The NFL has seen 18.5-percent turnover in its game officials over the last two years. And for good reason; as V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino said earlier this month, the league won’t keep officials who aren’t getting the job done.
“If an official isn’t performing up to the standards then they won’t be in the NFL,” Blandino said, confirming that the league “moved on from” some officials.
“Any official, in any competitive arena, could have a poor season, so one season may not necessarily cause us to terminate an official,” Blandino said. “But if it becomes a trend, multiple seasons, we have a tier-based ranking system, the third tier being the lowest performers. Once they enter Tier 3 we put them in an enhanced training regimen and put them in that program, and if we still don’t see improvement, that’s when we move on.”
The NFL Referees Association has taken issue with the characterization that five officials have been fired, via a Saturday morning press release.
“It is a totally inaccurate and disrespectful to these outstanding retiring game officials for anyone to give the impression or infer they were fired,” NFLRA executive director Jim Quirk said. “After the reports surfaced, we immediately reached out to the League with our concerns. We were pleased that during this conversation, management admitted that their public statements were misinterpreted, and they did not mean to give the impression the five retiring officials were fired.”
So who are the five officials who retired? The NFLRA won’t say.
“Medical privacy laws do not permit me to publicly name the 20-plus-year veteran game officials who retired due to medical conditions,” Quirk said.
For 2015, the NFL has hired nine new officials, with five replacing those who aren’t returning and four new positions.
A league source confirmed that the NFLRA privately objected to the characterization the NFL has fired “some of its worst officials.” But the source also acknowledged that some of the officials who “retired” had no intention of retiring, and thus were let go.
Which means that the league moved on from them. Which means they were some of the league’s worst officials.
Before anyone takes up the cause of the officials who were involuntarily retired, keep in mind the broader goal of getting as many calls right as possible. If people aren’t able to do that on a consistent basis, failure of the NFL to move on from “some of its worst officials” would justify far more criticism than whatever criticism has arisen from the league’s effort to improve the pool of game officials.