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Gene Collier: NFL official not exactly a glamour job

By Gene Collier Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:58 PM

The evergreen issue of whether officiating in the NFL should be a full-time job rather than just what some accountant does with his weekends is slowly working toward a resolution.

Or, upon further review, at least a partial resolution.

“I don’t think all of them need to be full time,” Steelers president Art Rooney II was saying after practice this week in Latrobe. “But we’re moving in a direction where some will be, the head guys, the referees.

“That was part of the negotiations in this last (officials) deal. It’s good to have at least the main guys be full time.”

In and around this professional football training camp, the consensus is that it’s long past time to have full-time officials, but the polling sample is a little biased toward the importance of professional football.

I mean they’re really into it.

They are hyper-scrutinizers and they want their product officiated by people who are fully prepared to hyper-scrutinize the heck out of it.

For a long time, my thoughts on this were mostly that I couldn’t imagine what all the officials would do all week in a full-time gig. We’re well into the age of telecommuting, obviously, which has pretty much wrecked my idyllic vision of a bunch of zebras around the water cooler on Monday having awkward conversations.

“So, you see that Broncos game yesterday?”

“I did the Broncos game.”

“Oh, ouch, sorry. Boy you really … um, ya know I’ve got some video I’ve got to go through, so…”

“Yeah, me too.”

There is an officiating command center in New York (not sure if its part of NATO) where I guess they could convene during the week. Have lunch on Park Avenue or order in. Bring cupcakes if it’s somebody’s birthday.

Thing is, a lot of these guys probably don’t want a full-time job with the league. Among the people sorting out the mayhem for the NFL are six attorneys, three engineers, four real estate developers and 40 or 50 managers, educators and members of the finance industry. Only four are retired from something, so yeah, I guess they could arrange for the cupcakes.

The problem is, as Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau pointed out, the game has become so fast, with the ball in the air so often, and with so many new restrictions on the nature of contact, and especially with so many replays and challenges, it can only help to have officials who are fully engaged.

Coaches’ challenges totaled 183 last season, which is down from a high of 250 in 2007, but reversals totaled 185, an all-time high. Reversals are up more than 200 percent from a low of 57 in 1999.

If you go strictly on the results of challenges, the default comment “they get it right most of the time” is no longer correct. In 2013, for the second year in a row, more than half the challenges resulted in reversals.

Part of the difficulty stems from the proliferating ways in which replay is complicating the game. There are now 22 different kinds of plays in seven categories deemed reviewable, and eight plays or situations that are, for the moment, deemed non-reviewable.

Here’s a little quiz.

One of the following situations is reviewable and one is not. Which is which?

—The sideline marker is indicating that it’s third down, but the scoreboard indicates it’s fourth down, and the officiating crew is split on the matter.

—A loose ball in play appears to have struck a groundhog.

If you answered that the groundhog play is reviewable and the what-down-is-it situation is not, you might want to apply for a full-time job on Park Avenue.

The proper down question is No. 2 among the eight deadly non-reviewables, but the groundhog scenario is covered by No. 6 under subsection B (plays involving touching) regarding reviewable plays: Whether a loose ball in play has struck a video board, guide wire, sky cam or any other object.

And the league only makes it harder with edicts such as this:

(When a play is reviewed), all reviewable aspects of the play may be examined and are subject to reversal, even if not identified in a coach’s challenge or if not the specific reason for a replay official’s request for review.

This is why, as I’ve noted previously, eventually, everyone’s every move will be reviewed and adjudicated, with the full results, along with the final score of the game, available maybe by the close of business Wednesday.

After cupcakes of course.


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