To solve “officiating crisis,” the NFL needs full-time officials

Arizona Cardinals v Buffalo Bills
Getty Images

The NFL has an officiating crisis.

Those aren’t just my words. Multiple people directly involved with the NFL, at the team level, have used that phrase in recent weeks. In recent days, the Monday night misadventures of Tony Corrente caused the discussion to reach the boiling point.

Sunday’s game between the Saints and Titans underscored the point, when the latest phantom roughing-the-passer penalty was called against New Orleans, nullifying an interception in the end zone. Tennessee retained possession, and Tennessee scored a touchdown that turned a late-second-quarter tie into a 13-6 halftime lead.

It had a huge impact on the game, obviously. It contributed to the Tennessee win, definitely. But we’re also becoming desensitized to these crappy roughing calls. Indeed, we’re bracing for them, like the ever-present possibility of a flag laying on the turf after a kick return goes the distance. We now look for the roughing call when a big defensive play happens after a throw made with players gathering around the quarterback.

Did someone hit him? Will there be a flag, even if that hit wasn’t really a foul? With one or more of those horse manure decisions every week, of course we’re waiting for more road apples to cascade from the back end of Mr. Ed. (Hochuli.)

But this item isn’t about the latest symptom. It’s about finding a cure. And one way to do it will be to make all officials full-time employees.

Yes, they’ll say it’s not needed. But these are the same people who said nine years ago during the lockout of the regular officials that the replacements would be just as good.

Full-time officials would be better than part-time officials. This morning, the part-time officials are settling into their other jobs, the things they do exclusively for more than half of the year and partially during football season. Every minute they spend on their primary job is one less minute devoted to their side hustle. And if that side hustle ever goes away, they still have their main gig.

Part-time officials don’t have the full layer of skin in the game that coaches and players do. Put simply, they’re not all in. And they’re not as focused on their craft as they could be.

Coaches and players are studying film today. Officials should be, too. They should be meeting throughout the week, like coaches and players do. They should be studying good calls and bad calls in the hopes of ensuring consistency, continuity, and accuracy.

There’s real value in the fear that comes from getting called out in the film room. That same value would apply to officials. Today, umpire Barry Anderson should have to explain himself among peers and supervisors for throwing a flag on the Saints when no flag should have been thrown. Through that discussion, others may become determined to avoid similar embarrassment.

Some would say that forcing part-time officials to choose between their main jobs and their Sunday night moonlights would quit officiating. Others would say (accurately) that if the NFL offers enough money — that if the league properly values these positions — they’ll choose officiating. They’ll aspire to become officials, in the same way that those who became head coaches spent years working toward positioning themselves to reach the top of the mountain.

The NFL would realize it, too. If it were willing to spend the money needed to make it happen. That’s the impediment. For as well as the NFL is doing, the NFL is cheap. Too cheap. Maddeningly cheap. Pennywise and pound moronic.

We’ll see if they figure it out before someone on the outside (like Congress) forces them to. Here’s the reality. It can’t get any worse. And, currently, it’s as bad as it’s been, in a long time.

Until something improves, our only choice is to factor the incompetence into our effort to enjoy the final product.

92 responses to “To solve “officiating crisis,” the NFL needs full-time officials

  1. Games are really hard to watch and enjoy with all the ridiculous penalties, especially the ticky-tack calls, lineman breathe on each other and its holding…come on man

  2. the moonlighting thing is absurd.

    sorry, pick what job you want to do. there will be people willing to step in for the few that decide to leave, especially if pay is competitive.

  3. On the Tannehill roughing the official literally waited to see if it got picked off and then he decided to throw the flag. This league has so many underlying problems right now

  4. Let’s see if I can guess what the league will say. “Every call any of our officials have ever made was correct. Our officials have it tough and yet the stats show perfection and always have. We stand by our Foot Locker staff and we don’t care how many games these supposed wrong calls have changed the outcome because we all bet on the games as well. Please enjoy our game. We are also glad this is happening to divert attention away from the WFT mess Roger created.”

  5. I agree it is infuriating and I think full time better paid refs would be great for the game, but playing devil’s advocate, what’s the ROI for the NFL?

    Are you not tuning in to the game because there were some bad calls? Are they picking up just one more viewer because officiating quality improves a bit?

