Does the NFL have a referee problem?

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Of the 17 referees on the NFL’s payroll during the 2017 season, four of them have now left. Does that leave the NFL with a referee problem?

It’s a fair question to ask as the 2018 season approaches. While the departures of Ed Hochuli and Jeff Triplette had been known for months, the bang-bang retirements of Terry McAulay and Gene Steratore in recent days, reportedly to work at NBC and CBS respectively, is jarring. And the moves raise legitimately questions as to whether something has gone haywire with the NFL’s officiating department, whether more referees will leave, and whether the replacements will be good enough.

Six years ago, the Commissioner stridently boasted that replacement officials would perform as well as the locked-out black-and-white-stripers who wanted more green than the NFL would give them. Reality proved the Commissioner quite wrong, culminating in the embarrassment that was the Fail Mary.

Three days after the Seahawks beat the Packers thanks to a blatant case of offensive pass interference on the game’s last play, the “A” team was back, led by the swagger of Steratore, who’s Thursday night strut for a Browns-Ravens game let everyone know that, indeed, there’s a palpable difference between the best officials in football and those who aren’t.

With Steratore now gone (along with McAulay, Hoculi, and Triplette), the NFL will be facing a real test. And the stakes are higher than ever, since there will be actual, legal stakes on the games.

And it could have been worse. Kevin Seifert of ESPN.com reported that Clete Blakeman also auditioned for the NBC gig that went to McAulay. If ESPN hadn’t hired Triplette (who already had retired, and who many fans won’t miss), maybe Blakeman would have gotten one of the three recently-filled network gigs.

And maybe now the report that the NFL nudged ESPN to hire Triplette makes more sense. Maybe it wasn’t about helping Tripllette; maybe it was about helping the NFL not lose yet another referee as a new season approaches.

And maybe the NFL now needs to worry about possibly losing more referees after the coming season concludes.

68 responses to “Does the NFL have a referee problem?

  1. Follow the money. Let’s see now if Yahoo and Youtube and Netflix and HBO start offering sweet contracts to current officials for an easier gig with no running except for the mouth as a talking head on the tube.

  2. This not an issue whatsoever. NFL offices will just trudge on down to the NIB and recruit some new officials as per the SOP of the past. Of course it will take several years to gain experience, but there will be absolutely no change in the game.

  3. Maybe the move to full time referees is hurting them? These former referees can now work for the networks part time.

  4. Didn’t the Packers/Seahawaks game end in what should have been an INT but Golden Tate ripped the ball out of the DBs hand afterwards?

  5. The skill set required is significantly overrated. Learn the rules and the mechanics and trust your eyes ( with the replay rules even the eyes part isn’t that important )

  6. Yes they have a problem. they are all horrible.
    But then again, half the rules are stupid to begin with

  7. Honestly, for the most part games are officiated from a secret office at NFL headquarters in NYC. I’m willing to bet that someday there will be no zebra’s on the field. Only ballboys/girls with headsets placing the ball for play at the spot designated by New York.

  8. losing refs or them being afraid of finally being caught for goodell’s in-game cheating against the pats to affect seeding or super bowls themselves like we have seen?

  9. Steratore Was the only one of those retiring that will be missed, the others were below average and their replacements may very well be an upgrade.

  10. Since the Tuck Rule game, Walt Coleman has not called one single Raider game. Home or away. Not one. That’s 16 years. In that same time period he has called dozens of Pats games. It’s time for Walt Coleman to call a Raider game…or get out.

  11. Start a program where college players who can’t make a team or training camp bodies train and try to see if reffing can be a means for them to pursue the game they love at a high level. Then hire the best of that bunch.

  12. Just watch the last Super Bowl….2 TD’s that were allowed for that game that were NOT ALLOWED IN ANY GAME THE ENTIRE SEASON up to that point…..you tell me if there is a problem or not…..oh, let’s not forget the illegal formation on the Foles TD as well…….
    SB’s are tough enough to win outright, but nearly impossible when blatant calls are missed or when NEW STANDARDS are allowed by a corrupt league…….

  13. tylawspick6 says:
    June 23, 2018 at 11:04 am

    losing refs or them being afraid of finally being caught for goodell’s in-game cheating against the pats to affect seeding or super bowls themselves like we have seen?
    ———————————-
    Glad to see the President of the Pats Fans and their representative to the American people is here this morning.

