The Biggest Flaws in NFL Officiating

Old AccountSenior Writer IMay 25, 2013

The Biggest Flaws in NFL Officiating

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    Like most competitive professional sports, the NFL continues to deal with negative press regarding the consistently poor performances from its referees. In a sport where its focus is to enhance the safety of the game, the result has led to questionable rulings on calls, along with the interpretation of these rules.

    What are the flaws of NFL officials in recent memory? Here is a breakdown of the struggles involving the referees.

Lack of Clarity with Pass Interference Calls

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    In a sport where the offense continues to receive the benefit of the doubt, wide receivers and tight ends have taken advantage of the harsh officiating that opposing defenses face. 

    Corner backs, safeties and other positions that play in coverage typically face the challenge of playing too physical a style, which could lead to a penalty from the referees.

    In many cases, the rulings on pass interference don't always properly follow typical protocol. Some players get penalized despite following the rule of physical play with the first five yards. Meanwhile, other defenders face tough, physical battles from the receivers and try to match with the same intensity.

    As a result, they do not benefit from the "gray area" with regards to the pass interference call.

Protection of the Quarterbacks

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    As the NFL continues to evolve into a quarterback-driven league, the rules continue to point in their favor. Yet, there are issues with the consistency of calls that go against pass-rushers who are targeting the quarterback.

    How does the referee properly determine when a player leads with his helmet against the quarterback? Where is the consistency when it comes to roughing the passer or late-hit calls?

    These are questions that deserved to be answered, but it's likely that defenders will still be unsure on how to pressure the quarterback without drawing a flag.

Special Protection of the Elite Quarterbacks

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    As previously mentioned, there are clear issues with officiating when the quarterback is hit by the defender. However, when these calls affect one of the more notable signal-callers in the league, it typically goes in his favor.

    It's certainly a concern, as defenders are given the task of playing physical football without putting their teams in jeopardy.

    The complaints circulating from both players and coaches, to fans and media around the country speak volumes, because there needs to be a fine line of establishing the rules of the game, followed by carrying out those rules fairly for all players.

    Though, that does not always appear to be the case, as there are players who receive more leeway compared to others.

Determining Actual Hits to the Head

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    As the NFL continues to encounter the concerns surrounding its players and head injuries, Roger Goodell has attempted to take the necessary steps to make the game safer. One way that he has tackled this issue is by implementing rules that limit head-to-head contact between players.

    Yet, these rules have led to the biggest problem in NFL officiating—the disparity between normal tackles and tackles that are caused by players launching with their heads.

    With the players more athletic and stronger than ever before, it has become increasingly difficult for them to adapt to not only the rule changes, but also the lack of proper calls made by the officials.

    Many defenders have fully adapted to the rules and make punishing hits without leading with the crown of their helmet. The most recent example from this past season was Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor applying a major tackle on San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis, and managed to still be called for a personal foul on the play.

    Ultimately, as the league moves into the near future, the biggest concern will be whether or not the quality of officiating will improve.