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7 officiating observations from the 2023 season

Here are 7 officiating takeaways from the 2023 season.

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Another season is almost in the books. Time seems to go faster and faster. As we get ready for the final game of the 2023 season, here is what jumped out to me in the world of officiating this year.

1. Too many wings knocked down this year.

Too many down judges, line judges, field judges and side judges have been knocked down this season. The worst collision happened in Week 1, where down judge Derek Bowers was hit and had to miss the rest of the season. Some new mechanics have gotten into NFL officiating causing officials to hold position longer. We’re not sure if this is the cause of the collisions; however after several hits this season, I watched the official and say to myself, “That’s not how they used to move.” We hope all officials who took a tumble this season fully mend in these coming weeks and be ready this fall.

2. Offensive offside.

While it was news to many that there could be an offside call on the offense, the NFL wanted the officials to crack down on this infraction.

While many were upset at what they called the “ticky tack” nature of the call, think about it. A receiver could get an extra step on a defender if he lined up offside. A lineman could get three or four inches advantage lining up offside — sometimes the length needed on a QB sneak for a first down.

There was a flurry of those calls during the middle third of the season. Then offenses saw the officials meant business and they straightened up their alignments.

Speaking of offside on the offense…..

3. Call of the year!

We talked extensively about it at the time. Give the call of the year to Mike Carr who called the offensive offside call on the Chiefs which knocked Taylor Swift off the front page for a few hours. While he might say that he was only doing his job and it was an “easy call,” that would be underselling it. Officials have to make the call without any fear of the outcome. They must also not worry about what players, coaches or hot-take talking heads will say in response to a call.

Carr stepped up and did the right thing and didn’t shirk or shy away from his job.

4. Referee announcement(s) of the year.

We had two classics this season. Alex Kemp had to shush an argumentative player on Thanksgiving day.

And John Hussey’s “one cheek equals two feet” announcement will live on as a classic for several years.

5. Ejections back up.

For the first time since 2020, there were over 20 ejections in NFL games this season. 21 officially. The ejections ran the gamut – from fighting, flagrant personal fouls and contact with an official. The strangest ejection was during Week 13, when the 49ers Dre Greenlaw mixed it up on the Eagles sideline and got into it with Eagles head of security, Dom DiSandro.

While the officials didn’t flag DiSandro, he was dismissed from the Eagles’ sideline. While not an official ejection, this is the first time we can recall officials dismissing a non-player from the sideline.

6. Lions get too cute by half.

The Detroit Lions in Week 18 almost pulled out a win against the Dallas Cowboys. But, they were flagged because the officials didn’t catch or announce that the Lions Taylor Decker didn’t properly report eligible.

We broke the play down extensively. The Lions were trying some subterfuge and it came back to bite them. While the NFL supported Allen (despite the breathless “reporting” by some), all teams made sure linemen reporting eligible was done by the book for the rest of the season.

7. Solid debut for rookie referee.

This year was the first season Alan Eck worked as a referee, after six years working as a field judge and umpire.

First-year referees are not eligible for a playoff game, so we don’t know how accurate his work was this year. But he did solid work this season and certainly passed the “eye test.”

Each season is special and each season brings special memories. Here’s hoping the final game of the season provides more memories.

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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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    February 8, 2024 at 3:52 pm

    how about the continued awfulness of female officials? sarah thomas and the others got no assignments. and the league gave an ex 49er the super bowl final which features the 49ers?

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