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An Opinion on National Football League Officiating

by Bryan Dietzler

I have been a fan of football and the National Football League since the mid-1980s. I have watched it progress from a game that was called without the aid of technology to something that now requires replay after replay and a lot of speculation. Now it seems that no matter what, the refs just cannot seem to get the calls right or at least right for the fan base.

The perfect example of a call blown by the officials came in the Chicago Bears game versus the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 15. The Packer’s return specialist had not called for a fair catch, fielded the ball and was hit right as he caught it by Chicago’s Cordarelle Patterson. Green Bay’s player fumbled and the Bears recovered.

The play appeared to be clean and well-timed but the referees called kick catch interference on Patterson. The play was looked at because it was a fumble, and the kick catch interference penalty was upheld.

Even though the network talking heads and their officiating experts disagreed with the call the call was made. The Bears’ coaching staff, players and fans disagreed with the call but the call was still made. It was wrong and showed just how unreliable officiating has gotten.

I don’t think that there are any conspiracies as some people think there are. You have those that think that the officials are favoring one team over the other. You hear this aimed at the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers, for the most part. People figure that the officials are trying to give those teams an edge to help them win. That’s simply cannot true.

But then we have some officiating numbers that are a little disturbing. If you have been reading the NFL news lately, you might have seen the tweet regarding the Green Bay Packers and the number of pass interference calls that they have had called against them this season. They have been flagged for just two pass interference penalties all year. Two!

And people will point fingers at the officials and say that it’s not fair that Green Bay has gotten so few penalties. Is their play that clean? Are they coached so well that they don’t commit pass interference penalties like other teams do? Or is it a conspiracy between the NFL and the officials to give Green Bay an advantage over other teams?

This is open to interpretation. You can look at it as either the Green Bay Packers are a well-coached team with solid players, or they are getting favors from the officials.

It’s tough to tell exactly what is happening.

Officiating is an art but it’s an imperfect one. And people, by nature, are not perfect. The officiating crews of today’s NFL are going to miss some calls. I am sure that they miss them because of all that’s going on around them (sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the game) as the speed of the game is so fast, it can be difficult to catch everything.

I also think that some of the rules are open to interpretation by the official or the officiating crew calling the penalty. Have you ever heard something like “well this crew calls the most holding penalties of any crew in the league”? Are they stricter than the other officiating crews? Why aren’t the crews equal? Why do they call more penalties than other crews?

This is a very sensitive subject that gets on the minds of many and just won’t let go. People want to see a fair game called honestly and I think that is happening, for the most part. Things are just getting missed by officials and sometimes you can’t help that. It’s human error. No one is cheating or trying to give an advantage to a certain team. Even though it seems like they are.

As technology becomes much more improved and replays are shown in the stadium and on television, officiating is always going to get scrutinized. It’s an imperfect craft in an imperfect game. The officials are not going to get 100 percent of the calls right no matter how much we would like them to.

Football is a human game and humans make mistakes. Nothing or no one is perfect.

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