    We all say things about if the league or our favorite team doesn’t do XY or Z then we’re going to stop watching, but we all know it’s the emptiest of threats.

    The league is insanely popular and doesn’t need to cater to our every wish. It will do what adds to its bottom line. Nothing else. I wouldn’t waste energy wishing otherwise.

  6. Nobody is desensitized to bad officiating. Everybody is calling for change. The league is not listening. The league will listen when it starts to cost them money. In the meantime there will be dissent and even people like Sean Payton knowing better not to speak up. It’s all dissent, just not worth the consequences to the owners yet. More journos need to hold the NFL accountable, keep it up!

  7. What are the rules for number of standing officials required for a game to be played? Not an excuse at all but one play into the game ARZ vs CAR and they announced they would continue with one less official. Then on the Panthers first drive one of the remaining officials got plowed (impressed he got up).

  8. Is this Groundhog’s Day?

    Every time there’s bad officiating we hear the call for full-time official and once again the league will completely ignore it because those bad calls are not accidental.

  9. Full time officials would be a good idea, but the problem is that these roughing the passer and taunting calls that everyone hates that are being pinned on the officials are directed from the top of the NFL down. They want the QB to be babied and a flag thrown if anything happens at all, that has nothing to do with the officials, thats what the league tells them to do so that their money bringers dont get injured. And taunting is a point of emphasis theyre sticking by. Changing to full time officials wouldnt fix most of the things people are complaining about.

  10. The keep turning down the replay official in the box. That would stop many of these calls. I don’t know why they keep turning this proposal down.

  11. Full-time incompetence vs Part-time incompetence? Only a matter of time before an official is busted for betting on games. This and the fact that many are of older age and trying to make snap decisions regarding events that happen very quickly on the field.

  12. The manner in which officials are doing their jobs is just the way the NFL wants them to do their jobs. Control of game results are possible when questional judgement calls are allowed. NO other explanation for the continued bad calls and no calls allowed to occur year after year. If I am wrong and you have an explanation, please share it with me. Pretty please….

  13. Disagree. The problem is that bad officials aren’t fired often enough, and making this their only source of income would make that problem worse, not better. They should fire the bottom 10% every year. That would make a difference.

  14. Why the refusal to implement a sky judge? A lot could be corrected on the spot. In regard to the roughing the passer call against the saints, there was a time out leaving plenty of time for the call to be reversed. It was shown on stadium big screen to obviously not be the correct call. Things like that are also what is making so many concerns about gambling and corruption.

  15. mcdeez22 says:
    November 15, 2021 at 11:04 am
    I agree it is infuriating and I think full time better paid refs would be great for the game, but playing devil’s advocate, what’s the ROI for the NFL?

    Are you not tuning in to the game because there were some bad calls? Are they picking up just one more viewer because officiating quality improves a bit?

    We all say things about if the league or our favorite team doesn’t do XY or Z then we’re going to stop watching, but we all know it’s the emptiest of threats.

    The league is insanely popular and doesn’t need to cater to our every wish. It will do what adds to its bottom line. Nothing else. I wouldn’t waste energy wishing otherwise.


    100% This.
    They don’t care. They are literally making billions of dollars.
    “Are you not entertained?”
    It’s ALL an illusion to make 32 billionaires richer.

  16. I know the Chiefs game was a blow but the holding the Chiefs got away with was a joke.
    Last 3 Chiefs games they averaged 9 penalties per game and they just looked like a an average team.
    Against the Raiders they only got 4 penalties and looked like SB Champs.
    So what changed?
    The Chiefs OL finally learned not to hold.

  17. It seems to me that because of these “phantom” calls a lot of the players are “flopping” trying to get a flag than they are actually trying to complete the play.

  18. Full time officials is a great idea. They should have to go over game film and make adjustments and corrections just like players and coaches do. The problem is that the league only wants money going INTO the till, not out of it. They ARE cheap. It’s mind boggling to think of how many bad calls have changed game outcomes and erased really great plays just in a week’s worth of games. Full time officials could cut way down on this.

