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Another busy offseason for NFL officiating

The off-season is still a busy time for NFL officiating.

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We are still going through NFL withdrawal. It’s a long way to the Hall of Fame Game in August. But, we’ll hang in there and be OK. The NFL officiating office has a big job in the off season with many things to do before the start of the 2024 NFL officiating season on May 15.

At least 3 new hires

The NFL needs to hire three new officials, after the retirements of Jim Mello, Mark Perlman and Tom Hill. The three hires will most assuredly come from the Mackie Development Program. Watch the UFL and see who is calling the games. If they are part of the Mackie Development Program, we can assume they are on a short list for the NFL.

Always a chance for more roster movement.

Retiring officials sometimes leave their shoes on the field after their last game.

While we haven’t confirmed anything, it is possible more officials will retire from the league. Sometimes an off season doctor’s appointment reveals a health concern that needs immediate care. Sometimes an official is tired of the chronic orthopedic pain and determines that it is time to retire. Sometimes the official’s job requires too much time commitment and he or she has to make the tough choice to retire from the NFL. Or, sometimes the official grows tired of the fast-lane lifestyle of a NFL official.

And there are times when the NFL wants to manage roster turnover or the officiating front office determines that an official’s skills have regressed. That’s when the officiating office must have an unpleasant conversation with the official and tell him or her that it is time to leave/retire from the NFL. These departures are always treated as a dignified retirement publicly, but it is a sad time for the league and the official.

If any of these late-off season retirements happen, it is impossible to say exactly why the official has departed. The NFL never gives a reason why the official retires. Unless the official tells the media why they’ve left the league, any of the above scenarios are possible.

No referees retired, but development continues

This is the first time in several years that a referee has not retired from the NFL. While we probably won’t see a new white hat in 2024, the NFL is constantly evaluating potential future white hats. It will be interesting to see who will work a preseason game referee audition.

The referee training grounds had a massive setback last year with the loss of referee position supervisor Bill Leavy. He was responsible for developing the next crop of white hats and his death has had the officiating department attempting to replace the unreplaceable.

“Most hated rule in football” will most likely stay on the books.

As the Combine activities begin in Indianapolis, the Competition Committee meets to review rules and safety issues from the previous year and will develop new rules proposals.

The current “most hated rule” is when a ball carrier fumbles the ball out the back of the end zone. The defense is awarded a touchback and gets the ball on their own 20-yard line. Many people think this is an unfair rule. Many have called for this rule to change — either the offense gets the ball back at the spot of the fumble, or the defense gets the ball back at the spot of the fumble. But, it appears the NFL Competition Committee isn’t hot to change the rule.

It is possible the NFL might address kickoff rules. The NFL seems to want to get rid of kickoffs — something that has been part of football since Theodore Roosevelt was president. If the NFL can find something that isn’t “gimmicky” there could be new kickoff rules.

Thank you, Peter King

Journalist and writer Peter King has retired from daily NFL reporting after 44 years in the business.

King didn’t have to, but he has elevated other reporters and news outlets over the years, including Football Zebras. We are grateful that he read us, and thought enough of us to link to our stories occasionally.

Also, in 2013 (I can’t believe it’s been 11 years!), King did a three-part story on Game 150: A Week in the Life of an Officiating Crew. King was embedded with Gene Steratore’s crew for the week. It is the most comprehensive in-season reporting on a NFL officiating crew. If you have never read it, it is a must-read for everyone interested in NFL officiating. King mentioned it as one of his favorite interviews of the past 44 years in his final column.

Countdown is on to May 15

Right now current NFL officials are enjoying a “dark period” of no communication from the NFL. This is a nod to the officials as part-time league employees. This gives the officials the chance to give 100% of their attention to their non-officiating jobs. When May 15 arrives, the NFL sends out “Memo 1” highlighting rule changes and other human resources housekeeping.

The NFL at times has conducted a mini-clinic in May where officials receive their uniforms, have position meetings and go through conditioning drills. The officials usually find out their crews around this time. Then it is on to the formal July clinic in Texas, and then officials will visit team camps and work scrimmages.

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 29, 2024 at 9:13 pm

    Can we please find something else for Brad Allen and his crew to foul up?

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