NFL, NFLRA discussing new suspension procedures


Many officials reacted with surprise to last week’s decision to suspend side judge Rob Vernatchi with pay for his role in last Monday night’s clock error and to reassign back judge Greg Wilson away from a prime-time game for his role in the prior Monday night’s illegal bat blunder. The next time it happens, they shouldn’t be surprised.

And it likely will be happening again.

Although the NFL would say that accountability applies to mistakes made in all games regardless of when they are played, the sense among the folks in black-and-white stripes is that, if you screw up in a prime-time game, the consequences will be greater.

The fact that neither Vernatchi nor Wilson lost money likely goes a long way toward insulating the NFL from any problems that could arise under the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL Referees Association. The next step will be revising the CBA to allow for a more aggressive approach when it comes to big mistakes made by officials.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the league already has commenced discussions with the NFLRA regarding a system of progressive discipline for 2016, which would entail both paid and unpaid suspensions in response to certain errors.

Whether it’s a mistake in the perception of the events on the field, the enforcement of a penalty, the application of a rule, subjective decision-making (like pass interference or holding), or administrative matters such as the operation of the clock, the goal would be to have a formula that applies to all officials, allowing the NFL to do something more than downgrade the officials during their weekly post-game evaluations.

While the grading process becomes a carrot for postseason assignments, the league is looking for a more immediate stick than makes the official no longer an official after a given season. And that makes sense. Players get benched and cut; coaches get fired. The accountability for officials is far more subtle and discreet, and in many cases never noticed.

The suspension of Vernatchi and the reassignment of Wilson makes clear that the league’s approach already has changed. The next question becomes whether a more structured system of paid and unpaid suspensions will be implemented for 2016 — and how sweeping it will be.

For the NFL, there continues to be a strong incentive to not make officiating errors seem to be too glaring or commonplace. Widespread suspensions would do that, eventually renewing and invigorating calls for full-time, year-round officials.

Regardless, the goal remains getting it right. And the NFL needs to do whatever it takes to get all calls right.

22 responses to “NFL, NFLRA discussing new suspension procedures

  1. If the league won’t make communication with the refs transparent to the fans at key times then I won’t believe that there isn’t something fishy going on occasionally.

  2. Rather than acting all tough with refs, who more often than not are just struggling with a very fast game and hazily written rules, the NFL would do better if they showed that accountability starts at the League office, and demoted or fired any of the several manifestly incompetent nincompoops who work there.

  3. I remember when the replacement refs were getting crushed by the media and everybody bought into that bs. I said it then and still mean it that they weren’t that much of a drop off from the overpaid refs now.

  4. I was hoping it was typo and the headline would actually read “NFL, NFLPA discussing new suspension procedures.” Alas, Goodell still thinks he can reign supreme over player discipline.

  5. Why haven’t any NFL league office employees been fired/suspended for manufacturing evidence and targeting New England with a failed sting operation?
    Why hasn’t Walt Anderson been fired/suspended because the Wells Report clearly dismisses his PSI recollections” which must mean either Anderson is incompetent or lying. But instead…..the NFL has be reluctant to touch Anderson….because his memory was actually too good. Remember…the league ignored Anderson’s version and Wells crafted his own implausible fictional account.

  6. About time we saw some accountability for officials. The blown calls are getting to be a regular event, in many cases deciding, or heavily impacting, wins and losses. It’s almost painful to watch some games.

  7. Got no problem with this, mistakes happen, I don’t think either of these refs intentionally screwed up but they should be held accountable.

    Is the league also talking about public shaming and suspensions for nfl employees who intentionally spread misinformation or willfully obfuscate to cover their on arses? That might be something worth discussing.

  8. Florio says:
    Regardless, the goal remains getting it right. And the NFL needs to do whatever it takes to get all calls right.
    Right now and for the last several years, the goals of the NFL executives have been to enrich the owners and empower Goodell. Any other issue has not been and is not even on the radar.
    That won’t change so long as Goodell the Narcissist is commissioner. It simply will not change.
    Any distraction will remain that, a distraction that will be swept under the carpet. Poor officiating by part time employees, long term health effects, incomprehensible rules development, CBA violations, rules support data accumulation, the list of distractions go on.
    Nothing that improves the fan experience will change if it doesn’t enrich the owners or further empower Goodell. Goodell the Narcissist’s perspective as far as fans are concerned is, “Let them eat cake”. In analogous fashion, Goodell’s future in the NFL should be the same as Marie Antoinette, ” Off with his head.” Fire Goodell now.

  9. dyims says:
    Oct 20, 2015 9:24 AM

    I would like someone to explain how a paid suspension is a discipline? I’ll take all the paid days off I can get.


    It’s a union thing that passes as discipline. Next is a sternly worded letter.

  10. Everyone will be held accountable except the morons at 345 Park Ave NY.

    Off course they are not accountable, they only hand out million dollar fines and steal 1st round draft choices, lie, cheat and ignore court orders.

    Roger and his band of thieves need to go!!!

    The sooner the better.

  11. Well the lack of notice problem should be resolved. Is this a tacit
    acknowledgement that the NFL did fail in giving players proper notice
    as Tagliabue and Judge Berman stated in their decisions?
    Although a little off the topic but somewhat related….also the NFL
    and NFLPA need to address the marijuana suspensions. One can argue against it….but let’s be realistic…..players should not lose games and money for smoking weed…. while its ok to to get hammered on alcohol.
    Of course I don’t mean smoking weed while driving ….that is the same as dui.

  12. There are simple solutions to officiating problems like this. The NFL is putting the blame entirely on the officials, but at the same time there will always be subjectivity and human error. The NFL – if it really cared – could fix this issue. But if it costs more money, that cuts into profits so it likely won’t happen.

    The NFL is culpable in all of this for 1) having a needlessly complex-yet-vague rulebook and 2) not taking the steps itself to correct things that they know are/were wrong. They can set it up so that things like the batted ball (open to interpretation, but if we don’t agree with your interpretation you’ll be suspended…?) are corrected.

    Teams shouldn’t lose games because of bad decisions, but the officials are only able to do what they can do. The NFL is scapegoating them for issues created by its own inability and/or unwillingness to improve on the whole process.

  13. Ban long hair and dreadlocks outside the helmet! There use to be the rule about covering the name. What happened to that rule? Knee pad rule is a joke! The inmates are running the asylum!

  14. This story reminded me of Deflategate. Several months ago, at the request of the Commissioner and other owners, Bob Kraft accepting the team penalties “for the good of the league”. Why aren’t the same owners telling Goodell to drop the appeal of the Brady ruling “for the good of the league”? Clearly the NFL is not addressing it, quietly trying to pretend it never happened and there is no big concern with all of these other “investigation worthy” issues around the league. So they basically admit it was a farce, and they don’t want it to be a catalyst for other things. So why not drop it? Why tell Kraft to drop it for the greater good, but then not abide by the same standard?

  15. Profootballgossiping is right.

    This is all academic unless the NFL hires the officials full-time. They shouldn’t let their union approve this punishment structure until that happens.

  16. dyims says:
    Oct 20, 2015 9:24 AM

    I would like someone to explain how a paid suspension is a discipline? I’ll take all the paid days off I can get


    It is stage one in a multi-tier system. It would be similar to in somewhere like the retail world where you would first receive a verbal warning (where there isn’t any actual impact to the job, but you begin a paperwork trail). The second step is a written warning, which is still not financially impacting, but continues the paper trail. The third stage would be probationary status that could impact financials like bonuses or preferential schedules. The final stage in the disciplinary status would be involuntary termination.

    I am more curious what people think the punishments for first time mistakes should be.

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