Bashing NFL officials seems almost a birthright of a football fan. A duty, even.
Play-to-play, game-to-game, commenting on the perceived level of quality of officiating is as much a part of the fan experience as griping about the offensive coordinator, complaining about direction of ownership and generalizing the behavior and attitudes of one fan base into two or three negative traits.
The reality, though, is issues with offensive playcalling and ownership have remained roughly the same over the decades. The scope of work for today's average official has increased dramatically. With that comes more errors.
Yet, no movement has been made to hire officials full-time.
Whether that particular issue is held up by a lack of desire from the NFL to spend the money to hire them (thus putting more employees into their health care, retirement savings and pension plans), or from the officials to be allowed to double-dip with other fulltime positions while scraping off high-paying weekend gigs that allow them fresh air, exercise and the best seats in the house for NFL games.
Steelers president Art Rooney II was asked about this idea when he met with Pittsburgh-based media Wednesday, responding, (hiring full-time officials) "could be a step in the right direction," as well as opining officials do a good job overall.
That statement is sensible and realistic. It also covers the fact officials, on some plays, are required to view accurately the placement of a receivers feet, the sideline, the ball in his hands/body and the defender's hit at or around the head area. It seems extremely difficult for an official to see all of that in real time and make the correct call on all of those things.
The main topic regarding officials won't be their work status, but rather, how many aspects of the game are reviewable. Rooney threw his support behind the idea of increasing the amount of plays an official can review.
While that would help prevent the main evil in these situations - avoidance of the spirit of the replay rule, which is to get the call right - it doesn't lessen the burden and reasonable increase of the presence of human error.
The league is asking more of its officials than it has in the past, and whether those officials are able to keep up is becoming a legitimate concern in the league. Whether replay helps lessen that burden is a different story, but perhaps Rooney is attempting to sway opinion among the league to begin asking the right questions as opposed to creating more rules for the officials to miss, creating distraction and the appearance of a shoddy product.
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