Rumors fly that league may go with one-man officiating crews

The good news is that the replacement officials could soon be getting fired.  The bad news is that the locked-out officials may stay locked out.

The in-between news is that the NFL may use only one official on the field to spot the ball and walk off penalties, with the rest of the officiating being performed in the booth by league employees watching TV monitors.

That’s the current rumor making the rounds on the league’s grapevine.

It’s just a rumor.  But don’t expect anyone from the league to admit that there may be any truth to it.  After all, the league office has been telling owners and coaches what they can and can’t say about the situation.  Surely, no one will say that the NFL is considering such drastic action until the NFL decides to do it.

Given the performance of the replacement officials, it makes plenty of sense to consider drastic action.

From our perspective, we’ve got no problem with it.  Technology has advanced to the point where the game can be called from a place other than the field.

Heck, if it works I’d be in favor of firing all officials and using the eye-in-the-sky system permanently.

See, I really don’t care who “wins” or “loses” this labor battle between the NFL and highly-paid part-time employees.  I care, however, about the game.  And the current situation compromises the game.

If the solution to the current situation can help the league get every call right, then maybe it’s time to get rid of every official except the guy who’d be acting like a glorified ball boy.

UPDATE 2:57 p.m. ET:  The NFL says that the possibility of one-man crews has not been discussed or considered.

83 responses to “Rumors fly that league may go with one-man officiating crews

  1. Terrible. The game is suddenly 100% at the mercy of camera angles.

    Just bring the real refs back already.


  2. Billion dollar business that now has a huge emphasis on player safety is willing to go into a season without any legit refs. And isn’t the difference like $2 million between refs and NFL. What a joke. Pay the men so we can get back to hating the zebras instead of supporting them. Not to mention they deserve it, especially after seeing what our next best option is with replacement refs. Pay them!!!!

  3. Now this is something I can get behind. Sucks for the refs, but whatever — it’s not like they’d be feeling sorry for me if I got laid off.

  4. i’m pretty sure id rather see the league move in this direction anyway. with only 16 games in a season and an increase in parity, nearly every single call in a game can effect the outcome of a teams entire season.

    get it right, i don’t care (and im sure the leagues, owners, and advertisers) how long it takes a game to play out.

    has anyone (other than a fan of a team on the receiving end of a beatdown) ever actually wished for a football game to be over?

    we already dedicate our entire sundays to this sport (most of us) so whats some extra time during the game to COMPLETELY ELIMINATE bad calls?

  5. awesome. This way they could give even MORE competitive advantages to the teams they do now. I can’t be the only fan who feels like certain teams always get the benefit of the doubt on types of calls or in key situations…this would be a great way for puppetmaster/dictator Goodell to manipulate the game to his benefit w/out ANY reprocussions (not like the current refs have any reprocussions from sucking anyway so meh, i guess.)

    I say get the real refs back on the field and institute some type of policy where they are actually held accountable for screwing up key calls/key situations.

  6. I dont like it. Just get the regular refs back then. But cod
    This be a ploy just to scare the reg refs into thinking this could
    Be something permanent.

    But anyway, are they really going to call
    The holds and various penalties
    From the booth? Why not just have them relay down for the on feild official a spot to mark…. I dk,’sounds
    Stupid to me and probably you too, you just want to make
    It look like you aren’t pulling for one side or the other

  7. Yeah, this will go well. One official to spot the ball, check for holding, make sure the receivers aren’t getting held, protect the QBs, etc. Player safety appears to be going out the window because the richest sport in the country/world doesn’t want to throw out a few extra bucks to ensure the integrity of the game. Real smart, NFL.

  8. I like it then the fans can booosooosss the ball boy.
    They can start calling the line play right we all get mad at the game wen only our team get call for holding.

  9. I have a very hard time imagining this would work. A camera just isn’t the same as looking with your own eyes. I’m a soccer referee (which is a sport with far fewer rules) and I don’t think I could do my job watching a TV monitor. So much of officiating is moving your head and eyes rapidly to the point where you need to be looking at that moment in time.