    Could these refs just be taking a high profile job, at good money, without the constant criticism and microscopic analysis of all the media and the fans?

  14. Yep….The league makes $20B+ in revenue as a direct result of ~250 games. The league’s real product. Roger Goodell makes Roughly twice as much as the entire NFL officiating crew combined. This is how the owners set priorities.

    After several years of controversial calls impacting important games, the networks are now hiring the most experienced officials away from the NFL to scrutinize the poor officiating (because the officials aren’t paid very much by the NFL), exacerbating the problem. Fans are buying expensive tickets to see games that are increasingly decided by officials instead of players, so once again the owners gave the money to Goodell (not the officials in this case). It’s the league that has never been afraid to insult the fan base, and believes that spin doctored press releases after controversial games are actually enough to appease the fans.

  15. The constant crying by the Patriot trolls is embarrassing.they whine about the calls they didn’t get but fail to mentioned the many calls they did get and the fact that the refs never call offensive holding on their o-line.

    The NFL has human refs and until they get robots to take over so there will be mistakes will be made that tend to even out over time except in the mind of the entitled whining Pats cry babies.

  16. Hate to say it, but the job has gotten so hinky that its some I would pull away from if it was me. And with gambling being introduced the scrutiny gets that much greater. Not something desireable when it comes to trying to make snap devisions on rules with a lot of ambiguity to them.

  17. Nofoolnodrool says:
    June 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    The constant crying by the Patriot trolls is embarrassing.they whine about the calls they didn’t get but fail to mentioned the many calls they did get and the fact that the refs never call offensive holding on their o-line.

    The NFL has human refs and until they get robots to take over so there will be mistakes will be made that tend to even out over time except in the mind of the entitled whining Pats cry babies.

    ———————
    Honestly when if comes to crying about officiating calls the bulk goes the other way. Its teams that have been beaten by the Patriots complaing that they would have won if they weren’t cheated by calls. Within the last couple weeks I read someone complaining that it was the Patriots not Jacksonville responsible for the Steeler’s early elimination from last year’s playoffs because this person alleges they paid off the refs to get a specific call during a regular season game weeks before. It gets that surreal the things that go out. Its always the losing team crying not the winner and the fact is the Patriots are the winner too often to have much cause or incident to complain about the refs.

  18. Honestly when if comes to crying about officiating calls the bulk goes the other way. Its teams that have been beaten by the Patriots complaing that they would have won if they weren’t cheated by calls. Within the last couple weeks I read someone complaining that it was the Patriots not Jacksonville responsible for the Steeler’s early elimination from last year’s playoffs because this person alleges they paid off the refs to get a specific call during a regular season game weeks before. It gets that surreal the things that go out. Its always the losing team crying not the winner and the fact is the Patriots are the winner too often to have much cause or incident to complain about the refs.

    0 0

    You really are tone deaf……Harry. Had the call gone against the Pats against the Steelers at the goal line you would have been just another whiny cry baby but it didn’t so you promptly forget it happened or why a Steeler fan could be justified….in other words you are just a Pats crybaby who is not being the least bit objective..?..not surprising but immature none the less.

  19. We already have controversial calls in every single game. The replacement refs were fine. They would have been equal to the regular ones if they had a few more weeks of experience.

  20. Patriots* get more calls then any team.
    If your team is in the AFC East you see it twice a year. Brady starts whining and out come the flags. Dropped pass ? Interference. Sack ?, roughing the passer. Brady gets intercepted? Gronk can assualt the guy, NP. Catch rule ? If he’s a Pateiot* it’s a catch. Other team, probably not.To make things easier Tripplet and Hochuli just gave Brady his own flag to throw. Thing is Brady is a great QB and doesn’t need the help. The games would be better if the refs would realize their not NBA refs and make the calls the same for everyone. Hopefully it changes with some new refs.

