Week 2’s top topic in the NFL was the officials, headlined by the the New Orleans Saints on the wrong side of another bad call.
Former Dallas Cowboys star Troy Aikman saw it in person with his Fox Sports broadcast teammate Joe Buck. He spoke about officiating on the SI Media Podcast with Jimmy Traina this week and called the constant flags “nauseating from my perspective.” He said he was “disturbed” at the high number of them so far.
"At a time when the league and sport is trying to do all that it can to get the calls right, there's more controversy than there's ever been before,” he said.
Aikman: Officials are ‘gun shy’
According to NFLpenalties.com, 622 penalties have been called through two weeks of the season. It’s approximately 9.72 flags per game.
In 2018, there were 4,069 total flags in the regular season at an average 7.62 per game. In 2009, per the site, there was an average 6.64 penalties per game.
Aikman said overall officials do a good job and typically calls even out over the season, but it’s become more difficult with instant replay and the addition this year of reviewing pass interference.
There’s also the knowledge that any missed call, no matter how large, will ricochet around the internet.
“It's put these officials in a really tough position. They're gun shy, to be quite honest with you. The scrutiny has never been as intense as it is right now,” he said.
Aikman was against re-introducing instant replay, siding with Bill Parcells at the time. Parcells, who was originally against it, wanted instant replay only if it would help get calls right all the time. He changed his mind after seeing the technical aspects as long as it was “implemented in the correct manner.”
How do we fix NFL officiating?
The NFL has played around with instant replay since the 1970s when the league looked into how much of a delay replay would take and if the technology would be effective. The current system was approved in 1999.
Aikman didn’t have a fix since, he said, it would be difficult to go backward and take away instant replay.
"I don't think we can ever just not have that. But we keep adding things to it. In addition to that, we keep adding player safety rules, which I'm all for player safety, but it's hard, it's become really hard to call a game.
“I'm sure it's maddening to watch a game with all the penalties. It's rare that a play happens when there isn't some kind of penalty that's thrown. It's nauseating from my perspective and I don't think anyone, I don't think those in the game like it and I certainly don't think the fans like it."
Aikman said he has a better understanding of what the officials are going through since he has former official Mike Pereira in the booth during broadcasts.
Calling a broadcast with constant penalties
Penalties not only interrupt momentum and game play, they also cause hiccups in the broadcast. It can be frustrating for viewers but possibly more so for commentators. They want to share stories and details from off-camera interviews with players, but get cut off to introduce the flag.
"What I mean is, the volume of penalties, it just ruins the flow of a game. It ruins the flow of a broadcast. Every single time after a play when you're starting to talk about something, then you gotta stop and everything comes to a halt because you gotta hear what the officials are calling, what the penalty is and how it's being administered. There are very few games where I'm not just totally, I guess, disturbed, is the right way to say it, with the number of penalties that come out."
Aikman and Buck will call Thursday Night Football between the Tennessee Titans and the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of the more penalized teams this season.
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