM

    Great…Add one more opinion to the never ending Official huddles.

  26. jetsjetsjetsnow says: Feb 28, 2014 10:46 AM

    God forbid they just take a direct linear approach and fix the actual issue at hand… Making all calls reviewable..

  27. theclink12 says: Feb 28, 2014 11:05 AM

    This just means that there is one more official for Jim Harbaugh to complain to on every single play.

  28. telldatruth says: Feb 28, 2014 11:25 AM

    are the refs eyes being tested?

  29. mhs8031 says: Feb 28, 2014 11:32 AM

    8 refs, 0 full-time officials.

  30. vaphinfan says: Feb 28, 2014 11:49 AM

    Pats fans are psyched about this!!

  31. anonymous135 says: Feb 28, 2014 11:56 AM

    They should let the fans decide… ;)

  32. 8drinkminimum says: Feb 28, 2014 12:03 PM

    Players getting bigger and faster and you are going to add another body to a crowded field? It’s going to look like the NJ Turnpike at 5pm.

  33. evilglazers666 says: Feb 28, 2014 12:32 PM

    Can they test out new owners and commissioner?

  34. mancave001 says: Feb 28, 2014 12:54 PM

    Dumb. This will only lead to more BS penalty calls like “inducing a false start” and holding on EVERY play. Say it with me: CENTRALIZED REPLAY. That and rule simplification/revision is the only way to improve things. Years from now we will look back and realize this was the point where the NFL’s dominance started to crumble. They are going to take this 100 billion dollar business (at least that when you consider everything related to the game) and flush it down the toilet. Sad.

  35. mogogo1 says: Feb 28, 2014 1:26 PM

    Has the problem been not enough eyes on the play or the quality of the eyes and the egos involved? As long as you let a Jeff Tripplett control a game you’re going to get terrible calls. The fact that a few more guys saw him mess up but were too scared or powerless to stop him isn’t going to change much.

  36. Bill's got balls! says: Feb 28, 2014 2:02 PM

    The problem is the rules. Rules have been tweaked and modified by adding descriptive language and exceptions and procedure to the point where they can support any decision by the ref. The league need to look at the whole rulebook and do a comprehensive review and rewrite.

    And add centralized replay review.

  37. jackthetailback says: Mar 1, 2014 12:13 PM

    Centralized Replay Review for EVERY PLAY similar to the NCAA will be a good start… not including offsides, false starts, etc but definitely include a challenge(s) for illegal formations.
    Also, holding the refs to a STANDARD will help. If a ref is getting too many calls wrong or ‘missing’ too many (non-calls). That ref should be replaced for the rest of the season minus pay.
    Competition for the ref positions will bring out the best in the refs and calls. Same as competition for player positions do. In that scenario, the league will have to have replacement refs ready to go.
    With the amount of money the NFL has, this should not be a problem. When there is a full time salary, and bonuses to compete for, refs will step up to the challenge. Also, refs that are replaced should be be suspended and investigated to help avoid corruption. Waivers signed under penalty of perjury would help to enforce serious consequences for corruption convictions. Sounds harsh, but anytime there are billions of dollars involved or at stake, corruption is present.

  38. rayb47 says: Mar 2, 2014 1:13 AM

    So it appears the quality of officiating has declined in recent years. Has the quality really declined or due to more TV cameras being used to broadcast games we now see more bad calls/ no calls that we didn’t see in the past?
    Inconsistent play calling among officiating crews is a major problem that needs to be immediately addressed. One officiating crew won’t call certain infractions while other officiating crews will. There has to be consistency among all officiating crews, nothing left to the head official’s judgement or interpretation of the rule book. Centralized review of penalties called would add consistency but it doesn’t address the penalties that weren’t called.
    There are fans who make claims that some teams are favored by the officiating crews and such teams are seldom called for flagrant fouls. Regardless if favoritism exist among officiating crews or not it sure appears that way. The whole idea of instilling the salary cap was to make each team competitive and having an equal chance of competing for the trophy. If biased officiating exist then the NFL has taken a step backwards. Every fan wants to feel the game was called fairly regardless if their team won or lost. To err is human where I can accept an occasional bad call or no call, but the numbers don’t lie. There are way too many mistakes being made with the system currently being used.

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