    I suppose, if the booth officials, had enough camera angles they could conceivably see what they need to see. But how long would it take to review all of those angles on each and every play to look for holding, illegal contact and a host of other penalties that can occur away from the ball?

  10. I was OK with the idea until I started thinking about loose footballs and the scrum that invariably follows. One REF on the field will be hard pressed to pull players apart.

    In short, this works until the REF is expected to restrain/separate players, and then its him against the world.

  11. Sure. That will work really well. Is one lone official on the field going to be able to break up scrums when tempers flare? Is the field official going to explain the rationale used by “Big Brother” for every replay challenge? This is a disaster waiting to happen. Has this even been tested to any degree?

    Just because the technology is there doesn’t take away the problem of human error. How many times have there been replay challenges where you can’t figure out what the official was looking at?

    When there’s a controversial call (and there will be) who do the coaches and players get details from? Does the field offical hand over a mic so the nameless, faceless voice in the sky can enlighten everyone? This is simply crazy.

  12. The replacement refs are AWFUL.

    Here’s an idea: Pay the real refs!

    It can’t be that easy being a ref with tens of thousands of people boo-ing you. Plus, the NFL can definitely afford to pay them. These replacement refs just increase the chances for not only blown calls, but also provide a more questionable scene for injuries (because they just aren’t trustworthy to make right calls). The refs should not be this big of a variable on who wins and who loses…especially when the playoff picture starts to form.

  13. Let’s not forget that the cameras don’t get every angle on every play. Just wait till the camera is at a bad angle and misses something an on feild ref could possible see from another angle

    Just hate the idea, pay these guys. Obvisouly everyone hated them
    But now we see other options

  14. If the solution to the current situation can help the league get every call right, then maybe it’s time to get rid of every official except the guy who’d be acting like a glorified ball boy.


    That’s the thing — not every call will be right. Human error is apart of the game (any game really). Getting rid of all refs will change this game completely, and not in the positive manner you are thinking.

    I dunno… I don’t like the idea of people not present on the field calling penalties from a booth. That just sounds highly illogical and too much of a risk.

    I dislike these replacement refs as much as the next guy, but they deserve at least a chance to right their wrongs. The real refs aren’t that much better.

  15. While I recognize that rumors are rumors, the league is finally acknowledging that the replacement officials are a joke. Could Goodell be so diabolically clever that this is what he had in mind the entire time? Showing the world how incompetent human officiating can be at its worst, then wowing the masses with a new video-based system?

  16. Imagine fumble pile ups. Would take that one ref 30 minutes to get the game going again. In that time…the ball will have switched hands 7 times. LoL…this is the NFL for you. Rumor mill. They have done the EXACT same ish to the Saints throughout the “bounty” thing. They release info, throw their hands up as if they have no idea where the rumor started, and then see how the public take to it.

  17. Yeah this is starting to move beyond embarrassing for the NFL. It is as if they have absolutely no regard for the integrity of the game on the field.

  18. Not in favor of this at all!
    This takes the human element out of the game. I think the current system is the best. But we do need to bring back the real officials.
    You can’t rely on camera angles for everything.
    There could literally be a penalty on every play if this is the case….

    Bring back the humans!

  19. After seeing some of the officiating in week 2 I am up for about anything now. The only downside to 1 official on the field is I would think it would slow the games down considerably. But the NFL either needs to hire back the regular refs or try something else than what they are doing now.

  20. I think it’d be a great idea, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing an obviously blown call go against my team. Then seeing it a few more times on replay – drives me nuts.

  21. When are we going to look at this mess and begin to question the leadership of Roger Goodell? the man took over the most popular sport in the country, and while it is still just that, instead of guiding the ship, he has repeatedly thrown obstacles in the way. In the span of a year he has presided over labor messes with the players and now with the officials. There is rampant animosity between the player and the league. So much attention is spent discussing off the field issues. And even if you agree with the punishments handed to the Saints, you have to admit he has handled the situation terribly. The problem with commissioners is they are accountable to only the owners – and so long as the owners make money, they are content to look the other way. I’m not saying Goodell should be fired, because that is just not realistic – but he needs a wake up call that his way of doing business is simply not working. I know the saying any press is good press, but the amount of negative, non-game related NFL stories is staggering. his antagonistic leadership is the direct cause of most of it.