  19. They need an eye in the sky and let every play and call be reviewable. They also need to place officials above the field level. Perhaps standing on the tv camera stands to get better vantage points. They have missed so many pass interference calls this year. They miss so many holding calls but you always get the holding call late in the game to put the leading team behind the chains. Holding on the edges by receivers occurs every play. It needs to be cleaned up and called every time.
    They also need to invest in permanent cameras on side lines, end lines and goal lines in both directions. Also a camera should always be directly above the goal line so they can have that view too. Perhaps it is a remote controlled camera like they use now.
    They also need technology in the ball to help spot and determine if line to gain and goal line is achieved.

  20. The Answer is simple..
    A reality show where aspiring officials go through rigorous challenges, and the Audience gets to vote the crappy Refs off the Show.
    Before you laugh, there have been some ridiculous people, but think of all the talented individuals who have been discovered this way.
    Definitely not the worst idea that has been put on TV

  21. A Sky Judge would fix a lot of the issues. I don’t know why the NFL keeps fighting having a Sky Judge.

  22. Not saying that officials going full time is a bad idea, first they were hiring full time guys as few as 2 years ago, but then a dispute between the league and union arose and the NFL stopped hiring full time officials.
    Also to think that officials don’t watch film, have meetings (although not to the same degree as players/coaches) is a wild thought. Ask any top flight crew of high school officials and see how much film they watch. Ask any lower level NCAA crew of how much film they watch. These guys watch a ton of film.
    To make this discussion about a lack of work ethic among the officials is making the wrong side of the argument.

  23. Hey, to pay for making the refs full-time, maybe we can reduce the hours of the competition committee. I’m sure John Mara won’t miss the beer money.

  24. I think we all understand that referees are human and will make mistakes. I think we accept that as well. But for the NFL to not strive to improve the bulk of calls that aren’t mistakes is just ridiculous

  25. The biggest issue is Roger not doing anything about it. By omission he’s in effect allowing games to be fixed. Despite these refs not being full-time they are still the same guys/gals year in and year out…so is it really knowing the rules better as theoretically full-time refs might or is it a rogue or two referee…seems to me it’s more than coincidence that as legal gambling is become more prevelant, the more bizarre calls we are getting each week. Fixing a game does not have to be premeditated as most think of it…it can be by Roger letting it happen and signaling to other refs, by doing nothing, that it’s okay. The calls are so bad of late, last few years, syncing up with the legalizing of gambling…this seems more than coincidental to me. Yet NFL owners have no problem paying Goodell $50M a year. It’s insane but fans don’t seem to mind.

  26. The bigger problem are the rules themselves. Taunting, pass interference and roughing the passer all need to be revised. I would rather complain about a penalty not called than a penalty that shouldn’t have been called. Let them play the game!

  27. Coaches and players are studying film today. Officials should be, too. They should be meeting throughout the week, like coaches and players do. They should be studying good calls and bad calls in the hopes of ensuring consistency, continuity, and accuracy.

    Rightly said. How can a corporation like the NFL call themselves a professional organized organization in business to make money when they consistently twist everything to their favor including allowing amatures to manage their daily games. That may sound unfair but to MF’s point, part time is not dedicated nor professional.

  28. On one hand yea, full time officiating would go a long way towards improving the quality of the game. One simple solution in the meantime: start handing out fines for bad calls, and even whole checks taken/suspensions for games that are thrown the other way because of it.

  29. Full time officials will not fix anything. They are still going to make the same bad calls under the direction of the NFL. Not sure a sky judge would even fix it. They may overturn some calls but still…

  30. One of the big problems with officiating is the pipeline into the league is small diameter and it takes a long time to generate officials.

    The NFL has an established program to help players transition to media and performing color analysis. Why is there not the same progam to help former players become officials? Having played at the highest level should help the judgement aspect significanlty.

  31. After the referee strike & the Fail Mary, Goodell should have put 100% of his effort into solidifying the officiating. You have to start there, to put out the best product.
    Instead, in search of the quick buck, Goodell: 1. Brought gambling into the NFL and 2. Expanded the schedule to 17 games. All to generate more revenue while never addressing the sub-par offiating in NFL games. He didn’t have a long term vision for the league outside of making a quick dollar.

