The NFL will make some of its on-field officials full-time employees, taking a step that it long had contemplated as a possible means to improve the consistency and quality of its officiating.
“We believe this is a great development for NFL officiating overall and ultimately the quality of our game,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a written statement. “We share a common goal, which is to make our game as great as it can possibly be, and look forward to working together on this new effort.”
The collective bargaining agreement signed by the league and the NFLRA in 2012, ending a lockout of the officials during which the sport used replacement officials, provided for the hiring of full-time officials. But the two sides previously had not worked out the terms by which some officials would transition from part-time, in-season employees to full-timers.
“NFL officials are always looking to improve, and we believe that additional time, particularly in the offseason, will be positive,” Scott Green, the NFLRA’s executive director, said in a written statement. “We’re looking forward to working together with the league on this effort.”
According to Wednesday’s announcement, the full-time officials will be hired at each of the seven on-field officiating positions, not only from among the referees who are the chiefs of the league’s 17 officiating crews.
The announcement said the move will promote “scouting, training and mentoring, better understanding of current game trends, game preparation, and increased input on rules relating to player safety and game administration.”
Mike Pereira, the NFL’s former vice president of officiating and now a rules analyst for Fox, said before last season’s Super Bowl that his two-step plan to improve officiating would be to make the referees — and only the referees, not the other members of the officiating crews — full-time employees, and to put an additional member of each officiating crew in the press box with a monitor and the power to correct obvious officiating mistakes instantly. The NFL thus far has followed only part of Pereira’s plan.
“They are much better,” Pereira said then. “The problem is that it’s an impossible job to do in real time. They really do a great job. But here’s what technology has done and here’s what instant replay has done: I think it’s taken the level of expectation to perfection. And it’s not possible. It’s not possible. Now one mistake is not acceptable. You could have guys in a crew work a game with 163 plays and they officiate 162 of them perfectly but they miss one and it becomes the story. And social media takes one mistake and blows it out over everything, and you can’t get away with it.”
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in December 2015 that “no stone will be left unturned with respect to how we continue to improve officiating.” That included, Goodell said at the time, the then-ongoing deliberations with the NFLRA about full-time officials.
“When we talk about integrity of the game, that’s one thing that truly affects the integrity of the game,” Goodell said then. “We strive for perfection. We strive for consistency. We’re not gonna always get that. But we’re always going to continue to try to get that. And I mentioned to the ownership today that our commitment is to do everything reasonable to make sure that we improve officiating … I’m asking the competition committee to look at various aspects of our officiating to see what we can do to improve on it.”