  22. The lone official could use a headset like the coaches and be in constant communication with the booth!

    You would need more than one dude in the booth to watch every single camera angle on every play – but that would be much less expensive than on field refs.

    I think it is a great idea!

  23. REALLY bad idea. Yes, it might help with calls, but it’s gonna increase the fights and scuffles on the field since there’s gonna be only one guy to help break it up.

  24. LOL! Could you just imagine the player waiving their fists at the cameras hovering above instead of chewing out referees?

    Who would the coaches yell at?

    Half the entertainment is watching the coaches chew out the officiating crew.

    60 minute games already last 3+hours what with the stoppages and made-for-tv-style of the game. Imagine what would happen if you had 22 cameras constantly monitoring each player.

    Not to mention that there are certain aspects of the rules that are, by definition, arbitrary to the whim of the observing official.

  25. Wow, this seems pretty radical, but then again 10 years ago smartphones seemed pretty radical.

  26. Great, everyone wants more penalties being called. This will work awesome.

    Just let the replacements earn their stripes, it will all be fine.

  27. I’m in favor of this, but I have concerns (more on that later). With so many cameras around, why leave calls to what a few people can see at eye-level? The most important thing is to get the calls right, which I believe this would do.

    Now, the problem is if the league implements this because of the labor situation. It seems like they are rushing into it, and I’d rather they take their time because there’s a lot of questions to answer. How much time before a play is blown dead? Do the upstairs officials get to watch replays before deciding to call a penalty (play is dead, 15 seconds later flag is thrown)? How do they call borderline fumbles without seeing the replay?

    They should start with revamping how challenges are handled. Someone upstairs should watch the replay, not the head ref (wastes time walking around). All plays and penalties called should be challengable, as well as asserting a penalty should have been called.

  28. It’s pretty sad that a lot of folks think this would actually be better then the full crew of replacements.

  29. I for one would love to see the refs back on the field and totally eliminate the instant replays.

    It compromises the integrity of the game with all the delays. Especially when you are sure the call is going one way and it goes the other way. “What are they looking at?” is what you scream to yourself. Analysis of the video is also subject to misinterpretation..

    I say just leave the game to human error and let the guys play!!

  30. “How would this work? Would they use a pager or something to tell the automaton referee when to blow the whistle?”

    It could be as easy as having an earpiece in his ear and when an official in the booth sees a penalty he says “flag” the guy on the ground throws it in the air and when the play is over he says what the penalty is.

  31. Pre-game work out for James Harrison will now include a search of the cameras at the stadium so that he will know where the blind spots might be.

    Beware those who enter here!

  32. Who throws the flags that cause players who are acting out to become aware they have crossed a line?

    Unsportsmanlike conduct, for example, generally gets settled down when the refs throw flags and intercede to restore order.

    This would be a big mistake.

    I am all for all replay review being in the booth like in college, because making the on-field ref run across the field, run back, and so on takes too long.

    Every spot of the ball can’t be up to the guy in the booth though, games would take forever. With the booth guy telling the ball boy where to put the ball, then buzzing him when he screws it up.

    I sure hope the NFL makes another offer or the NFLRA makes another offer that bridges some of the gap and that causes the parties to get together to hash out the rest.

  33. This is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever read (on this site at least). One official? I suppose these “league employees” are going to be better at officiating the game because they are watching it on tv instead of being on the field?

  34. Maybe I’m too cynical but if I were the NFL this would be the best story to make up and “accidentally on purpose” let it leak to the public.

    It tells the locked out refs, “Either get back to your jobs ASAP or they won’t exist at all.”

    Smart move.