  32. There was a terrible RTP penalty called against the Steelers in OT yesterday. That, coupled with the RTP from the Saints game is a microcosm of the pathetic officiating in the League. Just lack of good judgement, let alone game management. You just never know what these jokers are going to do next. The problem is all the silly rules they have now, especially to protect QBs. Leaves too much to interpretation. I get player safety. But they’re taking it too far, and whether you agree with me or not, it’s ruining the game. Games aren’t won and lost on the field….they’re being dictated by referees. And that’s not right

  33. The issue is full time instead of part time or so it may seem. However this may not be politically correct but let’s be honest! There are many older officials who are not able to make calls right in front of them. It’s an age factor. This has to be addressed. All athletes have a biological clock. Officials are using their experience but also their legs and eyes. Certainly not as much as the NFL players but it’s an obvious factor. The legs and eyes are less efficient as we all get older. Recruiting younger officials full time will solve the accuracy in NFL officiating!

  34. I’m still trying to figure out how Bill Vinovich is still officiating after
    the playoff blunder that cost the Saints a SB appearance.
    He was actually rewarded by be allowed to officiate a SB.
    Bottom line officials are not held accountable for their mistakes.
    They are just brushed to the aside like nothing happened.

  35. pab08 says:
    November 15, 2021 at 11:24 am
    mcdeez22 says:
    November 15, 2021 at 11:04 am
    I agree it is infuriating and I think full time better paid refs would be great for the game, but playing devil’s advocate, what’s the ROI for the NFL?

    Are you not tuning in to the game because there were some bad calls? Are they picking up just one more viewer because officiating quality improves a bit?

    We all say things about if the league or our favorite team doesn’t do XY or Z then we’re going to stop watching, but we all know it’s the emptiest of threats.

    The league is insanely popular and doesn’t need to cater to our every wish. It will do what adds to its bottom line. Nothing else. I wouldn’t waste energy wishing otherwise.

    I have in fact stopped tuning in. I really only watch my Bears anymore, the rest I skip. I used to spend my entire Sunday embroiled in football, all the games and shows. But I haven’t done that for a long time. I’m sure there are others like me. Maybe not many right now, but give it time, the way things are going.

    I quit watching the NBA 15 years ago for the same reasons.

  36. It’s amazing that a multi-billion dollar league…a league that pays player and coaches millions of dollars, won’t fork over the relatively small amount of money needed to improve the officiating.

    Wouldn’t full-time refs improve people’s opinions about the game being ruined by poor officiating?

  37. This is way over dramatic. Officiating has been mostly fine this year and they have been discussing and fixing calls all year which has been really positive.

  38. Most all the problems of the NFL go back to one guy – Goodell. The worst commissioner in the history of not only the NFL, but in all of sports. He couldn’t lead a Brownie troop through a candy store.

  39. Officials need to be independently wealthy stemming from their non-NFL related careers. Otherwise you’re going to have people that would have a financial incentive to fix a game. C’mon man!

  40. The problem is that the rule book is filled with many subjective rules that are “judgement calls”.

  41. NFL doesn’t want this. If the NFL called all the games correctly the Pats wouldn’t have one legit SB title, they’re playing their home games in Connecticut and Brady is selling insurance for his father in law’s company; where he is severely underperforming and it’s causing a lot of friction for his wife and her father.

  42. I think there are certain (not necessarily accurate) assumptions being made here on this argument. The foremost of which is the idea that being “full time” will somehow eliminate bad calls.
    These guys are trained pretty well, and I don’t think making them full time will eliminate the bad calls.
    What I think WILL reduce it is holding officials ACCOUNTABLE when a bad call is made and removing them from officiating.
    The problem IMHO is that they have immunity from any criticism or repercussions.
    What I hate MORE then a play (on the rare occasion) that affects a game outcome is an officiating crew that just goes wild with tick-tacky calls that affect the outcome.
    The Charger/Vikings game yesterday was an example. A milling ticky-tacky calls (against both teams) that made it almost unwatchable. That crew was terrible.


    To even become an NFL official, they need 15 years experience. At a conservative 120 plays per game and 16 games a year, that’s 28,800 PLAYS they’ve seen. There’s not a single penalty they haven’t seen a thousand times.

    Just because from their ON-FIELD PERSPECTIVE, in a split-second call, they don’t have the 27-HD-camera-angles, ultra-super-slo-mo, single-frame-advance instant replay that fans get.