  21. Nofoolnodrool says:
    June 23, 2018 at 1:01 pm
    Honestly when if comes to crying about officiating calls the bulk goes the other way. Its teams that have been beaten by the Patriots complaing that they would have won if they weren’t cheated by calls. Within the last couple weeks I read someone complaining that it was the Patriots not Jacksonville responsible for the Steeler’s early elimination from last year’s playoffs because this person alleges they paid off the refs to get a specific call during a regular season game weeks before. It gets that surreal the things that go out. Its always the losing team crying not the winner and the fact is the Patriots are the winner too often to have much cause or incident to complain about the refs.

    0 0

    You really are tone deaf……Harry. Had the call gone against the Pats against the Steelers at the goal line you would have been just another whiny cry baby but it didn’t so you promptly forget it happened or why a Steeler fan could be justified….in other words you are just a Pats crybaby who is not being the least bit objective..?..not surprising but immature none the less.

    ——————-
    You do realize you are making my point for me?

  22. The problem is the media and fans second guessing and criticizing every single close call, and vilifying decent men like Jeff Triplette and Ed Hochuli. If you had any other options in life, why would you subject yourself to this type of abuse week after week??

  23. I think the worst of them left this year. Hopefully things will improve. But new mostly subjective rules will be problematic and will affect the outcome of games.

  24. I honestly have no problems with the rules, the catch rule will always have some part that is subjective. There is no way around it. My god, if I hear anyone complain about the touchback rule when the O’s fumbles the ball goes through the endzone. My god it is part of the game on every level and has always made sense to me, especially if you played on D in organized football. However there is alot of rule changes that are slowly ruining the game.
    If I get paid millions of dollars to play a game. There is a risk vs reward. The more money you accrue over time, there is a risk to it. The refs turnover is concerning, I hope the NFL is not about to do something stupid.

  25. As the NFL continues to add rules that will not be easily called or consistent the NFL officials will continue to show problems, Add all the replays these guys will always be the excuse of why a team wins or loses. Truthfully the game would be better to call the call and move on not all the replays and scrutiny. Tc coverage to not show the replays over and over and in slow slow motion.

  26. [Stadium Speaker Settings: On] – The ruling on the field was Retirement. After video review of the play the call is overturned. Additionally, a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty is assessed to the Director of Officials, who shall be otherwise sanctioned via supplementary discipline in the Court of Public Opinion. Please visit the Concierge on Level 2 to register any complaint. Thank You.

  27. Moochie
    Jun 23, 2018, 11:27 AM EDT
    Since the Tuck Rule game, Walt Coleman has not called one single Raider game. Home or away. Not one. That’s 16 years. In that same time period he has called dozens of Pats games. It’s time for Walt Coleman to call a Raider game…or get out.

    Yes a lot of us watched that same show on NFL Network too, “Timeline”. Great show but it’s time for people to move past this one call. I’ve said for years that it was the right call of a bad rule. People want to blame Walt Coleman but truthfully he made the correct call. I know Raiders fans don’t wanna hear this but you didn’t get screwed by the refs or even the Patriots, it was the NFL rulebook that bit you in the ass. If you remember that call had been made several times before the Pats/Raiders game yet no one had a problem with it or even really cared about until that particular game. Again, it was the right call, it was the rule itself that was the problem. So if you wanna be upset with someone blame the Competition Committee that put that rule in place to begin with

  28. arcross12042004scorp15
    Jun 23, 2018, 1:28 PM EDT
    Patriots* get more calls then any team.
    If your team is in the AFC East you see it twice a year. Brady starts whining and out come the flags. Dropped pass ? Interference. Sack ?, roughing the passer. Brady gets intercepted? Gronk can assualt the guy, NP. Catch rule ? If he’s a Pateiot* it’s a catch. Other team, probably not.To make things easier Tripplet and Hochuli just gave Brady his own flag to throw. Thing is Brady is a great QB and doesn’t need the help. The games would be better if the refs would realize their not NBA refs and make the calls the same for everyone. Hopefully it changes with some new refs.

    Everyone says this about teams that win. It’s just an excuse. And while I think the Super Bowl was officiated well you could make the argument that it’s was in fact the Eagles and not the Patriots that got the benefit on a few close calls. So what is your response to that? If Brady and the Patriots always get the calls, like you said, what is your explanation for those close calls not going New England’s way? And just so we’re clear I think the Eagles were the better team that day and deserved to win. No excuses here

  29. To the new guy: Yes. I know its blatant holding, but if you call it on Green Bay then Aaron Rodgers wont get his highlight reel and do his dumb little dance.

