Stop me if you heard this one before … the NFL has a problem and its potential attempt to solve it doesn’t even address the real issue.
When it comes to officiating, on one hand it’s nice to see the league, minus VP of Officiating Dean Blandino of course, realize that it hasn’t been the best of years for the zebras. Conversely, however, Park Avenue remains tone-deaf to the real plague threatening its product.
Of course it’s frustrating when a purposefully-batted football out of the end zone causes a team to lose a football game because the ultimate goal should be for the players to decide the outcome of any sporting event, not middle-aged men partaking in their part-time profession.
But as harsh as it might have been for Detroit Lions fans, an egregious call that directly snares defeat from the jaws of victory remains rare and most can accept that human error is a part of life, not just football.
From a myopic standpoint, there is no question that a fan base will get extremely upset if that one missed or bad call leads directly to a setback.
However, from the dozens and dozens fans I come across each and every season, their frustration isn’t based on any one call, it stems from the over legislation of the product they want to still love, whether its the mind-numbing catch rule or the overemphasis on things like pass interference, illegal contact, hands to the face penalties or even the reputation-based officiating that helps the league’s veteran signal callers.
According to commissioner Roger Goodell this week, the league is seriously considering changes to its game-day protocol involving officiating to better take advantage of the technology available. And the stunning part to that is that instead of waiting for the 2016 season, the changes might be implemented in four weeks for the postseason.
“Technology is so extraordinary, and we’re seeing things we never saw before,” Goodell said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “We have to understand that and recognize that whether you all as broadcasters or the fans in general get to see things, and we have to make sure our officials have access to that kind of technology in a way that’s not overly disruptive to our game, so that they can get the same type of input when they are making decisions and avoid those critical errors.”
That’s both an admirable and reachable goal but it also doesn’t address the real frustration of the NFL’s fans.
A week ago, Blandino’s video release to help the media and explain high-profile calls claimed his officials are averaging just 4.3 mistakes in a typical game. In other words, the vast majority of the calls that has the viewer pulling his or her hair out are considered correct by the league.
And that’s the crux of the real problem.
The NFL’s constituency doesn’t like many of the rules and technology isn’t overturning that poor PI call that hands a team an undeserved extra 45 yards or the mind-numbing, ticky-tack illegal contact foul that turned a 3rd-and-15 into a first down which completely changes the momentum of each and every NFL game.
Those are the officiating problems hurting this game and you can’t solve them until you actually recognize them.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com and TodaysPigskin.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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