NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to scrutinize officiating, saying the league is considering mixing officiating crews and having some officials become full-time.
Goodell spoke to a group of Minnesota Vikings fans and reporters prior to the Vikings hosting the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
“I think our officials generally do a tremendous job … but they do make mistakes,” Goodell admitted.
“I would dare say there isn’t a single individual that is evaluated like they are.”
But officials have been under greater scrutiny in recent seasons with their mistakes, and even questionable calls, going under the microscope of opinion in front of fans. Mixing officiating crews is a consideration for one or more games, and Goodell said that is a possibility being discussed in the league offices and with the NFL referees association.
“It is just another effort to try to get consistency. The number one thing we want with officials is efficiency,” he said. “We see that there is a range from high to low as far as the number of fouls that have been called. What can we do to try to make sure that is done consistently? There should not be as much of a range. Obviously, some of that, as you know, is based on the game. If fouls are occurring, they should call more fouls. Over a season, that should start to become pretty level.”
If the NFL would make some officials full-time employees, they would likely be rotated among the crews.
“Those officials would rotate potentially,” Goodell said. “We have not been able to reach an agreement with the officials association.”
Every play of every NFL game is reviewed at the league offices, and officials and their crews are graded on their performance. Their grades impact which officials are chosen for playoff games. While the league has always kept crews intact, there is now a consideration to mix crews to get the best officials for the more high-profile games.
Changes to replay could also be a consideration, but Goodell likes the system the NFL has in place where officials on the field confer with the NFL offices on plays that are reviewed.
“We actually think we have a great system right now. We have the officials that are on the field that are responsible for it that have one perspective. Then we have our officiating crew back in New York that has another perspective,” he said. “To be able to use both of those to ultimately get to the right outcome we think is actually the best system. That is why we will continue to tweak that, last year was the first year. It has made a big difference for us.”
Goodell said the league has had a developmental batch of 20 officials, and 11 of them were added to the officiating roster for 2015, with about 20 percent turnover in officials in the last year.
Officials can be suspended, and Goodell brought up multiple times that some crews are notorious for calling more penalties than others. The pace of play is an issue to consider, he said, as games this year have been about three minutes longer on average than last year.
One penalty Goodell isn’t in favor of having go to instant replay is pass interference, fearing that would only further delay games.
“We need to streamline replay anyhow. When I’m sitting in a stadium, that’s a negative for me,” he said. “Replay is not going to solve all of the problems.”
GOODELL ADDRESS OTHER TOPICS
- The league is looking to further define what is a catch or not a catch. He said there is some consideration to getting back to having two feet in bounds with control of the ball define a catch instead of the murky “through the process” that is now required.
- Asked by a fan how he became commissioner, Goodell joked, “That’s a really good question.” He said he sent about 50 letters to the NFL before he got an internship with the league.
- Fewer preseason games remain a possibility, and he said the league has “the ability to do that unilaterally.” Goodell is in favor of a shortened preseason.
- What is the biggest threat to the NFL brand right now? “Complacency,” Goodell said. “Because you’re successful now you think you’re going to continue to be successful. … We don’t take anything for granted.”
- Goodell said 40 rules changes have been made in the last 10 years that focus on player safety.
- The commissioner sees a difference between season-long fantasy football leagues and the newest trend in daily fantasy.
- “(Season-long) is a way to connect people and we think that’s a wonderful way. Daily fantasy is a different approach. We have not been as active in that,” he said, adding the integrity of the game is his No. 1 concern. “If there are things our fans play, I want to make sure you’re protected.”