  30. boyso3 says:
    June 23, 2018 at 4:14 pm
    arcross12042004scorp15
    Jun 23, 2018, 1:28 PM EDT
    Patriots* get more calls then any team.
    If your team is in the AFC East you see it twice a year. Brady starts whining and out come the flags. Dropped pass ? Interference. Sack ?, roughing the passer. Brady gets intercepted? Gronk can assualt the guy, NP. Catch rule ? If he’s a Pateiot* it’s a catch. Other team, probably not.To make things easier Tripplet and Hochuli just gave Brady his own flag to throw. Thing is Brady is a great QB and doesn’t need the help. The games would be better if the refs would realize their not NBA refs and make the calls the same for everyone. Hopefully it changes with some new refs.

    Everyone says this about teams that win. It’s just an excuse. And while I think the Super Bowl was officiated well you could make the argument that it’s was in fact the Eagles and not the Patriots that got the benefit on a few close calls. So what is your response to that? If Brady and the Patriots always get the calls, like you said, what is your explanation for those close calls not going New England’s way? And just so we’re clear I think the Eagles were the better team that day and deserved to win. No excuses here
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~
    It is true that the Patriots have gotten some bad calls in games. It is also true that the patriots get a huge number of calls their way in the regular season. Calls are made on their opponents but typically, the opponent gets a flag on the Pats defense on 1st and 10 or 2nd and long while the bulk of the calls against the Pats opponent negate their own first down or happen on a Pats 3rd down that was stopped and the result is a fresh set of downs on a continuing drive. It is not ALWAYS the case but it happens enough for opposing fans (especially in the AFC East) to take notice. I do not mean to take anything away from the Patriots. They are good enough that a single mistake can often lead to a TD. Pats fans that think their team is getting screwed all the time on calls are just as silly as the Steelers fans that think the same.

  31. Unless you have officiated football, it is easy to criticize officials. Plays happen at bang bang speed and an official does not have the luxury of having the best view of the bang bang play. I think they do an excellent job quite honestly given the amount of plays called. What I have a problem with is when replay gets it wrong. Slow-motion, multiple angles, close-ups, and several minutes to review it multiple times. I hear announcers complaining about the officials, but yet after watching a replay several times, they can’t even agree. It’s frustrating watching Jeff Triplett miss a fumble in a play off game, but it’s even more frustrating watching replay not get it right either. There is never going to be a perfectly officiated game.

  32. Totally agree with the comment that there is a big difference between replacement and real officials. I sure have been glad to see such great officiating these past 5 years. Boy oh Boy….what would we do with out them.

  33. EVERYONE uses the replays to analyze and breakdown every twitch of the finger and facial expression of the ref on every flag. And dozens of times on plays where announcers believe they absolutely got it wrong. Maybe they should eliminate refs and go to electric eye for first down and replay on every play for a call. NFL could maybe stretch a game to at least five hours that way. Oops, already have that – maybe calls would just be accurate?

  34. If NFLPA players weren’t such wimps, and sued the NFL if someone farted in the locker room, then maybe we wouldn’t have so many rules (most of which are designed to protect players).
    Referees are retiring for one reason, too many vague rules and the burden for throwing(or not throwing) flags for them.
    Add in the media, who think that they are the experts in absolutely everything and you must take their word no matter what, and you have all kinds of pressure on these officials.
    Players KNOW that football is rough, they accept the risks when they cash their paychecks. Thanks to the media and the NFLPA, players have become pawns in a game of chicken with the NFL where 99.9% of any winnings will go to the most evil people on the planet….lawyers.

  35. Considering the the shot Derrick Johnson put on the Titans QB and no fumble was called in the playoffs last year then yes I think the refs and entire officiating system have a problem in the NFL.

  36. Got a too many camera angle problem. And now losing McAuley Hocculi Streator and almost Blakeman. That’s great officials who aren’t replaced easily. Time to pay these guys.

  37. That Packers-Seahawks “replacement refs” fiasco made me as mad as I’ve ever been in my entire 55 years. And for days. Since that night, I have been 100% FOR Goodell’s removal.

