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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 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?"