  44. Gambling, Goddell, and people like Corrente are ruining the game. You can’t tell me the “fix” is not in.

  45. That’s not the problem. The problem is the league and the casinos. Doesn’t matter who the official is… that’s why they hire their buddies who are doctors and lawyers so they can easily be corrupted

  46. No problem with this suggestion, the league certainly has the money. I also think the sky judge is a good idea. The problem that will not go away is that the league doesn’t seem to want to admit that the zebras can be wrong! If a coach has a limited number of times the red flag can be thrown, why, with indisputable visual evidence, can not ANY call be reviewed???

  47. There is no evidence to suggest that full-time refs will improve the quality of the officiating. The problem is that the NFL doesn’t use the mechanisms at its disposal to improve officiating, or at least align officiating better with what we are all seeing on our TV’s. Fixing that with a TV ref would be the first step. Then doing everything possible to eliminate subjectivity in calls. Taunting is the prime example. But PI and even roughing the passer have too much subjectivity in them. The hit that gets a call on Brady doesn’t get called on Jackson. So define roughing clearly with empirical standards, so everyone can agree exactly what is and is not an illegal hit. Failing that, allow coaches to refer it to NY for a ruling for consistency with other similar calls. Only actually TRY to be consistent instead of being petulant about it like they did for the PI review. Full-time officiating won’t solve anything. It’s the league office that needs to change to make officiating better, rather than always doubling down on the premise that everything is fine.

  48. For there to be a correction using full-time officials you have to assume the current part-time officials are trustworthy, not just incompetent! Personally, I believe there should be a financial background check on every official in every sport; especially since we have ignorantly opened sports to gambling. I would also like to see EVERY official be required to pass routine (quarterly) lie detector tests along with a review of all family financial records to ensure honesty and credibility.

  49. Don’t forget they had a plan announced and approved a couple years ago only to pull it back at the last minute with no explanation. If the issue was just money then how’d it ever get approved to begin with? And they could very easily have just phased in more full-timers as the part-time guys retired. If you like conspiracy theories there’s no question that having guys who have part-time businesses on the side would make it WAY easier to hide extra payments to them than a full-time ref whose only income was from the league.

  50. Disagreed. Get a sky judge that has integrity, can explain the rules to the fans and not try to gaslight the audience on behalf of the NFL.

  51. Refs get paid something like 150k a year for this, plus benefits and retirement. If that’s not enough for them they should bow out.

    But the league should consider a million a year paycheck as if they were lower level players.

  52. Why would “full time” officials solve anything?

    You would still have old men running around trying to make and see split second decisions.
    Being in an NFL office “full time” doesn’t change that fact.

    The calls will still suck.

  53. I have long thought the league office puts its thumb on the scale to help certain teams/players for marketing/promotion reasons.

    If the NFL did more to prevent bad calls from deciding games, it would be harder to swing outcomes without the league office leaving its fingerprints all over it.

  54. There is no officiating crisis, it is a well orchestrated machine to ensure certain teams (cough, cough a Pitt and KC) get certain calls at certain times to improve the odds of victory and also to keep the money making machine printing money any game, especially primetime, flags are used to keep the game close to keep the viewership numbers up, unless it is one of the aforementioned protected teams.

    And if certain owner who’s kid owns the team now that sued the other owners and won and certain coach who may of had a pay for big hits award system that crapped on the shield, expect random penalizing flags for very, very iffy calls and like last night the opposing team, a protected team none-the-less, can blatantly hold on every play with zero worry of being called.

  55. In reality if they become full-time and are studying the rule book continuously I would expect even more ticky-tac calls to start being made. So many things are subjective. Was that hold affecting the play or not? Did he land on the passer or not? Was that a defenseless player or not? Was that pass interference or incidental contact? Maybe it is time to get the players to quit pushing the envelope and letting them get away with it. Technically they should be calling hand fighting and having the arm around the waist as pass interference. So be careful what you wish for!

  56. Making them full time does not eliminate the fact that they are human beings making subjective calls. That allows for a complete lack of consistency, or maybe even something more sinister.

    I saw TWO offensive pass interference penalties and a roughing the passer in the Pitt-Detroit TerriBowl yesterday that simply defied logic. and it wasn’t because the officials didn’t understand the rules or have enough time to practice. It is because they CHOSE to impact the game in critical ways in those moments.