  38. All everybody does is complain about the refs. Now, a couple of those horrible refs we’re always complaining about are leaving, and that’s a “problem”? I guess it’s a problem if you’re looking for problems. If you just enjoy football, like me, the last thing you’re worrying about are the refs. The game itself is entertaining enough for me. I don’t need all the drama.

  39. “whether more referees will leave, and whether the replacements will be good enough.“

    Are you joking? These buffoons are ruining the game at least as much as Goodell and the competition “rules” committee. Every man from coast to coast who loves the game of football as much as we all have for the past 40+ years can see with our own eyes what a catch is…what a touchdown is…what forward progress is…

    We are sick and tired of seeing our favorite teams get screwed week to week because of corruption. From the Patriots to the Steelers to the Bears and every team in between – doesn’t really matter the matchup because it’s pretty random. It’s not league bias…it’s league INCOMPETENCE and fans from coast to coast are SICK OF IT. Teams I love get screwed and teams I hate get screwed. Equally. The NFL is garbage anymore and the entire world can see it.

  40. bamsky says:
    June 23, 2018 at 6:13 pm
    Totally agree with the comment that there is a big difference between replacement and real officials.
    *******************************************************************************
    I totally agree … with the replacement refs the Raiders were not the most penalized team but once the regular refs returned something happened … the Raiders became the most penalized team again. I guess they changed their game plan.

  41. Can we please start by hiring some refs who can at least pass a simple eye exam? How these guys miss calls that happen a foot in front of them is mind-boggling.

  42. There wasn’t so much complaining about the referees prior to the addition of so many camera angles. It’s difficult to see everything going on at field level. Then, when it’s put in slow motion and isolation, the calls look so obvious. It’s tough to become an official in professional sports, but it’s a ton easier to sit back and criticize. Of all the people complaining, there’s probably not a single poster on this site that could do a better job, even with the requisite training, but of course, it’s the internet, and everyone just likes to complain and look at things in hindsight rather than think what it would really take to be in their shoes.

  43. frank booth says:
    June 24, 2018 at 2:09 am
    There wasn’t so much complaining about the referees prior to the addition of so many camera angles. It’s difficult to see everything going on at field level. Then, when it’s put in slow motion and isolation, the calls look so obvious. It’s tough to become an official in professional sports, but it’s a ton easier to sit back and criticize. Of all the people complaining, there’s probably not a single poster on this site that could do a better job, even with the requisite training, but of course, it’s the internet, and everyone just likes to complain and look at things in hindsight rather than think what it would really take to be in their shoes.
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Fine. Make them all wear a camera and only those cameras can be used on replay reviews with the premise that the call stands unless there is undeniable proof the call was wrong

  44. Seems to be becoming fairly clear that the lead officials may not care for the league office intervening in the outcome of the games. If Goodell and the owners are turning the NFL into an “entertainment” business, then apparently the officials are going for the $$$ too.

  45. Nofoolnodrool says:
    June 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm
    The constant crying by the Patriot trolls is embarrassing.they whine about the calls they didn’t get but fail to mentioned the many calls they did get and the fact that the refs never call offensive holding on their o-line.

    The NFL has human refs and until they get robots to take over so there will be mistakes will be made that tend to even out over time except in the mind of the entitled whining Pats cry babies.

    —————
    If you are going to complain about others complaining about the refs, its more effective to not also complain about the refs at the same time.

  46. jxt2521 says:
    June 23, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Start a program where college players who can’t make a team or training camp bodies train and try to see if reffing can be a means for them to pursue the game they love at a high level. Then hire the best of that bunch.

    __________________________________________________________

    This isn’t a bad idea. You get people who are passionate about the game and, presumably, physically in shape. The potential problem that I see is that players, on-average, seem to have fairly poor rules knowledge(I know that to be the case in baseball). The training would obviously have to be quite thorough and be designed to correct popular misconceptions.

  47. fanboyarmy says:
    June 24, 2018 at 4:17 am

    Only 17 refs on the nfl payroll? Who pays all the others?

    ___________________________________________________________

    The referee is the crew chief and it’s just one of the positions officials take on the field. There are others, such as umpire and line judge, but only one official on the field is actually a referee.

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