NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell knows that officials miss calls, but believes they do a good job. He also doesn’t believe that full time officials will help.
Speaking at a New York Times Conference, Goodell stated that full-time officials are not the answer, citing mistakes made by full time officials in other sports.
“As you see there are officiating mistakes in other leagues and they’re full time officials,” Goodell said, “H/T Michael David Smith, Pro Football Talk. “I don’t think that’s going to eliminate the human element. What we want to do is get the best people on the field to officiate the game to the highest levels. Our officials work incredibly hard and the reality is they do a great job. But they’re going to miss calls. So what we try to do is have replay available to try to address those issues.”
So, other leagues making mistakes is a justifiable defense?
Imagine being a fan of a bad team with a bad quarterback. How would you feel if, at the end of the year, your coach, owner, and general manager announced that the team was moving forward with the same bad quarterback because, “Even quarterbacks like Drew Brees throw interceptions.”
This is, more or less, what Commissioner Goodell is saying. The NFL is the best football league in the world. It’s also the richest league in the United States by a comfortable margin. Yet it doesn’t take the steps needed to ensure that something as critical as officiating is as good as it can be.
Of course there’s a human element to officiating. It may not manifest itself when drunk fans are booing after a bad call on Sunday, but fans understand that. Humans are going to be imperfect because, humans are imperfect. Jordan Spieth will occasionally miss a three-foot putt, too. But the PGA Tour puts the best golfers on the world on the course because it understands something. People spend a lot of money and time on the product. Those people want the best. Spieth will miss putts, but he’ll also do some incredible things.
The NFL is not taking action to make its product as good as it can be. Full time officials wouldn’t be perfect, but they would be better.
Either Goodell does not realize this, or he doesn’t care.
We’ve heard a lot of opinions and seen polls wondering, why are the ratings down this year?
The recently concluded presidential election has been an answer. The next few weeks will go a long way towards figuring out if that’s true. The national anthem protests have also been a prevalent theory. But even when Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers play, it’s not a huge part of the broadcast, anymore. People may not like the protests, but it’s hard to imagine football fans continuing to turn the games off, en masse, because of them.
The problem that Goodell will not bring up is the game itself. The on field product has simply taken a hit. The officiating is big reason why. Even the players don’t seem to know what they can and can’t do. That impacts how enjoyable the product is.
If the NFL knew that this was a problem and was trying to fix it, then the fans wouldn’t be so frustrated. But by the words of the most powerful man in the league, that’s not the case.
With that, the product will continue to stagnate, or get worse. If the commissioner is unaware or doesn’t care, it will spell long term problems for the NFL. Bad ratings will not be a problem exclusive to 2016, or even election years.