The NFL has commenced the process of proactively plugging leaks that could create significant complications for game, in an age of widespread legalized gambling. From cracking down on fake injuries to electronic devices and more, the NFL isn’t messing around when it comes to potential pathways for undermining the integrity of the game and the wagering on it.
Many within the league’s teams have argued that, if the league is going to worry about issues such as defenses faking injuries to slow down offenses and/or personnel on the sideline using cell phones or Apple watches to spread injury information during games, the league also should do something to address lingering issues with the quality of officiating. There’s currently a reason for some optimism.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the push for full-time officials is gaining some traction.
That doesn’t mean it will happen, or that it will be as clear and clean as all officials immediately devoting full professional efforts to officiating. The league may allow (for example) the officials who currently moonlight to continue to do so, with new officials being required to take full-time jobs with no other professional responsibilities.
Regardless of when it finally happens that all officials are full-time employees, it needs to happen. The officials should all live in the same city. They should meet in person every Tuesday and/or Wednesday to review and discuss calls collectively, with the goal of ensuring consistency.
Their full work duties should be devoted to knowing the rulebook and how to properly and consistently apply it. When not studying the rulebook, they should be determining how to properly use the rules via simulations. When not doing that, they should be working out. When not doing that, they should be officiating offseason workouts and training-camp practices.
For most officials, the NFL gig is a side hustle, one that potentially gets short shrift when considering other professional and personal responsibilities. That’s unacceptable. The officiating function is far too important to be a part-time gig.
Even if making officials full-time employees doesn’t dramatically increase the accuracy and consistency of calls, it will allow the NFL to say it’s investing the time, money, and effort to get it right.
While it’s too early to know when the move toward full-time officials will be made, the point for now is that the effort is gaining traction. And it should. The NFL needs to prioritize everything about the officiating function. The NFL needs to be able to truthfully declare that it has done everything in its power to improve the process.