USA TODAY Sports
After a year full of disappointing officiating, the league is attempting to take the heat off of the on-field crews one small step at a time.
Upon further review, the league's competition committee is challenging its own rule book.
The 2012 NFL season was an officiating disaster. From replacement officials to challenge technicalities, the league found itself buried in questions and controversy. While they don't have answers for every finger pointed their way, they are preparing to tackle what they feel were two major blemishes of an already difficult year, with the league's regular officials missing the opening of the season because of a labor dispute between league and union.
One issue involves the Thanksgiving Day game between the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions and the challenge rule which gifted the Texans a touchdown on Justin Forsett's 81-yard run. Forsett was taken off his feet seven yards past the line of scrimmage by impacts from two defensive players. Forsett jumped to his feet and continued toward the endzone. Replays clearly showed Forsett's knee touched the turf after contact, but the officials ruled it a touchdown on the field, and the play was upheld.
The league had already instituted new rules which demanded automatic challenges on every scoring play and change of possession, at no expense to either team's allotment. Unfortunately, rules are held to the letter of the law.
Upon the signal of touchdown, Lions coach Jim Schwartz flipped his lid and immediately threw his challenge flag. Every single person watching the game could see his knee was down which meant the score should not stand. Unfortunately, the same rule which provides automatic free film reviews, also prevented replay from being allowed to define the play as it really occurred.
Because Schwartz threw his challenge flag when the play was already going to be reviewed anyway, the Lions were slapped with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty and the Lions' right to a replay was vetoed.
Ray Anderson, president of football operations for the NFL, spoke out on the subject promising to have the issue resolved prior to the 2013 season.
The other issue confirmed to be under investigation could apply to Schwartz as well, although as Clark Judge of CBSsports.com points out, it was actually inspired by a Harbaugh.
There are rules which dictate parameters for where coaches may be on the sidelines during sanctioned games. In recent history, coaches find they need little reason at all to charge the field to chew out an official. This is something the competition committee is looking to put an end to.
"We need to be much more disciplined about where our coaches go in terms of the box, and venturing out on the field beyond traditional markers is something that is just not appropriate. It can interfere and it can be viewed as intimidating."
"There are borders, but, very frankly, they're loosely enforced. But they will be more aggressively enforced going forward because we need to rein it in."
"Coaches can be flagged. It's about enforcement and point of emphasis. So coaches who, after appropriate warning, continue to venture out will pay the price with a penalty that potentially could hurt heir team. They can be fined. No question."
It will be interesting to see exactly how thoroughly these new parameters will be enforced, especially with more tenured coaches who have established "relationships" with regular officials.
While no plans of solution have been disclosed yet, at least the league has acknowledged the need for their officials to make the correct calls during games, and the officials right to do their job without coaches breathing down their necks.