  35. Why not add a remote control cannon and anyone spotted fouling gets blown away on the spot. What ratings!

  36. I heard that they’re going to use the banker in ‘Deal or No Deal’ to call in all the penalties from the booth, all the cheerleaders will be standing by with 26 boxes holding 26 envelopes, and each coach will be able to reject an offered penalty in exchange for whatever is in the selected box, maximum three boxes per half.

  37. I think this is a great idea.. Now if they’d just realize that doing this with replay’s as well.. Could drastically speed up the flow of the game.. Which in my opinion is needed badly.. The competition committee has added so many rules over the years, it’s difficult for the game to have a steady flow without constant interruption.. The rules that cause the interruption are debatable, however if there is a way to minimize how long they stall the game, that shouldn’t be debatable. I think having maybe three guys on the field would be enough. I just think their responsibilities and authority shouldn’t be as great as they are now. Getting those damn chains off the field and using the blue and yellow lines we see on T.V. is long overdue.. Instituting changes like this across the board would be quicker and much more accurate..

  38. this whole squabble between the league and the refs completely ignores what was already wrong. We need full time referees, not part timers. For the kind of money the refs want the league should insist on full time refs who work year around on improving their craft. Not an insurance salesman that slips on a zebra shirt on Sunday morning, hoping he doesn’t miss the call that shakes the mountains.

  39. I don’t believe this rumor because it makes absolutely no sense. They could expand replay with a full-sized crew and thus maintain a semblance of control on the field. How many cheap shots would go unseen with a single ref out there? And since costs for replacement refs can’t be much in the billion dollar world of the NFL, they’d be saving themselves nothing by going to one ref.

  40. With the quality of cameras and production software available today this is more then possible. The overriding principle should just be “get it right”. As it stands the NCAA has made better headway at that goal then the NFL and that is largely due to technological means. If the next step is taking the officials off the field then so be it but you damn well better be able to “get it right”.

  41. This is obviously a negotiation tactic and nothing more. No way they actually do this, and the locked out refs should call this bluff.

  42. Yeah like the guys on the field do nothing to control the game. This is asinine, you need a presence on the field to break up players etc. How are you going to explain a call to the Coaches, keep track of the ball, and all the players. This will never work.

  43. It doesn’t have to be either/or. Would only one guy down on the field just moving the ball be the best way to do things? Probably not. But could we do away at least some of the on-field staff and replace them with people up in a booth with all the latest technology? Sure, that’s definitely worth exploring.

  44. The first guy to shove etc…. would get the penalty vs the guy who answers. Like that. Who’s going to blow a call dead when it shouldn’t be? That’s always my favorite.

  45. Given the performance of the replacement officials, it makes plenty of sense to consider drastic action.

    Given the performance of the part-time officials who are out, it makes plenty of sense to consider drastic action. The full-time attorneyss and gynecologists who are part-time referees are overcompensated as it is and are greedily asking for more. I say the NFL should do it.

  46. Oh look, the head honcho here wants attention, so he makes up a story to try to make the league look bad.

    How unoriginal. Haven’t you done this enough?

  47. Can you imagine a 2 minute drill in this situation? The one ref would most likely faint.

  48. Just about every NFL game that I have watched for the past decade has had its share of terrible calls, and none of those games were presided over by replacement officials. Let the referees union rot.

  49. @ Murtdurt-

    Dude, you read my mind! Why not have all the players have microchips installed in there arm…. Then a buzzer goes off when they commit a penalty….. Or if they get out of line , they get billed directly towards the chip!!! Who is running the league now?
    The Masons????

  50. This piece sums up the typical modern sports fan well. ‘I don’t care about the welfare of human beings, just don’t mess with my precious game!’

    Kind of pathetic, really.

  51. Not going to happen because I can’t see the league putting this in with basically 0 testing.

    I could see it happening one day but just not scrambled out of the blue put in at the last second.

  52. Get that robot maid from “The Jetsons”…. She’d do as well as some of the regulars…

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