This year, Walt Anderson, senior vice president of officiating training and development, trained the officials to get in position and be stationary at the apex of a play. The philosophy is that a stationary official’s eyes will be still and he’ll be able to zero in and focus on the play.
Over the years, the umpire has been one of the most fleet of foot officials. He had to put on his dancing shoes when lined up in the defensive backfield. When the NFL moved the umpire into the offensive backfield, he did much more running in order to chase the play to spot the ball for the next play.
Now, be it a run play or a pass play, the umpire stays stationary for much longer.
The umpire lines up deep enough in the backfield so he doesn’t have to backpedal when the quarterback drops back to pass. Also, he won’t chase the quarterback, leaving that to the referee. After the play moves away from is interior line keys, the umpire will move to clean up behind the play. But, gone are the days of the umpire backpedaling with the quarterback and trying to dodge the the road graders in the defensive secondary, like this:
It is subtle, but something I’ve noticed this year.
Watching NFL officials is a Ph.D. course in mechanics.