When it comes to player and coaching errors, NFL teams have no choice but to be transparent; they regularly face the media, starting with the moments after the game in which they made the mistake about which they’ll be grilled by reporters.
So Titans coach Mike Mularkey is right. Regardless of the private accountability that comes from the grading process, officials need public accountability. In some circumstances, the referee of a crew speaks to a pool reporter. That’s not hardly enough.
Officials should be required to answer the same questions about their actions and omissions that players and coaches face, after every game. Maybe the threat of public accountability will cause them to spend more time preparing, more time studying, more time honing their craft.
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins also is right. When there’s a mistake, a private apology only goes so far. The outcomes of NFL games have real consequences. There should be real consequences for those who make decisions that affect the outcomes of NFL games.
Even better, the league should enhance and expand the effort to get calls right. From greater use of replay review to the presence of a video official who watches the game in real time and assists the on-field crew with any and all calls, more can be done to wipe out mistakes.
In Mularkey’s case, the NFL has a system in place to fix the mistake that was made, but no one realized that the fumble by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown at the Tennessee 41 that was recovered by receiver Martavis Bryant at the Tennessee 32 should have gone back to the spot of the fumble. In Cousins’ case, the officials determined that intentional grounding happened when it clearly hadn’t, since a loss of yardage wasn’t imminent.
It’s on the league office to ensure that mistakes of this nature can be fixed, and that they are fixed. Fans care deeply about the outcome of these games, whether due to rooting interests or financial considerations. Likewise, players, coaches, and everyone else connected to the team can have their careers made, or broken, by the accuracy of officiating calls.
Chalking mistakes up to “human error” simply isn’t good enough. While mistakes happen, the challenge is finding ways to spot and correct them quickly.