By now, NFL fans have all seen and heard about the officiating mistakes that were made during the Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers game. The two main issues — one involving a missed penalty on a last-season field goal attempt and the other being a fake punt play in overtime that should have been reviewed — changed the complexion not only of the game, but also the AFC Playoff picture.
These two plays highlight the issue that the NFL is facing with officiating and how it is impacting the league. There are missed calls in every game, and ultimately there are judgment calls that are naturally going to be missed due to the speed and force that the players produce. However, when there are pre-snap penalties not being called, and calls that are being made that impact the playoff landscape, that is a serious problem.
The missed call(s) on the Chiefs gave the Chargers a playoff spot and eliminated the Pittsburgh Steelers, ending their season. When it comes to missed calls, it doesn’t get more serious than that. By now, football fans should realize that the system is flawed, but what needs to happen so that these mistakes become minimized as much as possible?
Unlike conventional wisdom, having the NFL officials be full-time employees that work on their craft all year does not sit with me as a solution. Instead, every mistake made by an official should be punishable with a fine just as the players that make a mistake are fined. If a safety levels a wide receiver across the middle and hits him in the head, he gets a fine.
When an official blows a call like in the Green Bay Packers–Seattle Seahawks showdown last season where the game was decided on a blown call, they should be docked pay. There will still be missed calls, but maybe this will put more pressure on the officials to make the calls correctly knowing that there is something riding on every play.
In my opinion, the most flawed system within the officiating system is the review system. The NFL needs to learn something from the NHL and adapt their system as the NHL did years ago. The NHL does not have the on-ice officials review the play. Instead, the officials get on the phone to NHL headquarters in Toronto to discuss the play.
The folks at the headquarters reviews all the calls and only discusses the call on the ice with the official. Other than that, the decision is made by NHL employees at headquarters that record video of every game in case of a review. Coaches do not challenge plays in the NHL, but headquarters buzzes the official for the review to take place.
There are a million ideas being thrown out there to improve the officiating in the NFL, but something needs to be done when you have teams’ seasons ending due to botched calls.