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Controversy8th official, full-time zebras, and expanded replay are still on the table

8th official, full-time zebras, and expanded replay are still on the table

Roughing the passer could be subject to review

It may still be a long-shot for 2017, but the NFL continues to consider adding an eighth official.

Dean Blandino, senior vice president of officiating, says the league is considering adding an eighth official and that addition might free up the referee to keep a closer eye on the quarterback.

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera made that suggestion after his quarterback, Cam Newton, took a shot to the knees that went uncalled

Currently the referee watches the left tackle during a down. The umpire, head linesman and line judge watch other lineman for holding or other illegal blocks. Blandino says the eighth official will allow the referee to focus more closely on the quarterback. The thought is that the referee might keep his gaze on the tackle a little too long and shift to the quarterback a bit late and miss a roughing the passer.

Right now, the referee lines up so the quarterback and the left tackle are in the same line of vision. On paper and in theory, the shift from tackle to quarterback should be seamless; however the speed of the game is go fast, that shift might be a little more difficult. So, Blandino and the NFL are considering adding the eighth official so the referee can focus more intently on the quarterback.

Thanks to another Rivera suggestion, Blandino also says the NFL might consider using instant replay to see if the officials missed a roughing the passer foul. While he says it won’t be a good idea to review illegal formation or holding, he says instant replay for player safety has some merit.

After the Week 8 games, New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Peyton said the NFL should consider full-time officials, saying it is “madness” that the third team on the field is part-time. 

The NFL tried to make its officials full time during the 2012 labor dispute. The NFL Referees Association (NFLRA) balked at the proposal as it would have made full-time officials non-union and and would have created different working conditions. 

Eventually, Carl Johnson, who transitioned from the vice president of officiating back to the field, was the only full-time official. He was already non-union so the change wasn’t drastic. As of today, Johnson isn’t a full-time NFL official and is free to find other work while officiating.

Blandino said the NFL will look at the idea of making some of its referees full-time during the offseason (video), along with replay for roughing the passer and the eighth official.

If forced to predict, I’d say instant replay for roughing the passer and the eighth official will pass before full-time officials.

Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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6 thoughts on “8th official, full-time zebras, and expanded replay are still on the table

  1. 8 Officials?

    How about 7 that are the most qualified!

    They do not need to be full time. They need to be great from experience.

    Perhaps, someone could grill the commissioner on why so many of the new officials meet the skin or kin criteria?

  2. I have a couple things to comment on, each will be its own post.

    Full time officials would not be beneficial for the officials. Yes, they can dedicate more time to training and learning their craft, but for the rest of the year they can’t do anything major. MLB, NBA, and NHL officials have 8 months of games plus many more off-season opportunities (IIHF, FIBA games for instance). Soccer doesn’t force their officials onto full time payroll, and they have matches year round. With one game a week and 17 week regular season, unless they “lay off” the officials after the season, there is no feasible reason to make them full-time just to make the game better.

  3. Judgment calls should not be reviewable. As Blandino repeatedly states, instant replay distorts our opinion of time. A late hit in slow motion will look different than in real time.
    Plus, it will look like inconsistent application if one official can override another’s call. Instant replay should be a tool, not the deciding factor.

  4. With 22 players running full speed every play, an 8th official could be a good thing. I think the current setup of 7 officials does well for many situations and that an 8th would require more shuffling on roles, but is plausible. I still maintain that the MJ watching the D-Line 20-25 yards out with WRs, LBs, and DBs running in front of his vision might not work. I say follow what NCAA D1 is doing with the CJ and put the U back where he used to be.

  5. The U got moved due to saftey of the official. Wouldn’t putting the MJ in the same place just be the same as moving the U back?

  6. I’m not sure where would be a good place for the MJ. The D-Line and the area behind it is the biggest concern since there are many bodies crossing through that area, so someone needs to be close to that area to watch It properly, but it is also dangerous for that same reason.

    We need to put the MJ on top of a drone and watch that area from above to get a good read. Heck, put him in the press box with a camera dedicated on this area and have him throw the flag from up there.

    In other words, I am out of ideas.

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