Looming legalization of gambling nudges NFL toward full-time officials

The NFL has resisted legalized gambling over the years for a variety of reasons. Here’s one of them: Once fans can place bets on point spreads, over-unders, and various other in-game props, it will be important for the league to create the impression that it’s doing everything it can to ensure that the officials aren’t making mistakes.

Indeed, when part-time officials currently make mistakes, the knee-jerk reaction by many is to say, “Full-time officials wouldn’t make those mistakes.”

It’s more perception than reality, but the perception will continue to be the reality until all officials are full-time employees. So with legalized gambling coming (courtesy of either the Supreme Court or Congress), it’s no surprise that the NFL, nearly five years after securing the ability to hire full-time officials, is doing it.

Whether it actually reduces errors doesn’t matter. The league will need to do everything it can to create the impression that it’s trying to minimize errors, and full-time officials will assist in that regard.

Other eventual enhancements will include expanded replay review. The league likewise should consider assigning a member of each officiating crew to monitor multiple camera angles in order to enhance the initial ruling on the field, with the replay system as a fallback.

At some point, the NFL should tear down the current officiating function and rebuild it from scratch, in light of all available technological advances and devices. There’s nothing like the scrutiny that will come from bad calls causing millions of dollars to change hands to create the incentive for such an effort — and there’s nothing like the billions the NFL will make from legalized gambling to pay for it.