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Jaguars/Texans redux: professional football with amateur officiating?

Some mistakes are understandable, others appear incompetent

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Houston Texans Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Before this dive gets deep, we’ll start with the disclaimer: the Houston Texans lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars for a variety of reasons last weekend, detailed in yesterday’s post. The poor officiating wasn’t insurmountable. This team is young and quite frankly, overachieving at the moment. One loss isn’t indicative of a falling sky, it’s a growing pain. You literally can’t win them all.

That being said, it’s pretty inexplicable and inexcusable that an organization bringing in revenue by the freighter load like the NFL can’t put better talent and systems in place to ensure the accuracy of the officiating.

Placing a GPS net inside the balls, technology available 20 years ago, would ensure exacting ball placement. There would be no time wasted while refs huddled together to see who thought the ball landed where if/when the player was down. Gone would be time wasted trying to determine if the ball broke the plane of the line to gain or the goal line. The price of the ball would go up significantly. The system to track it would also add cost. However, the NFL slaps their branding on a $2 product and sells millions for $100, so they can afford the tracking system. If the NFL couldn’t afford these things, billionaires wouldn’t be lining up to buy an NFL franchise.

Next up, proper officiating that includes better review. If the press box gets a dozen review angles and replays in seconds, why can’t the NFL employ a senior officiating crew for each game to quickly review controversial calls - stopping the game in the event a human error needs correction, and letting it roll if not.

Years ago, an NFL spokesperson suggested the “human element” of (piss poor) officiating helped make the NFL experience what it is. The idea that a better team could lose a game due to lesser skilled officiating seemed acceptable to this league advocate.

Humans have competed with one another in challenges of physical prowess for eons. At no point in any civilization’s history has poor/unfair officiating added value to such contests.

Yet, here we are.

The current system the NFL has in place, presumably with the desire for errors as stated by their spokesperson and paraphrased above, simply does not work.

Fans are compelled to watch and root for their favorite players and teams for a variety of reasons. None of them are saying things like “I loved how Earl Campbell overcame illegal hands to the face calls every game!” or “Andre Johnson was the best at beating defensive pass interference!”

If fans cared about that sort of nonsense, the penalties would have stat lines the same as average yards per play, touchdowns, sacks, etc.

Instead, the NFL sweeps that data under the rug.

The officiating review system in place is handicapped, on purpose, by the NFL, ensuring only certain plays are reviewable. The officials have additional responsibility to review certain plays on their own accord, but what human wants to instantly review their own mistake and point it out to 60 million viewers?

With the ability to alter games, at least in a manner that can directly affect the scoreboard, the officiating crews’ “human element” provides too much of a wild card to the outcome of NFL games.

The league has the ability to correct these things and chooses not to do so. As long as people continue shoveling money their way, packing stadiums, buying all the price-gouged merchandise and so on, nothing is likely to change, either.

Dear NFL,

Fix this.


Your customers.