Advertisement

Roger Goodell dismisses full-time officials by touting embrace of technology

The good news is that the NFL has finally realized the value of embracing technology to help officials get the calls right during games. The better news is that the NFL is gradually using more and more of it.

The best news would be to supplement those efforts with full-time officials.

Appearing Friday on Pat McAfee's show, Commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the question of full-time officials, by deftly dismissing the subject with some good, old-fashioned whataboutism and pivoting to the NFL's decision to use replay assistance to fix mistakes the officials make.

"We did a little bit of [full-time officiating] before COVID and stopped it during COVID just because of the circumstances, and we didn't see a difference," Goodell said. "It doesn't mean that we did it right, so we still look at it. But I'm also sitting back and I'm watching a lot of playoff basketball, hockey. I'm hearing a lot about officials and all of those guys are full time. My only point to that is this is a human game. It's a fast game. They're people, like you and I. They make mistakes. For us, the way to correct it is to try to add technology. And so replay assist is something we're bringing even further in this year."

Again, that's good. But the league still needs to appreciate the difference between the reality of full-time officiating and the perception of it. When mistakes happen now, it's easy to say, "Well, they have part-time officials." If the NFL had full-time officials, that argument wouldn't be available. And the league also would be creating the impression that it's doing all it can to get all calls right.

The impact would be far more than cosmetic. By having total access to the game's officials, they could all gather in a central location (like Dallas) each week during the season for group meetings aimed at ensuring consistency among the various crews in the application and interpretation of the rules. Their full focus, twelve months per year, would be devoted to their lone craft. And their NFL in-season midweek work no longer would be a box to check after the day job ends and the kids have been put to bed.

Why not do it? One word. Five letters: c, h, e, a, p.

But, hey, it's free to word-salad a path around a delicate topic.

"The idea is here to be consistent in officiating and avoid those errors that are game-changing," Goodell said regarding the decision to rely more heavily on technology. "Officiating's part of the game."

It is, but it's a part of the game the NFL could better control. Remember when Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that the two teams in any game accept that there's a chance an officiating mistake might affect the game? Legalized gambling makes it critical that the league take a broader view of the impact of bad calls.

Put simply, "shit happens" can no longer be an acceptable response to officiating mistakes. Especially with so many people ready to say "the fix is in" when those mistakes occur.

That's why, even if the only fix will be an embrace of technology and not the more expensive turn to full-time officiating, the NFL should incorporate full UFL-style transparency into the conversations that fix the mistakes made on the field. That would go a long way toward quieting the noise about games being rigged.

Of course, before the NFL would try to quiet that noise, the NFL would have to acknowledge that it exists. To date, it has stubbornly refused to do so.