Officiating in the NFL has never been more under scrutiny than it is today (well, other than during the lockout when the replacement referees were working). Many coaches and fans have argued for the NFL to make their game officials full time employees, and that will finally be happening. Well, to start, at least some of the officials will be full time employees.
NFL executive Troy Vincent told The Associated Press he expects the league to hire as many as 17 full-time officials for the start of the 2017 NFL season.
The collective bargaining agreement allows for this change and in the process, the size of officiating crews will grow from seven to eight people. Vincent announced the news during a visit to Buffalo on Thursday. Per ESPN:
Vincent says hiring full-time officials and discussions to expand replay reviews top the agenda of the NFL's competition committee, which is scheduled to meet in February following the Super Bowl.
Vincent added that full-time officials would allow the NFL to spend more time training.
This is a step in the right direction for the league as it looks to maintain the integrity of the game. The hope is that full time officials will be better trained on the rules and able to make more accurate calls during games. It will also allow them to work year-round not just during the NFL season. Right now, all officials are part-time employees with additional jobs outside the league.
Pete Carroll has been vocal about his thoughts on making officials full time employees. Back in March 2016, he had this to say.
“The thing that we should supporting is our officials need to be full-time,’’ Carroll said at the NFL winter meetings. “This discussion has been out there since (former Minnesota coach) Bud Grant brought it up in 1980-something. We’re trying to get these guys full-time with this simple thought that if they’re full-time, they can work year-round at being the best they can possibly be. Right now, they’re doing everything that they can to be great. But the format for it is guys got other jobs, they’ve got other involvement, and so they can’t spend their entire year at it. But they’re still working, and they’re the best we have.’’
Saints coach Sean Payton shared those thoughts, a little more bluntly this November.
"There aren't many Mondays that go by that there aren't at least 28 to 30 head coaches that are ticked off about certain calls that were missed or weren't made. You see it all the time," Payton said on Pro Football Talk Live. "And it's the frustration that the system currently hasn't improved. We say it has, but it hasn't.
"We're the only league that has officials that have primary other jobs, which is really madness. We can pay these guys. They should be full-time NFL officials, and they should be working throughout the week, communicating. And I know they get their hour in here, their hour in there, and maybe even more than that. But by and large, every other sports league employs full-time officials. And ours, these guys all have other significant jobs. And I just think it's very difficult to do with the speed of the game."
Hopefully full-time officials will allow for better officiating in games moving forward. This could prove to be one of the best moves the league has made in recent years.