December 20, 2019
NFL Taking Hits Over Officiating
Since the disastrous Saints-Rams NFC Championship no-call last year, NFL officiating has been under intense scrutiny. With new technology allowing fans at home and in the stands to clearly and easily see where refs make mistakes, the pressure was on. And the officials are not making it any better on themselves with more than a few high-profile blown calls throughout this season. Some legitimately could be said to have changed the outcomes of games.
The league says it may look into a “rules adjustment,” but they already did that. After the NFC Championship debacle, the league gave coaches the chance to challenge pass interference calls, or the lack thereof. This change hasn’t had much effect on the perceived issues that both commentators and fans are griping about.
The issues, according to both fans and critics, have more to do with the inconsistencies in how plays are called, rather than misses in big moments. Sure, one egregious call might get oversized airtime, but pundits are discussing officiating nearly every day. As are fans, and the conversation has done well beyond the standard griping about the refs.
Speaking to the media, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said, “There’s no question there’s been angst… I’ve felt (it). With our team, I’ve felt the angst of others… But it’s a new rule, a big change… something we haven’t done before. I don’t want to prejudge the outcome.”
That, unfortunately, is what many critics are saying is the issue. Speaking candidly on ESPN’s Get Up program, analyst Dan Orlovsky said the league definitely does not want the controversy over the officiating to follow play into the postseason. He said fans are fed up, and even pundits are tired of talking about it week in and week out.
He’s not alone in this estimation. Twitter feeds are full of complaints about officiating, specifically the inconsistency in applying the rules related to pass interference, use of helmets, and coaches’ challenges.
McKay and others say they are “gathering information” and “looking into” the issue, but those words are not assuaging the frustration among fans, players, and coaches. Some don’t understand what’s being called and why, others are frustrated at what’s not being called… and everyone seems to be frustrated at how many calls are creating scenarios that impact games, week after week.
If this continues, the league could face losing some of the fan goodwill it’s enjoying thanks to lights out play from marquee players and role players alike, as well as unexpected performances by players no one had heard of before they stepped on the field. This could be the league’s year to surge after a few years embroiled in controversy, but, at least at this point, that isn’t happening.