For all of the flack that they get when a call is missed, pro football officials do a pretty good job. If there is one thing that we learned while watching replacements, it is that NFL officiating is hard.
In the first three weeks of the 2012 season, we saw penalties called and uncalled. We saw the players’ safety put at risk. We saw games delayed by time outs for rule interpretations. We saw players and coaches disrespect officials. We watched as owners got away with showing us an inferior product. All of this happened because the men trying to police the game were not qualified.
NFL officials may not get every call right. No one is perfect–players and coaches make mistakes too. However, they are the very best at what they do. They have earned their place through hard work, study and paying attention to detail. One can not just roll out of bed and officiate an NFL game.
I am fortunate to know a handful of NFL officials who got their start in the organization I’m with here in Maryland. One, Terry McCauley, has been selected to officiate two Super Bowls. Former official Johnny Greer started with our group also. These men put in the time at the high school and college levels before moving up to the pros. They made the same mistakes that I make along the way. I have an idea of what they did to make it at the highest level.
NFL officials have to know the rules and how to interpret them. They have to know their keys and watch a specific area. They have to know exactly where to be on the field for each play and situation. They must do all of this under the glaring eyes of players, coaches, fans and TV critics. It’s not Friday night under the lights.
For the most part, they get it right. Not always or there would be no instant replay. When they do go to the replay booth, officials come out with the right call. If a call is reversed they know what needs to be done on the field to correct it. This is important, because the NFL rulebook is hard to interpret.
I’ve said for years that every fan should have to officiate a sport at the highest level for one year. It is the only way to get a true appreciation for how hard it is and what goes into it. I am willing to bet that 95 percent would try to quit after two games. It is that hard and stressful.
Sometimes we need to lose something before we know what we’ve got. The NFL, its fans and the media that covers it had to lose the regular officials for a few games to really appreciate how good they are.
The replacements showed us once and for all that officiating is hard.