  57. Well said Mike and well said pensfan1. It’s amazing how cheap and short-sighted the NFL can be. These guys should be working on their skill set every day of the season and every week of the year.

  58. Not brought u is how pathetic the Refs can be after making a bad call. I’m a saints fan, and that call was garbage. You see the ref looking at the scoreboard and realizing he butchered that call next to Sean Payton.

    4th quarter rolls around, this time Saints are within 10 yards of the end zone. They have a terrible sequence, and it’s about to be 4th down. Flag comes out, and it’s a holding on Tennessee, new set of downs for NOLA. Replay shows no defensive holding, whatsoever. Looks to me like the refs are giving the saints a make-up call. To me, that’s the worst part about officiating. Bad calls are one thing, but seemingly phantom calls to make up for earlier blown calls is egregious.

  59. Yeah I’m with pab08–I’ll watch my club’s games and maybe a few minutes of others during commercials but I’m increasingly “out” on the product and definitely not alone. Everything about this fish stinks more and more. We’re all okay being played–to a point.

  60. Gambling on games legally has skyrocketed! And with that rise so have these questionable calls

  61. tingelhoff53 says: “What I think WILL reduce it is holding officials ACCOUNTABLE when a bad call is made and removing them from officiating. The problem IMHO is that they have immunity from any criticism or repercussions.”

    Not true.

    Peter King followed Gene Steratore for a week for his old MMQB. Every play of every game gets reviewed for calls/non-calls for each of the 7 field officials and are graded.

    High grades gets playoff assignments. Gene said having multiple years of low grades and the NFL will “ask” you to retire.

  62. I want to know what is being done to make sure that refs aren’t being blackmailed/threatened to “fix” games. There is simply too much gambling money involved to think that it’s not happening.

    In close games, just one or two “bad” calls can easily change the winner vs the spread.

    And refs don’t even need to make a “bad” call in many situations. Simply not calling a penalty can affect games. Or they can call a penalty on a judgement call… pass interreference.

  63. To fix these things all the NFL has to do is listen to Belichick, and other coaches that say let every play be subject to replay.

  64. The myth of full-time officials is just that, a myth. Studying more film, having more meetings do not in and of itself guarantee that an official is going to be in the position to see infractions. The NFL really has two choices. First, allow video officiating, live rather than just on replay. Second would be a different, and controversial apporach. Reduce replay and just be upfront that the human element of the official is part of the game.

  65. NFL wants to protect QBs even if it means calling a foul when maybe one didn’t occur after all. Tannehill isn’t exactly a star in this league, but he plays the position for one of the best teams. He won’t be treated like Brady, but he will keep getting these calls as long as the Titans are good.

  66. The NFL also needs referees who are younger and faster to keep up with players. Tony Corrente is literally a senior citizen on the field with players in their 20s and 30s with world class speed.

  67. Roughing the QB should not be a yardage penalty affecting the outcome of a game.

    If it warrants a fine/suspension, so be it. Altering the score of a game because of a late hit (which is very arbitrary in most cases) is ruining the sport. Especially when those calls are going in favor of the big name star QB’s and not being equally dished out.

  68. Yesterday the refs called a penalty of roughing the passer and the defender, put his hand on the lower leg of the QB, didnt tackle him, hit him low or anything, just grabbed the leg to hold him while his team makes made a stop. Foolish foolish call.

  69. Take some of Goodell’s salary to pay full-time officials good money.
    He gets way too much money anyway.

  70. Growing increasingly tired of watching crooked officials changing games. Blow the whole thing up and start over. The NFL is losing credibility every week.

  71. There’s only one way to stop this fiasco … stop watching the NFL.
    It’s not even a game anymore refs deciding outcomes or should I say the head office telling the refs.

  72. These guys work all week at their regular jobs and many of them officiate on Saturdays in college games, too. Don’t tell me they are 100% on Sundays or that they are doing a ton of prep work during the week. Full-time officials are needed.

  73. Full time officials would allow the officials to work together with each other all during the week and get better about communicating with each other.

    It would also allow for them to review and work on when bad calls happen what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again.

    Instead they go back to their other jobs and nothing is done.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.